Our stories

Success with access; a meaningful journey for everyone in the Award


Inclusion and accessibility are one of the Award’s key priorities. Karen Ross, National Director of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award, says the Award’s goal is to create a community where all people, regardless of their health or circumstances can. Long story short, the Award is, “equipping all rangatahi in New Zealand, irrespective of ability.”

To celebrate Get Outdoors Week, we’re proud to share the following stories of inspiring participants and Award Leaders who are making the most of the Award journey and some of the funders who are supporting them to do so.


Completing his Award through Helen Anderson Trust, Nathan Carter, a young autistic man from Canterbury, recently completed his Gold Residential section with Outward Bound. A celebrated runner, he took his experience on the track into the sky and sea as part of his Horizons course. High ropes and a sailing adventure enabled him to push his boundaries and test his limits, and his experience at sea inspired his Adventurous Journey with Spirit of Adventure.

When Nathan began his Award, he discovered he could achieve a lot more than he ever thought possible. His biggest challenge is social interaction, noise, and crowds and his Outward Bound instructor says, “Nathan arrived at Anakiwa apprehensive but excited to try the activities. He is a kind and endearing individual, who though [initially] nervous, soon relaxed around his watch-mates and staff”.

The Helen Anderson Trust supports intellectually disabled people to participate in their community, and to reach their full potential. Through the adapted Award programme, the Trust enables youth to experience enhanced independence, work experience, appreciation of the outdoors and interaction with others for their clients. Debbie Andrews, manager at the Trust, believes, “the Award programme compliments our mission and… provides an opportunity for participants to grow… most importantly in their independence, confidence, and life skills”.


The team at Manaaki Ability Trust encourage, support, and challenge their clients. In the last four years Louisa Kelly, the centre’s programme coordinator, has successfully run the Award, enabling her clients to have exciting opportunities, volunteer in their community and gain valuable life-skills that prepare them for vocational work. Louisa, an Award holder herself, knew “these guys could really benefit from this – a programme that acknowledges and understands their thirst for life.”

Limits are something many of Manaaki participants are used to. Most face restrictions and challenges that have limited their autonomy, independence, and the opportunities available to them. But with the Award Louisa has found that these differences are inconsequential to their achievements. “My participants aren’t any different. It might take them a bit longer, or they may need extra support but they’re not incapable of doing the Award”.

This is her approach for many of the Award sections.  Adventurous Journeys require her to ensure, “the safety is there, with extra precautions around the conditions, activities, destinations, and health needs. It’s a slightly extra level”. But that extra effort is extra rewarding. One participant, Chelsea, completed her Adventurous Journey last year with a major heart condition. “Some of our participants are very fragile. But… it was incredible. You don’t want them to feel limited by these things. And with the Award they don’t”. Sadly, Chelsea passed away a couple of months after her journey. Chelsea’s mum says that her the sense of achievement she received from her Award experience was the highlight of her young life.


Hamish Gilbert lives with down syndrome and is proud to tell the story of his Gold Adventurous Journey, which featured a gruelling 100 km cycle ride through gale force winds in Hawke’s Bay. A three-day hard slog and the third and final requirement for his Gold Award, Hamish had meticulously planned his route and every detail of the journey. “It was headwinds all the way,” he says. “By the time I arrived home, I was very tired. I was very pleased with myself.”

“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 says. “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.”


Challenges can take many forms, including distance and financial costs. Currently at Rangitoto College, and previously at Bluelight, Ben Pollard has over five years of experience facilitating the Award programme. He loves “what the Award does, fostering potential within our rangatahi”.

Both Bluelight and Rangitoto College run the Award to allow students to develop skills that will help them throughout their lives. Bluelight is an organisation which works in partnership with the Award to deliver the programme into disadvantaged or remote communities, and with refugee groups. Rangatahi involved in this programme are funded thanks to Ministry of Social Development. MYD’s desired impact aligns with the Award; to build supportive communities where rangatahi become resilient, participate meaningfully in society, and reach their potential. Their focus is on improving equity of outcomes for young people and benefiting them through stronger connections and increased opportunities.