The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award provides an opportunity for young Canadians to engage with the world, by volunteering in their communities and building a sense of social responsibility. The Award is open to any Canadian between the ages of 14 and 24.
How the Award works
The Award can be pursued at three levels: Bronze, Silver, and Gold, and takes place over the course of six to 18 months. Participants design their own program of social engagement, with the help of a volunteer Award Leader, then set goals and work towards them, while making a positive impact on their community and learning valuable skills. Taking part in the Award costs $50 at the outset, but the experiences you have will far outweigh the startup cost.
Award Centres are schools, Guide or Scout groups, and other community organizations affiliated with the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award. You can get in touch if your school isn't yet part of the program.
Taking part in the Award program
The Award program is made up of four parts. Participants at the Gold level will also engage in a Gold project at the end of the program. As an Award participant, you'll design a custom plan, deciding how long you'll spend on each section. Higher Award levels require longer and more substantial commitments. You can check out this handy summary (pdf) to get a sense of the program at a glance.
Step one is volunteering. You'll spend time in your community, making a positive contribution, meeting people, and building a sense of social responsibility. During COVID, volunteer opportunities can be tough to find, but there are virtual volunteering opportunities available across Canada. You'll build skills like teamwork, communication, and self-confidence.
Step two is healthy living. You'll improve your fitness and overall mental and physical health, by getting active and living a healthy lifestyle. You can get involved in a team sport you love, or try a solo activity that's totally new to you. The goal is to improve your health and happiness while developing self-esteem, confidence, and team skills.
Step three is skill development. Pursue a passion in the arts, a technical field, a hobby; you'll explore your personal interests while building practical and social skills. You can try something entirely new, or follow up on activities you know you enjoy. Your goal is to engage, sharpen your skills, and experience a sense of accomplishment—and the good feelings that come with it!
Step four—and the final step for Bronze and Silver level participants—is an adventurous journey with a group of peers. You'll challenge yourself to plan and undertake an exploration of the natural world and get to know your environment. You could hike, canoe, cycle, and more, taking anywhere from a couple of days to nearly a week in the great outdoors. Along the way, you'll push against your limits while building self-confidence and teamwork skills.
This element is only for Gold level participants. You'll work with new people in an unfamiliar setting, which may mean taking part in an exchange program, a volunteer excursion, a conference, and more. The time commitment for the Gold project is five days and four nights, so you'll be put to the test! Only those 16 and up are eligible to take part in a Gold project.
Tracking your progress
You'll also choose a handful of Assessors to help you track your progress on the Award. Each section will have its own Assessor—and no, you can't nominate your parents or siblings! Teachers, coaches, religious figures, and other community members you know make good Assessors.
Your Assessors will help you set SMART goals for yourself, and track your progress. Remember, the Award is a marathon, not a sprint, so take your time to work through each section. The ultimate goal is self-development and discovery—this means patience and dedication!
When you've completed all aspects of your program, you'll submit the details through the Online Record Book with the help of your Award Leader. Once your progress is approved, you'll get details about the next Award ceremony!
But the real focus is the personal development you've undergone throughout the program. You'll have served your community, improved your physical and mental health, bolstered your skills, and explored nature, all while meeting and engaging with people you otherwise might never have met. You'll have built lasting friendships and connections that will serve you and your community as you head into the future of your education and your career. Plus, you'll have a fantastic addition for your resumé, and many incredible stories to tell.
The Duke of Edinburgh's International Awards were started, with two friends, by the late Prince Philip, who passed away in 2021 at the age of 99. He was the husband of Queen Elizabeth for over 70 years. The Award is guided by its founding principles of fun and flexibility, and the fact that it is non-academic and non-competitive. The Duke of Edinburgh's International Award aims to help Canadian youth become their best selves.
Sign up for the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award