Duke of Edinburgh: Expedition Cape Breton 2013
-by April MacDonald
Participants left to right from back: Nicholas Graham, Jonathon Anderson, Sean Cordeiro, Michael Handrahan, Rachael Woodman, Steven Woodman, kneeling are Kassidy Matheson and Donald DeWolfe.
A group of seven went on an expedition of Cape Breton Island last week.
The seven making the trek from Prince Edward Island were Steve Woodman and Donna Davis, formerly of Inverness, along with retired Colonel Jim Spears, his wife retired Captain Karen Spears, representative of the Army League PEI Alan McCormick and two young women named Cassidy Madison and Rachael Woodman.
Steve Woodman and Donna Davis are involved in a program called the Duke of Edinburgh Program and for the past few years they have been joining others to take participants on their gold level expedition. The award program has three levels; bronze, silver, and gold, with each level increasing in its difficulty. The award is a recognition, award-granting programme. To earn a bronze, silver or gold award, participants must satisfy criteria for each award level set out in a record book.
Students completing the program can now use it towards a recognized high-school credit.
The Duke of Edinburgh’s award was founded in 1956 by His Royal Highness, The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to help young people develop a sense of responsibility to themselves and to their communities. The concept of the award is one of individual challenge. It offers young people a balanced, non-competitive program of voluntary activities which encourages personal discovery, growth, self-reliance, perseverance, and responsibility. The award currently runs in one hundred and thirty countries worldwide, and to date, seven million young people have challenged themselves by doing the award.
In 1963 the award was launched in Canada and opened up to all young Canadians between the ages of 14 to 24. There were pilot projects launched in various cities in Nova Scotia, Ontario and British Columbia. Today, the award currently has some 37,000 participants. Over the years the award has continued to grow throughout Canada. There are approximately five million young people in Canada in the 14 to 24 age group.
Nationally the program has developed a number of initiatives to expand the award so it becomes more accessible to youth from different social and economic backgrounds; youth “at risk,” inner-city youth, young offenders, youth with disabilities, as well as northern and aboriginal youth. The award maintains its strength in sixty member countries and has a further presence in over forty others. As the award has developed to attract “youth at risk,” there are a number of initiatives worldwide where the program is run to assist with the rehabilitation of young offenders.
The values of the award program are self improvement, excellence, confidence and pride. The program is aimed at young people who are looking for a way to get more involved in their communities, make new friends, get physically fit, and discover an activity that excites them. They are also given the opportunity to realize their potential while exploring the great outdoors. The organization focuses on citizenship, the environment, volunteerism, stewardship, survival skills and physical fitness in an effort to build the leaders of tomorrow.
In previous years they have travelled to the Fundy Region of New Brunswick, Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland and Labrador, and throughout PEI in 2009 and 2011. Last year they travelled to the Magdalene Islands. This year they chose Cape Breton Island as their expedition destination.
The group arrived in Cape Breton on August 25th, and began their adventure on the Coal Mines Road in Mabou. They hiked Mountain Road from the Coal Mines side to Mabou Harbour. After the 5K hike, they returned to their camp to prepare themselves for the Cape Breton Highlands National Park, where they would camp for two nights and then return to Mabou.
Expeditions take place with the Cadets Corp. as well as the Sea Cadet Corp., but since this group would be travelling with civilians as well, it was a civilian expedition. There were, however, three members of Army League PEI. All the participants met with the proper qualifications. They were travelling around in a large Navy van that attracted attention and conversation wherever they went. In the five nights that they spent on Cape Breton Island they hiked Mabou, Cheticamp, Fishing Cove and Broad Cove. They also travelled to Louisburg.
Everyone who participated said that they loved Cape Breton and had a great time hiking around. They even held a Cape Breton trivia game night, with questions such as, “What is the name of the most popular Mabou family?”
The two girls, Rachael Woodman and Cassidy Madison, aged 14-16, demonstrated their hiking and physical fitness qualities in order to meet their gold requirements. Both young women completed the difficult and rigorous hiking challenges.
One of the notable achievements from their expedition occurred along the Fishing Cove Trail. They encountered a couple from Quebec who were travelling around Cape Breton and had kayaked into Fishing Cove. The couple had kayaked in and planned to carry their kayaks up the trail – not realizing the difficulty, of the trail, especially up the steep hill where you exit Fishing Cove. Underestimating the difficulty they soon realized they could not physically carry the kayaks up the incline. At this time, the two girls, quite literally going for gold, had come along and offered to carry the kayaks up the hill for them. The Quebecers were grateful for the help and the girls were happy to oblige.
Another great success story came when one of the female cadets happened upon a moose. Initially, it was quite the startling experience as the moose had been lying down under a tree. It would seem that they both had scared each other, but there was one key difference; the moose wasn’t there by choice, he was trapped. There had been rope hanging from one of the trees in the park and the moose’s enormous antlers had become entangled in the rope. The moose was unable to free himself. After the female cadet had made the dangerous and sad discovery she hurried back to tell the group. She arrived back at their site and informed Cadet Officer Steve Woodman of the situation, who quickly rushed to the scene where the moose was caught up. He managed to get behind the moose and cut the rope, freeing the great animal. Once freed the moose quickly made tracks for deeper woods.
Colonel Jim Spears has been involved in the Duke of Edinburgh Program since 2005. Originally a native of New Brunswick, in 2002 he rejoined the Army Cadet League of Prince Edward Island. He was attracted to the parallel between the training given to Army Cadets and the Duke of Edinburgh Program itself, with emphasis on the completion of gold and silver expedition requirements. He works for the Department of the Environment program. He believes it is a great thing that the PEI League was successful in obtaining for students a high-school credit for completion of the program. He served as a meteorologist in PEI for over thirty years and certainly knows a thing or two about weather and the elements. He is definitely someone you would want with you when traversing the great outdoors.
Alan McCormick is a liaison officer with the Army Cadet Corp. and has been with the program since 2005. Three years ago they did the Fundy Trail in the Fundy Region of New Brunswick, biking, hiking and canoeing. In 2009, they made their way from one tip of PEI to the other, the “tip-to-tip trip.” Again in 2011, they also hiked throughout PEI, canoeing or biking and hiking.
Absolutely anyone between the ages of 14 and 24 can participate in the program. It is open to males and females, regardless of ability, social, economic, religious, or ethnic background. If you are 14 years of age you can go for your bronze, if you are 15 you can achieve the silver, and if you are 16 or older you can go for the gold.
The time it takes to complete the program depends on which level of the award you’re working on. Bronze takes at least six months to complete, Silver takes a minimum of twelve months, and gold a minimum of eighteen months for direct entry, and twelve months if you’ve already earned your silver. There are four sections main sections of the program; service, skills, adventurous journey, and physical fitness.
The Duke of Edinburgh award can be done from almost anywhere. Many schools, colleges, and universities have partnered with the award to give students the opportunity to participate. So have many youth organizations like Cadets, Scouts, and Girl Guides.
Any young person who is interested in The Duke of Edinburgh award should check with their teacher or a parent and find out if it’s available. If not, it is also possible to participate in the award as an independent; just contact the divisional office for your province or territory for more details.
Getting back to nature couldn’t be more rewarding.
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