Our stories

When whakawhanaungatanga starts with your whanau


As part of a wonderful intergenerational experience of the Award, with both her parents having completed their own Awards in their teenage years, Shreeji Patel has shared her Award journey with us in this extended interview.

How were your parents involved?

Both my Mum and Dad completed the Bronze and Silver Award levels. They completed many tramps, tramps on Rangitoto island, camps at the Waitakere ranges. They absolutely enjoyed their time completing this Award. As part of the service section, my mum did tuitions and dad volunteered at his local cricket club! As soon as I got into High School, both my parents encouraged me to participate in the Duke of Ed. Now that I have completed the Bronze Award, I feel the pride and the happiness my parents felt when they completed the Award years ago. I can’t wait to do all the activities required to complete the Silver Award!

Why did you decide to do the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award?

I had first heard of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award at my school during the Westlake Girls club expo. It seemed like a lot of fun, there were so many options and so many ideas that sparked in my mind at that time. I wanted to be more involved in the community, I wanted to challenge myself and discover a new passion and I saw that by participating in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award, I not only would be able to do that, but I would also strengthen my friendship by participating in the same volunteering activity as my friends. This was my main inspiration.

What are/were the challenges for you to complete the Award?

Some challenges for me when I was completing the Award was lockdown. Whilst I was completing my bronze Award, lockdown had restricted me from carrying out a lot of the activities I had chosen. For example, my physical activity was playing school and club netball, unfortunately I wasn’t able to do either for those and in alternative that I carried out was going on regular runs and walks and training at home to still stay fit and healthy and once we were back on the courts, I would be able to perform my best! Similarly with the volunteering activity, my activity was organised by my school and it was buddy reading at Milford Primary, lucky enough for me, my buddy and I were still able to carry this over a zoom call which was really good! So, despite my biggest challenge being lockdown, I was able to find alternatives and carry on with these activities I was committed to doing.

Has participating in the Award helped you with your career or life path goals?

The Award has definitely allowed me to develop skills that I use in my everyday life currently as a senior high school student. I have strengthened so much in communication skills, I have become confident and can challenge myself to do new things.

Which section of the Award do you enjoy doing the most?

The section that I enjoy doing the most is the Physical Section, this is because I thoroughly enjoyed playing netball and believe that I improved in so many areas and DOE definitely inspired me even more specially to participate in Club netball. 

Do you have a favourite memory from the Award?

My favourite memory was most definitely the adventurous activity. We went tramping to the Waitakere Ranges as part of Air Cadets and the whole journey, the weather, the views, and the people were just all awesome and made the experience just wonderful.

What have you learned about yourself, through doing the Award?

Through doing this Award, I have learned to challenge myself, and step outside of my comfort zone, I have gained happiness from helping little kids improve their reading skills. I have learnt many skills but most importantly, I have learned that if I put my mind to anything, I will be able to accomplish it. 

Are you still using the skills/knowledge you’re developing and have already developed with the Award?

Yes, I am still using the skills/knowledge I am developing and have already developed with the Award. Skills such as resilience, communication, leadership and many more.

What is your best piece of advice for someone doing the Award?

The best piece of advice I would like to give to someone doing the Award is to keep persevering, there may be times where you may struggle to finish the Award due to uncontrollable circumstances, in those times being resilient and trying to be creative with your alternatives is crucial. Another piece of advice is to choose suitable assessors and assessors that you are well in contact with!