Hiking the perimeter.Two young women at Christchurch Women’s Prison have become the first in the South Island to receive their Bronze Duke of Edinburgh's Hillary Awards, presented this week.

“This is a great opportunity and achievement for these young women,” says Prison Director, Deb Alleyne.

“The women are justifiably proud of their achievement. They have gained new skills and understanding about themselves and their community. They have worked as a team and have loved being part of the Duke of Edinburgh story.”

Broken into three levels – Bronze, Silver and Gold, each award level requires participants to complete a personal programme of activities in four sections – Service (Volunteering), Physical, Skills, and an Expedition. Gold level includes an additional Residential component.

The women designed a programme that covered aspects important to them and would fit within the systems and regimes of the prison environment.

This included growing produce for Aviva Women’s Refuge and for prisoners’ whānau visiting the prison; a ‘triathlon’ of running, biking and rowing (on a treadmill, rowing machine and bike); writing and producing a video on the challenges of coming to prison the first time and a hike around the prison perimeter.

“The women have really enjoyed the experience and were particularly relieved when the triathlon part was over,” says Principal Adviser Rehabilitation and Learning Maree Hanford.

“They really rose to the challenge and after weeks of training, they are finished and very proud of themselves. They were keen to make the triathlon even more meaningful and through staff sponsorship, have $427 for Aviva Women’s Refuge.”

“Without the Award and each other, they may never have completed something like this. It’s been a long and challenging journey and I know they girls be very pleased and proud to have finished their Bronze award.”

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award (the Award) is a global framework for non-formal education which challenges young people to dream big, celebrate their achievements and make a difference in their world. The award helps young people find their place through developing transferable skills, increasing their fitness levels, cultivating a sense of adventure and volunteering in their community.

The Award has been offered at Christchurch Men’s Youth Unit for the past two years, but this is the first time the programme has been available to women at Christchurch Women’s Prison.

The Award’s aim to equip young New Zealanders for promising futures extends to every community.  At the centre of these young women’s achievement is their commitment to how they can contribute, learn, grow, care for their own wellbeing and that of others whilst embracing opportunity for their futures.

“Their perseverance is an example to us all, and I really look forward to working alongside more young women as they complete their awards in future,” said Karen Ross, National Director of the Award in Aotearoa New Zealand.