Offenders setting up camp for their Duke of EdinburghSeven offenders from the Youth Unit at Christchurch Men’s Prison have been presented with Duke of Edinburgh certificates today, including five bronze and two silver awards.

Another, who has yet to complete his programme, was presented with his Gold Award Expedition Sectional Certificate, recognising completion of the difficult expedition phase of his award.

“The Duke of Edinburgh programme is making an enormous difference for this group of young men,” says Youth Unit Principal Corrections Officer, Gary Smallridge.

“There are some challenges running a programme like this in a prison environment, but the results make it worthwhile.”

“We have seen enormous growth in the youth involved; in their confidence, positive behaviours, team and communication skills, and the recognition that they can do something positive and worthwhile for others and be recognised for that.”

“Being involved in a project that gives them so much enjoyment from doing something positive can be a real eye opener for them."

Jack* is one of the youth completing his silver award.

“I’m really proud of myself,” he says. “It’s a huge achievement doing the Duke of Edinburgh, you learn a lot about yourself, and helping and working well with others.”

“The award teaches you really useful skills you can transfer into your life, like leadership, map reading and communication skills,” he says.

Every morning Jack now gets up and goes for an early morning run, keen to break the unit record.

For the community service aspect of the award, he has completed a number of projects within the unit, and has been actively encouraging other youth to get involved in the early morning run.

He plans to continue on, if possible, and complete his gold award.

Through the Joshua Foundation, the young men are engaging in all aspects of the DoE programme, including: service to the community; physical recreation, the development and mastery of a new skill and an adventurous journey.

“Setting the conditions for success is my role as an assessor, however it is made easier by enthusiastic young people who want to challenge and grow themselves in order to create a platform for future success,” says Chris Allan of the Joshua Foundation.

“A key for the Joshua Foundation is to ensure that people have a positive and realistic self-image – they will know and accept their own strengths and weaknesses, and be more aware of their own potential.”

Chris says the candidates are exposed to significant activity that challenges them physically; mentally and emotionally.

“The boys have learnt about their own strengths and weaknesses, more importantly how they can employ their strengths to support the team,” he says.

“They have also come to a place of acceptance that others have talents and gifts that bring success to the team and that they do not have all the answers all of the time. The young men have developed a passion for the great outdoors with all boys looking to the future and wanting to complete another adventurous journey.”

The participants have recently completed their expedition which included tramping; river crossing, navigation, casualty evacuation, preparing and cooking their own meals on a gas cooker and staying in tents overnight as part of their adventurous journey.  All these activities were completed on prison grounds.

To support these practical skills, the young men also learnt about field craft; leadership skills, decision making and the consequences of those decisions.

Minister Nicky Wagner, MP for Christchurch Central, presented the awards on 15 September at Christchurch Men’s Prison.

* Name changed to support his rehabilitation and reintegration.