Finding extracurricular activities for young people isn’t as easy as it once was due to restrictions on movement and social-distancing mandates brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, one youth programme says a growing number of 14 to 24-year-olds are opting to continue with a life-changing experience which sees the participants involved, help the community, become fitter and develop new skills – now mostly from the comfort of their homes.

“There’s tremendous benefit from being a local programme with international ties,” said Jacquetta Lightbourne-Maycock, national director of the Governor General’s Youth Award (GGYA).

“While the pandemic has complicated or cut-off access to many extracurricular activities, our deep global pool of expertise means we are able to continue to deliver our Award to participants.”

Any young person can complete the Award programme regardless of ability, gender, background or location. There are four sections to complete at Bronze and Silver level and five sections at Gold.

“The overnight hiking trips, which we call the adventurous journey, has always been the biggest draw for young people to sign up for GGYA to get that taste of adventure and feeling of independence, spending nights away from home, acquiring survivals skills,” said Mrs. Lightbourne-Maycock.

“However, the Award has always offered explorations. In the expedition, the primary focus is the journey. Less time goes into research and gathering information. In an exploration the primary focus is to observe and collect information. More time and effort is spent on this, as opposed to getting from one place to another.”

So as not to delay achieving their Award, young people are beginning to tap into virtual resources offered by GGYA partners, like the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and BREEF (the Bahamas Reef Education and Environment Foundation).

Explorations could include studies on coastal erosion, effects of oil spills in (Grand Bahama), coral reefs, the mangrove system or historic forts. Young people are limited only by their imagination.

“Groups consist of four to seven participants. Most of the time is spent in research and planning, which takes place virtually. Since, they are working in small groups they can still get outside for the actual exploration once they adhere to government protocols and curfews,” said Mrs Lightbourne-Maycock.

It’s a safe way for youths to continue to participate in an Award which make them a more attractive applicant to universities and future employers, she added.

For each participant, the Award entails a personal programme of activities: volunteering, physical activity, skills and an expedition/exploration.

Motivated participants are finding new activities if their original ones have been cancelled.

Doing the Award at home means getting creative. Skill ideas could include learning a new language, how to garden, cook or sew.

For service, participants could assist in live streaming or digitally editing church services; create videos or blogs on how they are keeping safe during pandemic; tutor younger siblings or relatives; prepare meal parcels for those in need or maintain social media pages for a charitable organization. Some participants have sewn masks and donated them to people in their community.

Perhaps, the easiest – and now most overlooked – area is fitness. Participants can do an hour’s YouTube fitness video each week, use WiiFit games and participate in online Fitness Challenges, among many other options.

“The Award program is more flexible than ever. For those who are going to start a new activity the first thing to do is to message your Award leader to get their approval for any change. Together you can identify an assessor to evaluate your progress,” Mrs. Lightbourne-Maycock advised participants.

“Don’t forget to track your activity via the online record book (ORB) and stay in touch with your unit to find like-minded persons who would want to embark on an exploration you’re interested in pursuing.”

Those interested in learning more about temporary changes to the Award should visit GGYA’s website, contact their respective unit leaders or the national office.

The gallery below show participants engaged in explorations which occurred prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.