Our stories

Leading with Gold


A Leader not only helps participants to access the life-changing experiences of the Award, but also mentors and inspires them, as they choose activities, set goals, and work towards completing their programme. Without them, we couldn’t exist.

Award Leaders are the heart of our Award community, and they make everything possible for the rangatahi of Aotearoa. One strong heartbeat belongs to Hamish Bell.

Hamish is the Head of Values and Culture on the Executive Team at St Andrew’s College in Christchurch. And he is also the lifeblood of the Award in the school. Encapsulating the St Andrew’s ethos of ‘building better people, for life’, Hamish has embraced the Award programme as a key to youth development eagerly. He wholeheartedly believes in the importance of providing students with a holistic educational experience to prepare them for life beyond school.

As an Award Gold holder himself, his drive to support his students to participate is evident. Hamish is able to share his own experiences and advice enriching understanding. His best advice?  “Use the Award to either establish new friendships or strengthen existing ones and work alongside your friends to achieve success together. Life often gets busy, so plan ahead together, set some achievable goals and commit to them. For example, get a group together to commit to dates you that are all able to complete your practice and qualifying adventurous journeys.”  

Hamish has demonstrated a great deal of leadership and passion for the Award. His enthusiasm and positivity toward it have inspired and enabled staff, students, and parents to be fully engaged and to share in the student successes at each level. Last year saw outstanding success with 22 St Andrew’s College students gaining their Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award, the most that any organisation in New Zealand has received.

Despite COVID-19 and other obstacles, Hamish has played a major role in ensuring students have continued to enjoy outdoor education and could complete their Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award Adventurous Journeys. He’s broken many a sweat himself, leading exciting outdoor adventures and his personal efforts were appreciated greatly by his participants. “As an Award Leader I enjoy meeting with groups to hear their plan for their Adventurous Journeys and then hearing all about how they got on afterwards. There have been some incredible adventures over the years, but one stands out where one participant who was supported by his group completed the Otago Rail trail on unicycle!”

With comments such as “the Award has given me lifelong friends, a sense of adventure, leadership skills and confidence”, “the programme inspired me and helped me to see that I can achieve anything” and “completing the Gold Duke of Ed has set me up with a foundation for how to live the rest of my life” from his participants, it is clear to see that Hamish’s open passion for the Award has benefited so many. His own Award learnings emphasised “the importance of teamwork and how you can achieve great things when you have a common goal that you are all working towards. Rowing in an eight which won the Maadi Cup was a great example of this for me. Another example was serving on the youth council with students from other schools and completing community projects and events together.”

His generous sharing of his expertise, knowledge, and passion for the outdoors with others reaches beyond the gates of St Andrew’s too. Not only has he led and developed Outdoor Education and the Duke of Edinburgh programmes for the benefit of hundreds of students and St Andrew’s College, but he has also ensured that other schools and students also have access to the quality Outdoor Education Programme.

His story is best told by his students who each year relate to receiving their award, their admiration, and thanks for all he has done to support and encourage them. For Hamish, “the best part is sharing my passion for the Award and inspiring the next generation to make good use of their leisure time. I enjoy seeing a wide range of participants take on the challenge and enthusiasm for the Award. It is satisfying witnessing the personal development and success that comes from achieving at each of the Award levels, especially for those participants who do not find success easily in other areas of school life. It is a real thrill when participants go and achieve at the highest Gold level.” Hamish’s commitment has also been recognised externally, with his win at the recent Independent Schools of New Zealand (ISNZ) Conference. Hamish was recognised as an ISNZ Honours Award recipient, for his service to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award programme and Outdoor Education at St Andrew’s College. The ISNZ Honours Awards acknowledge and celebrate the calibre of staff within Independent Schools who go above and beyond the call of duty.

A huge congratulations to Hamish from us here at the Award. Leaders like him make all the difference. Whilst we might all be individuals, when our community joins together, it’s epic. From Award Leaders and volunteers, to supporters, parents, staff, and participants – everyone has a role in helping to build a greater Aotearoa, both now and in the future; hearts beating together.