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The Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario (front row, centre), presented Gold Awards to Duke of Edinburgh International Award achievers from across Canada during a ceremony held at Queen’s Park in Toronto in 2019. While the Award attracts youth from highly diverse backgrounds, expanding its reach even further through public schools, community groups and other partnerships is among the Award’s top priorities.supplied

BY Stephen De-Wint, National Executive Director, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award Canada

Empowering young people with the resilience, determination and confidence to develop their full potential and succeed in life starts with the philanthropic generosity of Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Today, with youth facing the added stresses of COVID-19, that support is needed more than ever.

Canadians everywhere are feeling the fatigue of COVID-19. People are Zoomed out, burnt out and in the midst of what health experts are calling the pandemic’s “second wave.”

On National Philanthropy Day, it is important to recognize the impact COVID-19 is having on young Canadians and why investing in them matters. We all have young people in our lives; they may be our children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or friends. We also share an opportunity to ensure that young people gain the skills that will ensure they are “world ready” – equipped with diverse abilities and experiences to make them well-rounded and capable adults.

In Canada, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award has been helping philanthropists invest in our nation’s future since 1963. This past June, our survey of young Canadians found some startling results including 88 per cent of respondents reporting their lives have been significantly impacted by COVID-19.

Other findings from the study included:

  • 59 per cent of young people feel lonelier than ever during quarantine;
  • 64 per cent are concerned about the impact COVID-19 is having on their mental health and well-being;
  • 72 per cent are concerned about their academic knowledge and skills.

With more than 60 years' experience equipping young people to be world ready, The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award offers youth aged 14 to 24 years old mentorship and access to a global framework that empowers them to learn and grow through non-formal education, all while working towards a globally recognized accreditation.

By setting and achieving their own challenging goals in four areas – skills development, community giving, engagement in nature and physical activity – Award participants build emotional intelligence and resilience; they develop leadership and problem-solving capacity as well as community connections. Ultimately, they earn valuable recognition for their accomplishments, validating that their actions matter.

The Award framework helps foster ‘soft’ skills and other essential characteristics needed to navigate change and build positive habits, preparing participants for life, work and to play a constructive role in society. We believe today’s young people are strong, inspired and dedicated. Given the right tools they can – and will – create new opportunities even in the midst of today’s fierce challenges.

Investing in our young people, our communities and our future starts with you

In the face of COVID-19, the Award has established three goals: increase our capacity to reach and serve more Canadian youth; engage a diverse range of partners, Award Leaders and brands that care about the future of young people; and increase access to the Award by deepening our connections in public school systems, youth groups and communities nationwide to ensure all Canadian youth can pursue the Award and realize its benefits.

Reaching these goals will require the philanthropic generosity of Canadians who believe the development of young people is an investment that is not only critical but also socially and economically valuable to our nation’s future.

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) determined that in 2019 alone the Award created $11-million of immediate social value in Canada. Further, PwC estimated $51-million in future social value due to the habits and behaviours Award achievers developed in 2019, and which they will continue to practise through their lifetimes. Considering the future value of the impact of physical activity on earnings potential alone, PwC also concluded that future benefit of increased earnings for Award holders who completed an Award in 2019 is $1,758,000.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award has direct, positive financial and non-financial impacts on the people and communities it touches. By supporting the Award, together we can build a stronger Canada and, most importantly, help young people become the best version of themselves at a time when that best version is most needed.

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Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.