Youth kickboxed, cooked his way to award

Noah El-Hafi knows what it's like to have a lot on his plate.

Noah El-Hafi was awarded the silver level Duke of Edinburgh's Award recently.

Noah El-Hafi knows what it’s like to have a lot on his plate.

Last year, El-Hafi took kickboxing classes three times a week, volunteered in Sidney, cooked weekend meals for his family, completed homework for classes at St. Michaels University School, and maintained a social life.

The hectic schedule was due to the 16-year-old Victoria resident’s desire to earn a silver level Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. The silver award is given to youth who work actively in the four sections of the program —service to community, development of a skill, physical recreation, and an adventurous journey in nature — for 52 weeks.

It’s an award El-Hafi was eager to get started on the first time he heard about it from his school.

“You get to do a variety of things. You have to do sports, you have to do volunteering, you have to have a hobby,” El-Hafi said.

He got straight to work, registering for the program, and detailing week by week on his calendar the things the would do to earn the award. He was already involved in kickboxing and shortly after began volunteering at the Shaw Centre for the Salish Sea, directing guests and telling them about marine biology.

He also decided to take his first Thai cooking class, which launched him into cooking dinners for his family, making lasagnas, pizzas, salads, dips and stirfrys on a weekly basis. He did a four-day sailing adventure with Salts Sail & Life Training Society as well.

Now, a year and four months after he started, El-Hafi, along with a number of other Greater Victoria residents, finally received the silver level Duke of Edinburgh’s Award at a ceremony at Government House — something he was proud to finally earn.

“I learned that I really liked cooking, since I didn’t know how to do it before,” he said, adding he learned he has a lot of perseverance. “At some points it got kind of hard, not only to do the activities, but to log the information as well.”

Sushil Saini, executive director of the B.C. and Yukon division, said El-Hafi pushed himself well past what he thought he was capable of.

“He was able to move his personal bar much higher. The thing about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, when youth come through on the other side, they really get a sense of how much they’re capable of and that’s pure gold,” she said, adding the award looks good on post-secondary applications as well.

Up next, El-Hafi has his sights set on earning the gold level of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, which involves similar things, but over a longer time period.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award is a self-development leadership program available to young people across the province and the Yukon between the ages of 14 to 24. This year’s silver award winners also include Breanna Williams from Langford, and Nathan Brookes, Taylor Cumming, Lara Hoffecker Spencer Lee and Jacqueline Sun, among others from Saanich.

For more information about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award visit dukeofed.org/ca or call 250-385-4232.