A boy from a children’s home wins an international award and meets the royal family

A 19-year-old Roma boy has worked his way up from a children’s home to a meeting with members of the royal family. Under the DofE program, he started a journal for children’s homes, has improved in floorball, and also participated in an international journey. In London, he then appeared before Prince Edward and his wife Sophie.

Prague – Students from a hundred schools in the Czech Republic are joining in The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award (DofE). This brought one of them, Lukáš Kotlár (19), from a children’s home to a meeting with the British royal family. His main achievement has been work for a quarterly printed and online journal, Zámeček [Little Chateau], intended for children in children’s homes, of which he has become the editor-in-chief.

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is an educational program available to all 14-24 year olds. Every participant has a choice to pursue activities in four areas: Service, Physical Recreation, Skills and Adventurous Journey. At the Gold level, a Residential Project is added. The program has been running since 1956, and people in more than 140 countries can currently join it. The Gold level is intended for people over 16, and lasts at least a year and a half.

In the Czech Republic, more than a thousand students have participated in the DofE program in the last two years. “They are young people across various types of schools. We aim to have 120 institutions and 5,000 participants involved by 2018,” said Tomáš Vokáč, the Award director in the Czech Republic, at a press conference.
One of the many participants was an Open Gate student, Lukáš Kotlár. He joined this grammar school at the age of 12 from the children’s home in Uherský Ostroh, thanks to a grant from The Kellner Family Foundation. Presentations by his older schoolmates inspired him to join the DofE program. “Initially, I was mainly attracted by taking journeys. But in the end, the service activity was the most important part for me. Zámeček is the only press title for children’s homes, and this infused my work with a greater meaning,” he said. Through the program, he began playing more floorball, and as a member of a journey he visited the Czech enclave, Banát, in Romania. He has also improved his presentation skills.

Appearing before the royal family
This young Roma boy represented the Czech Republic in London at a fundraising event for special DofE projects. He appeared there before members of the royal family, Prince Edward and Countess Sophie, and major sponsors and donors.

Lukáš wants to continue with the activities to which this program has guided him. Unlike most of his schoolmates, who are readying for international universities, he is planning to continue at a university in the Czech Republic. “I want to take political science and international relations. Then, I would like to combine this with media,” he said.

Luděk Michalík, a teacher and the coordinator of this program at Open Gate, is convinced that participation in DofE can change young people’s lives. “It also gives teachers an opportunity to know their students outside of the classroom, and to help them in their lives,” he added. Peter Nitsche, the Open Gate principal, believes that it is not enough to prepare students for their future lives just in their academics and skills. According to him, young people need empathy, tolerance and responsibility, to which this program guides them. “I have not yet seen a student who has not changed for the better through participating in this Award,” he added.

Author | ČTK


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