Plucky Portsmouth and Emsworth teenagers don't waste a minute in lockdown while completing Duke of Edinburgh challenge

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, has always been strong and – almost – silent behind, and in support of the Queen.

Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 10:31 am
Updated Tuesday, 19th May 2020, 10:40 am
Phoebe Carlile 16 has set up social challenges for other teenagers to keep their spirits up and raised hundreds of pounds through cycling a marathon each week. Picture: Habibur Rahman

However, his contribution to the lives of young people around the world, through the charity he set up in 1956, cannot be underestimated.

Run through schools, colleges and youth groups, The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) is an opportunity for young people aged between 14 and 24 to embark upon life-changing experiences, develop new skills, make new friends and contribute as a volunteer to their local community.

Although because of lockdown they cannot go on intrepid expeditions, young people taking the awards have excelled themselves by helping others during this difficult time.

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Tom Russell, from Emsworth, a Duke of Edinburgh award trainer.

Phoebe Carlile, 16, from Cosham, hasn’t wasted a minute of being home from Portsmouth High School.

As part of her DofE award she volunteers with St John Ambulance (SJA) and has given first aid at big events such as the London Marathon and Pompey football matches.

The A-level student has kick-started an #AntiViralChallenge on social media to help young people stay positive during the pandemic, particularly fellow SJA volunteers.

She says: ’It is a really hard time for a lot of young people, they had planned to do so many things over these months that have now been cancelled. We’ve had to adapt and find new ways of doing things. For example, we are pretty much teaching ourselves and it is a struggle to stay motivated at home.’

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at the State Opening of Parliament in the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster on June 4, 2014 in London, (Photo by Ray Collins - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Phoebe, who plans to become an army doctor, has been posting her activities online such as Making Mondays, Workout Wednesdays, Foodie Fridays and Silent Sundays. The aim is to flood the social media of her friends with positive stories to combat negative news stories.

She says: ‘In the short term, we want to get young people more active, to try a new skill or develop a current one and look after their mental and physical health. In the long term, we want to use this initiative to challenge the social narratives around young people and show that social media can be a force for good.’

Phoebe, who runs with City of Portsmouth Athletics Club, has been cycling a marathon a week around Portsmouth to raise funds for St John Ambulance.

She’s also taken up scrap-booking and baking – that's on top of studying for A-levels. Mum Nicola says: ‘I don’t have a bored teenager on my hands, if anything she is busier than ever. I am incredibly proud of Phoebe and her work ethic, whether it be school, St John or athletics.

‘Beyond this she still makes time to run errands for her grandmother who is shielding, and support her sister who is just embarking on her nursing career and living away from home and family.

‘This doesn’t mean that we don’t have the normal battles most parents have with teenage children, the state of her bedroom for example. But I count myself very lucky that my teenager has shown that young people can adapt and overcome, and be positive!’

Meanwhile, over in Emsworth 17-year-old Tom Russell is also continuing with his DofE, despite lockdown measures.

In addition to doing his own Gold award, Tom volunteers as an assistant DofE leader at St John’s College in Southsea, guiding other young people through their programmes.

Determined not to let lockdown affect their development, Tom has set up online portals with resources and advice, and is running virtual drop-in sessions to continue supporting them to achieve their DofE Awards.

Tom said, ‘When Covid-19 caused the closure of schools, I knew that we could make it possible for people to carry on with their DofE from home and still get the same level of support.

‘I set up online portals on the school's remote learning environment, filling them with resources to support them with their DofE and advice on adapting their activities to the current climate and training sessions on things such as how to pack a rucksack and map reading.

‘Even though we can’t meet we can still learn’.

Tom, who is an Explorer with the Scouts, has even managed to set up a school radio station during lockdown and keeps in touch with his friends via Zoom quizzes.

Mum Karen says: ‘We’re really proud of Tom. He is very positive and making the best of a difficult situation.’ For more information on how to join the awards scheme go to

Youngsters show resilience during lockdown

A survey of 9,913 Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) participants aged 14-25 revealed that, despite lockdown, many young people across the UK are using the time productively to create positive change.

The majority, 57 per cent, of respondents report coping fine or quite well with the loss of their usual routine, with 48 per cent spending more time than usual being active, 47 per cent using the time to learn a new skill or rediscover an old one, and 44 per cent have become closer to friends and family.

In addition, 25 per cent have felt inspired during lockdown, with many spending the time sharing positive wishes with friends, family and their community and 43 respondents of respondents have sent an encouraging message to someone. Almost a quarter have made a video to make someone smile, with a further 25 per cent more open to speaking with their neighbours.

Peter Singleton, south east director at the DofE, said: ‘We’re navigating an unprecedented landscape, and it’s difficult for young people not to worry about their exams and results.

‘However, it’s so encouraging to see they’re using this time to support the community and nurture new and existing skills, allowing their character and resilience to shine through.’

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