Six members,Chloe Hawthrone, Collone YFC, Colin Capper, Bleary YFC, Samara Radcliff, Annaclone and Magherally YFC, Anna McCreedy, Rathfriland YFC Ross McKee, Annaclone and Magherally YFC, and Jack McCreedy, Rathfriland YFC from Young Farmers' Clubs of Ulster (YFCU), Northern Ireland's largest rural youth organisation, were invited to Buckingham Palace on Monday 15th May 2023 to celebrate achieving the Gold Duke of Edinburgh Award. The proud members were joined by YFCU CEO Gillian McKeown, along with other accomplished young adults from across the UK who were recognised for their achievements in the prestigious youth development program.
Buckingham Palace Garden was transformed into a festival-style celebration, with guests having the chance to hear from famous DofE Award holders and take part in a range of lawn games and activities. During the event, guests listened to speeches from Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, who is the Trustee of The Duke of Edinburgh's Award. The Prince took time to speak to several guests and learn about their individual achievements.
Speaking about the experience, Gillian McKeown, CEO said, "It was an incredible honour to be invited to Buckingham Palace and to celebrate the hard work, dedication and determination of our Duke of Edinburgh members. The Duke of Edinburgh's Award program has taught them many valuable skills, including leadership, teamwork, and resilience. It was a proud moment to represent YFCU and the wider rural youth community in Northern Ireland.
"As an organisation, YFCU is committed to supporting young people in rural communities across Northern Ireland. We believe that by encouraging young people to get involved in activities like farming, sports, and the arts, we can help them to develop important life skills and prepare them for the challenges of adult life."
She continued, “we must thank and acknowledge the incredible support, understanding and encouragement that comes in abundance from volunteer Helen Gibson. Without her, this would not have been possible. Congratulations to Helen and our Gold Award achieving members, and good luck to everyone else who is on, or starting their Duke of Edinburgh journey.”
Colin Capper of Bleary YFC said:
“I had always wanted to do Duke of Edinburgh but did not have a chance before. So, when the opportunity to go straight into my Gold award with YFCU came up, I took it. I enjoyed the expedition the most, meeting people from other Young Farmers clubs and putting myself to the test. Visiting Buckingham Palace was is also something I had always wanted to do and I am very grateful to Helen Gibson, our local organiser, for all her support.”
Ross McKee of Annaclone YFC said:
“YFCU provided me with the opportunity to begin my Duke of Edinburgh award and it took over a year to complete all five sections. On our expedition, there were nine of us from four different Young Farmers clubs, and we travelled by canoe from Carrick on Shannon to Enniskillen. I feel a real sense of satisfaction now that I have finished and I am thankful to Helen Gibson, our local organiser, for all her help.”
Samara Radcliffe of Annaclone YFC said:
“By completing my Duke of Edinburgh award with YFCU, I knew that I would be making friends and memories that would stay with me forever. It was physically and mentally challenging but the skills I have learned and the friendships I have made make it all worthwhile. I also know that the Duke of Edinburgh award looks good on my CV and will help me in the future. Having my award presented to me at Buckingham Palace by the Duke of Edinburgh himself, is a once in a lifetime experience.”
YFCU is an organisation that encourages education, fun, and friendship through a range of activities that include agriculture, arts, and sports. With over 3,400 members aged between 12 and 30 years old, the YFCU provides opportunities for young people to develop practical skills, make new friends, and contribute to their local communities.