The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award challenges the nation to push out of their comfort zone

18 September 2018
Image of an Amey employee in her DofE duties in 2018.

Dunfermline resident, and Amey engineering apprentice, Sarah Stevenson, 26, is taking on the DofE Challenge – a fundraising initiative launched by The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) designed to encourage the nation to set and achieve personal goals and challenges.

On 14th September, Sarah kicks off her two-week DofE Challenge 2018 with vital volunteering activities for the Maasai Mara communities in Kenya, whilst raising much-needed funds for them and the DofE charity. Sarah says her motivation to fundraise and give back to charities comes from a “desire to care for other people.”

She has always wanted to volunteer on an international project. Her partner, also an engineer, is Kenyan, so this Challenge is close to her heart. The Maasai are a community in Kenya who need help to bring their way of life into modern times. It’s a sad fact that it’s harder to find work in Kenya as a Maasai rather than as a non-Maasai. There is a growing number of Maasai leaving their communities, escaping to Nairobi, with the hope of living a better life. But many struggle to find work and end up begging on the side of the city’s motorways and sleeping rough in the Nairobi slums.

Sarah’s passion for the DofE started from a tender age of 12, the most pivotal time of life for a young person, when she was taken into care and the start of a disruptive experience with no with no stability in friendships, relationships, home or school life. For some years Sarah moved 6 times to different families in different parts of Scotland. With this unsettled lifestyle, she never had the opportunity to do her DofE at school.  

“The DofE would have been perfect for me when I was growing up. The opportunity to get away for 5 days, go hiking, just to get away from everything, but still feeling ‘looked after’ would have been amazing for clearing the mind.”

The DofE is a fun yet challenging Award for 14-25 year old young people - one of the most important things a young person can do outside of school. The DofE helps young people push past every kind of barrier to achieve success - transforming the lives of over 270,000 young people every year by instilling greater confidence, self-esteem and resilience to face the challenges of growing up today - as well as friendships and skills for life.

At 22, she “hit the jackpot” - the offer of a 9-week placement at Amey, a bursary from the Adam Smith Foundation, so she could support her daughter, and the chance to do the Gold DofE Award through the 15-year partnership Amey has with the charity. Unfortunately, she was past the age threshold to start. Not letting this deter her, she is now putting her energy into the DofE Challenge 2018, an alternative option for self-development for those over 25, so that more people in her situation can benefit from this life-changing program.

With Sarah’s construction skills, she will help erect fences, advise on an extension of the orphanage, teach in the local school, and take part in a culture exchange for the Maasai community. The vital funds she is raising will help to transform more young lives in the UK, and create sustainable lives for the Maasai communities.

Speaking about her DofE Challenge, Sarah said: “It’s going to be a challenging two weeks for me; adjusting to a very basic way of living, hiking two hours a day for water and sharing a communal toilet with the villagers. However, I’m really looking forward to meeting the kids and finding out what makes them happy, discovering a new culture and just embracing the experience.”

Peter Westgarth, Chief Executive of the DofE Charity said: “Being able to push yourself past boundaries is an essential party of personal development and is something that the DofE instils in thousands of young people every year through the DofE Award. We want every person across the UK to realise that there is more in them than they think.”

Andy Milner, Chief Executive of Amey, said: “Sarah has really embodied Amey’s values in her challenge as we’re avid supporters of the Duke of Edinburgh. That’s why we enable all apprentices the opportunity to do the Gold Award and learn important leadership skills which help further their professional and personal journies.”