St Charles pupil earns ‘royal’ award

2016-06-15 06:00
PHOTO: supplied At the awards (from left) Buti Manamela, Matthew Dunbar and Prince Edward.

PHOTO: supplied At the awards (from left) Buti Manamela, Matthew Dunbar and Prince Edward.

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MATTHEW Dunbar, a Grade 12 pupil at St Charles College, received a gold level certificate in the President’s Award for Youth Empowerment, which is part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award.

The President’s Award is a challenge for young people between the ages of 14 and 24, which started in the United Kingdom in 1956 and was first available in South Africa in 1983.

Matthew is the first in the school’s history to be awarded, after completing a gruelling five-step programme, which included community service, adventurous journey, physical recreation, skills development and residential project.

There are three levels of achievement - bronze, silver and gold.

Speaking to Maritzburg Fever, Matthew said he was honoured to have achieved a gold level at the awards.

“I heard about the awards at assembly and it was something that interested me so I went for it. I went straight for the gold because it was either go big or go home,” he said.

Matthew completed 72 hours of community service, learnt to play the piano as his skill development, played hockey and water polo, spent time at a church outreach programme in Limpopo, where his parents live, and hiked up Drakensburg mountains with 14 people as his adventurous journey.

“It wasn’t hard to be involved in physical activities because I play sport at school, but learning the piano was more challenging than I expected. I love music and used to play the guitar in junior school, so piano was something that interested me.

“The church outreach programme for a group of underprivileged people was also very challenging because I was exposed to many racial issues, which I didn’t expect, but in the end it was very fulfilling.

“I had to cook for people, look after them and clean up after them. It made me realise that I take a lot for granted and I realised how privileged I am. This was the turning point for me because I got to see how blessed I really am in the small things.”

He said his hike up the mountain was tough as he had to do everything for himself, carry all his equipment, food, clothing and camping bag.

“It was challenging, but we all learnt to look after each other. When others in the group got injured you had to be able to share the load and help them on their way. It was all about being a team player. It taught us to be responsible not only for ourselves, but for others,” he said.

In celebration of The President’s Award’s 60th anniversary, the gold awards were handed out by HRH, Earl of Wessex, Prince Edward, and Deputy Minister in the Presidency Buti Manamela at Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in Johannesburg.

Matthew said the journey to achieve the award was very fulfilling.

“It put me in my place, making me realise that it’s not always about me. It makes us question how much we are doing for others who don’t have as much as we do. It was humbling and I am so glad to have been a part of it.”

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