HRH The Earl of Wessex, visited Hillsborough Castle on Tuesday to meet with young people undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE), as part of a tour marking the DofE Charity’s 60th anniversary.
The Earl met with young farmers from Newtownhamilton and Collone in county Armagh who are taking part in Ulster Wildlife’s Grassroots Challenge as part of their DofE Award.
This new project will see over 5,000 young people aged 11-24 equipped with the skills and knowledge to improve their local environment and neighbourhoods through DofE Awards, Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster and special schools.
The Earl of Wessex also met with local pupils from Beechlawn School who were helping the young farmers plant out native wildflowers on the estate - one of many ‘wild idea’ projects that are set to be undertaken by young people across Northern Ireland, over the next five years, as part of the Grassroots Challenge.
The Earl heard how the meadow was established by the local conservation charity as part of efforts to conserve flower-rich grasslands across the UK, donned a spade and dug in with the planting, and spoke to the young people about the wildlife projects they were doing for their DofE, from creating homes for wildlife to engaging children with nature.
Hannah Gibson, from Newtownhamilton Young Farmers’ Club said: “The skills and confidence I gained as part of completing my DofE Award has changed me in so many positive ways. It’s really turned my life around. I’m now looking forward to completing my Gold Award and picking up new environmental skills and knowledge to improve my local area through the Grassroots Challenge.”
Jen Banks, Grassroots Challenge Officer working with the DofE Charity said: “Ulster Wildlife is delighted to be working in partnership with the Charity in its 60th year, helping to unleash the potential of young people through positive action for wildlife and the environment.
“For many young people being able to push past boundaries and take on new challenges is an essential part of personal development – inspiring confidence, skills and knowledge. That’s what the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is all about and that’s what the Grassroots Challenge is all about too. By working together, we hope to see a generation of courageous and wise leaders empowered to change our world for the better.”
The Grassroots Challenge is part of Our Bright Future, a programme of 31 projects across the UK co-ordinated by the Wildlife Trusts and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. Each project aims to help young people step up and create what is rightfully theirs: a thriving economy, a healthy planet, and a better future.
As a Trustee and a Gold Award holder, HRH The Earl of Wessex has championed the DofE for many years. As part of the Diamond Anniversary, The Earl of Wessex is travelling around Northern Ireland to help celebrate the hard work of DofE Volunteers, the successes of DofE participants, and he will also be joining participants as they undertake their own DofE Diamond Challenges.
To find out more about Grassroots Challenge and how to take part through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award visit: ulsterwildlife.org/grassroots