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Sri Lanka’s Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award: Award recipients on becoming brilliant versions of themselves

23 Apr 2021

[caption id="attachment_131524" align="alignright" width="271"] Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award recipient Tharindra Arumapperuma[/caption] The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is one of the world’s leading achievement awards for young people. It is a voluntary, non-competitive award available to anyone aged 14-24.  The award programme is prevalent in 143 countries worldwide, and while the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Foundation’s Head Office is based in London, UK, the National Youth Award Division of the National Youth Services Council, which is functioning under the flag of the Ministry of National Policy and Economic Affairs, is the license operator of the Duke of Edinburgh International Award in Sri Lanka. Since the early 1980s, young people in Sri Lanka have been engaged in conducting the awards, and it has been made available to youths from national schools, non-government educational institutes, colleges of education for teachers, scouts, rovers, guides, senior guides, youth clubs, and many rehabilitation organisations. Since the inception of the programme, Sri Lanka has produced hundreds of gold medallists, and thousands of silver and bronze award recipients; at the moment, there are 145 award units functioning islandwide.  Recently, Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award recipient Tharindra Arumapperuma and Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award participant Shanjeevan Amalanathan spoke to BBC World News about the significant impact the award has had in their lives.  [caption id="attachment_131523" align="alignleft" width="287"] Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Award participant Shanjeevan Amalanathan[/caption] We reached out to both Tharindra and Sh anjeevan to share with us how exactly the award has moulded who they are as contributing members of society today and their pursuits and passions which have evolved and been influenced as a result of taking part in this award programme.  Speaking with Tharindra, she shared that her introduction to the programme came from her involvement in the Sri Lanka Girl Guides. She said that prior to getting involved in the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, she was a rather silent and anxious student in school, describing herself to be a “social misfit”, adding that she was “not great academically either”. However, she believed herself to have whisperings of great potential, but did not quite know how to draw forth her abilities, and her interdiction to the award allowed her to experience a new version of herself. “I consider 2012-2017 to be the golden years of my life,” she said, as she grew most during that time when she was clearing the levels in the award.  She stated that she greatly benefitted from the non-formal education framework adopted by the award, as she soon realised that despite not having performed incredibly well in school following her involvement in the award, she was able to excel in her studies at university level.  At present, Tharindra shared that she feels that she has found her calling as a social entrepreneur. She is also currently a board member of the Global Youth Mobilisation initiative and holds position as an elected member of the Global Youth Summit, where her tenure has been extended by two years due to the pandemic.  Sharing how the award programme changed his life, Shanjeevan shared with us who he is now – an adventure traveller and marine conservation activist. In order to complete the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, there are four sections – service, skills, physical recreation, and the final being an adventurous journey – and Shanjeevan shared with us that he did his first hike in 2019 for his silver medal, where he climbed Adam’s Peak, and he hasn’t looked back since. Developing an interest in adventure travel, he stated that he has hopes to complete the seven peaks challenge. Shanjeevan shared that he is incredibly grateful to those who introduced him to the award, and DreamSpace Academy Co-founders Kishoth Navaretnarajah and Aravinth Panch, who introduced him to ocean technology.  Founder of OceanBiome, a community of talents focused on ocean research, and currently the Assistant Co-ordinator for the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for the Northern Province and Eastern Province, Shanjeevan shared that he is extremely grateful for the opportunities that have come his way as part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, adding that he encourages any and all youth to take part in the award, as it would change their lives. 

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