Zoe Ryder is our final feature volunteer for National Volunteer Week 2012! Her journey as taken her from volunteering at a community house to becoming a volunteer CFA Leader and helping with fires and floods in her community. The following is taken from a speech she gave at the 2012 Shepparton Regional Award Ceremony.


Good afternoon everyone, my name is Zoe Ryder, I am from Cobram Secondary College, and I have just completed my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s award.  Today I am here to tell you about my journey completing the Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s award and what skills I have gained throughout the experience.

At Cobram Secondary College the school runs an Advance program aimed at year 10 students which gives students the opportunity to complete their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, gain leadership and teamwork skills and also experience a wide range of different activities. A couple of weeks into the class we went on a one week camp to Rubicon Outdoor centre, which mainly focuses on teamwork and leadership skills and other skills we can use throughout The Award such as communication and listening. During the course Advance our class took part in a CFA cadet program which took 18 weeks to complete and at the end we were awarded with our Minimum Skills Wildfire qualifications. During this program we had the opportunity to go to Wangaratta training ground with another school and this pushed our leadership, teamwork and communication skills as we were faced with real life situations including fire, smoke and dummies.

During the first term we spent some Wednesday afternoons setting up tents to see if all the equipment was there and learning how to set up and use the trangias. The Wednesday we learnt  the trangias everyone had to bring something in to cook. Most people brought noodles or soup; after we cooked our food and cleaned our trangias we were told that we couldn’t take noodles as they didn’t have enough nutrients. When I first looked at the trangia and was told to set it up I thought this could not be something to cook food in. It was pretty funny watching everyone try to set it up. If this seemed different, I was clearly wrong as this was only just the beginning of my Duke of Ed experiences.

From here on I began my other components. For my volunteering component I volunteered an hour and a half a week at the local community house. My goal was to learn about the programs that were offered there in order to benefit the local community. At the local community house I did jobs they needed help with and also helped organise a local reading day along with 4 others from our school. The reading day was a huge hit and I had the opportunity to read to younger children at Sportspower and see the excitement on their faces. This built my confidence as I knew something I was doing was making others happy.

For Physical Recreation I went to the gym for an hour every Wednesday with a friend. My goal was to be able to run on a treadmill for 5 minutes at the speed of 10. I was able to achieve this goal by the end of the 13 weeks, which helped my overall fitness as well as my swimming fitness.

This led into our Adventurous Journey section. In term 3 we went on our first practice hike to Strathbogie ranges where we camped for 2 nights and 3 days. When we got to our starting point I felt very nervous as I had never done anything like it before and didn’t know what to expect. When I put on my pack for the first time I just wanted to get it off as it felt like it weighed a ton! We had only been walking for half an hour and I was ready to take the pack off. It felt like the day was never going to end.

By day 3 I was tired and sore from all the walking but I knew with all the great people in our class we would all make the finish together. We started as a team and we all ended in a team and I think from that hike I made a lot of new friendships and pushed my comfort zones a lot.

Term 4 was when we set off on our qualifying hike to Mount Buller. The trip was planned to walk down off Mount Buller, up and across Mount Timbertop and finally finish on the other side of the Howqua hills. This time I knew what I was in for and I was more experienced in what I was doing. However it was still a major learning experience. We moved off four wheel drive tracks and walked on walking tracks and sometimes no tracks. We saw some amazing sites like from the top of Mount Timbertop and dealt with one of the hardest things I have ever done in walking over the Howqua Hills where all we saw was red dust and almost a vertical hill for five hours straight.

Overall, while I may have been puffing hard and struggling up those hills wishing I was going home, I look back now and think of the many changes that have come as a result. I know that anything I put my mind too I can do, I know that any one of the group members will be there to support me if I need it and I know that I can rise above and provide support for those who need me. I have made so many new friendships in a different way to what you make them at school and will remember this hike for a long time.

By doing The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award I have gained great confidence, leadership and teamwork skills. Before doing my Duke of Ed and Advance, I was a quiet student happy to sit back and listen to the ideas of others. Since doing this award I have built the confidence to join my local CFA, where I have attended fires and helped at the Nathalia floods on a strike team. I have also volunteered to become a CFA leader for this year’s Advance group, where I have to work with older members to teach Year 10 students about the basics of firefighting. It has also led to me getting a job as a lifeguard. Without these skills I would not have been able to join the CFA or get a job as a lifeguard as I would not have had the confidence.

I think this award has done so much for me and I would recommend it to anyone who was to ask or was thinking about doing the award. I have now moved on to doing my Silver and hope to have that complete by the end of this year!

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