Two Clutha women have recently received gold in the annual Duke of Edinburgh awards.
Lauren Martin and Naomi McLay, both former pupils of Catlins Area School, were presented their awards at a ceremony earlier in the month.
Miss Martin said she “felt a great sense of achievement” when receiving the award from Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy.
Miss McLay agreed, and said “it shows hard work does pay off”.
The goal of the Duke of Edinburgh Awards is to challenge young people to leave their comfort zones, by developing new skills and giving back to the community.
The three levels of the award – bronze, silver and gold – increase in difficulty, requiring time to be spent in community service, physical recreation, skills development, a residential project, and going on an “adventurous journey”.
A certain number of hours need to be logged per week to remain eligible for the prize.
Former Catlins Area School teacher Helen-May Burgess supported the women in their efforts, and said the recognition was well deserved.
“You don’t get a gold easily. It is often questioned,” she said.
For gold level, Miss Martin completed her “adventurous journey” on the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail.
She spent her four-day residential project at Camp Quality, spending time with children who had been diagnosed with cancer.
“It’s about giving something to a kid who is in a terrible situation,” she said.
“You become quite close to the kids and the other people you’re there with.”
For her community service, Miss Martin went with her passion for swimming and helped out cleaning at her local Owaka swimming pool.
For her part, Miss McLay helped at the local Lions club, and spent her four-day placement at a camp for disadvantaged children at Coopers Beach in Auckland.
She said she particularly enjoyed the community service aspect of the programme.
“It’s about helping out others. You see them support you, and you can give back.”
Both of the women came from large families with siblings who had done the programme before them.
“I have two older brothers,” Miss Martin said.
“They told me to do it. Plus it looks pretty good on your CV.”
Miss McLay said she hoped her younger siblings would take part in the award programme.
“I think it’s important there is someone to keep it going.”
They both agreed it was a life-changing experience.
“It really puts you outside your comfort zone. I used to be shy, but now I’m very assertive. I try everything I can,” Miss Martin said.
Miss McLay said it was “so much more” than she had expected.
“People have a new respect for you, knowing you’ve gone the whole way.”