Travelling the world, navigating your way through the wilderness and dining with Royalty may be some people’s idea of a life challenge, yet for one local woman, it was simply all in a year’s work.
Bradford University student, Ruby Kaur Takhar completed all three tasks and more for her Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, which was awarded to her at St James’s Palace last month.
In order to achieve the accolade, Ruby had to complete five separate challenges which covered categories of volunteering, physical, skills, expedition and residential, whilst travelling as far as Cambodia.
Upon completion, the 19-year-old travelled to London to receive the prestigious award from HRH Prince Philip, in what was described as an ‘unforgettable experience’.
“It was an amazing day and one I will never forget,” she said. “After all the effort that was put in to completing the Gold award, to receive such a reception in the same place that the Queen made her first ever speech was something special.
“Prince Philip was really nice as well. He was very interested in hearing about our residential stages and I spoke to him for about five minutes; what we said I can’t quite remember though, all I know is he is a really nice, funny man.”
Ruby spent her residential stage in South East Asia as she worked in the COSO Orphanage in Cambodia.
Days were split into two parts whereby the group of volunteers would take it in turns to teach the children English, whilst the other half helped construct the new building, regardless of monsoon conditions.
More than 30 children, who were all charity dependant, regularly attended the classes and despite their impoverished upbringing, Ruby explains how their enthusiasm to learn was something of an inspiration.
She said: “The children were really nice and were so eager to learn. They had all had this hard upbringing yet kids as young as five were telling us they aspired to be doctors and professions like that which was lovely to hear.”
Adding: “We would travel in the back of a truck to the orphanage every day and it was really a culture shock. I remember one of the first things we saw when stepping off the plane was a whole family travelling on one scooter; a truly remarkable site.”
As well as the life-changing trip, a grueling expedition phase saw Ruby and a team of three Chinese students, trek through the Yorkshire Dales over five days and four nights, travelling eight miles a day.
Using only a map and compass for directions, the team had to meet set checkpoints after
“The expedition phase was really hard and communication was key,” she said, “I had never really spoke to my teammates before then but in order to succeed we had to work as a group, not individuals.
“Perhaps the most bizarre thing I thought I would ever do was wake up on my 18th birthday in a field full of sheep but that is exactly what happened.”
The Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award recognises outstanding commitment to personal development and requires a minimum 12 months of hard work to obtain.
Open to anybody from 16 years of age, through to 25, it is a life changing challenge and one Ruby would recommend to everybody.
She said: “Not only does it look great on your CV but the character building and independence you gain is something you cannot just learn.
“At the end of the day would you rather just be sat in front of the television all day with nothing to do, or travel to places like Malawi and Cambodia and help improve somebody’s life?”