“Often with a disability, it is assumed that you can’t do things. For example, having to battle
to be included, with people assuming I can’t do things instead of looking at ways to help me
succeed. I just wanted to have the same opportunities to achieve like everyone else. In
achieving Gold, I showed myself and others what can be done if you are given an opportunity and work hard.”
HAMISH GILBERT, HAWKES BAY
Havelock North’s Hamish Gilbert joined 60 others in Auckland in June to be presented with a Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award.
In Aotearoa, there are more than 8000 registrations every year, with 20,000 young people taking part in the scheme. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of practical, cultural and adventurous activities with bronze, silver and gold awards, each progressively more challenging. It was designed to support young people’s personal and social development regardless of gender, background, or ability.
While in Year 10 at Havelock North High School, Hamish started working towards a bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award and has continued to work towards Gold since then. Now 20, he has achieved many goals while working towards the Gold Award. Hamish has Down syndrome, so his challenges have been quite different from other participants.
He said, “I can do most things, it just takes me a bit longer. To me there is no difference between me and my twin brother. I can run like my brother, just not as fast. I can swim like my brother, nearly as fast”.
“It is the barriers that other people put in front of me that cause the issues. The Award gave me the confidence to go outside my comfort zone and achieve something that others thought wasn’t possible. Often with a disability, it is assumed that you can’t do things. For example, having to battle to be included, with people assuming I can’t do things instead of looking at ways to help me succeed,” Hamish said.
“I just wanted to have the same opportunities to achieve like everyone else. In achieving Gold, I showed myself and others what can be done if you are given an opportunity and work hard.”
Participants in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award must complete four sections: voluntary service, skills, physical recreation, and an adventurous journey of their own choice and at their own pace.
At the Gold level, participants also complete a residential project. Hamish completed a challenging 100km cycle ride through Hawke’s Bay in gale-force winds as part of his adventurous journey.
Physical recreation was an area he also stood out in – in 2020, he was awarded the Attitude Special Olympics Award and runner-up for Disabled Athlete of the Year at the Hawke’s Bay Sports Awards.
Hamish has prioritised his role as a kaitiaki of the environment with his volunteer service section, focusing on recycling and reducing food waste.
He discovered a passion and skill for oration during his Award journey with a school speech assignment about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award and since then, he has spoken to the community about protecting the environment. Hamish said, “The Award opened new opportunities for me to go and talk about my experiences and encourage others like me to have a go.”
One of those opportunities was being invited as a guest speaker at the launch of the Special Olympics Duke of Edinburgh Club in Wellington in March 2020.
“I had never spoken to so many people before, but I nailed it,” Hamish said. Hamish has been a remarkable participant in completing his own Award and encouraging others to participate in the opportunity and a true embodiment of the spirit and character the Award hopes to support