Published: 04.01.2022

"What do we have in common? The desire to learn, to develop," say Alice and Linda, even though they live different lives: while nineteen-year-old Alice Samková is in Ostrava preparing for her high school graduation, Linda Becková is in Prague taking care of her family and is part of the HR team of GasNet, the largest domestic gas distributor. The women's life paths intersected in 2021, when they both took part in the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award. "DofE is all about challenges, so if you're looking for something really meaningful in the New Year's resolution period, DofE will push you further," they say in an interview about their journey together...

So what is the DofE about and what are your roles here?

Alice: DofE is an international project sponsored by the British Royal Family. It encourages young people around the world to achieve personal goals in three areas: volunteering, physical activity and skills. I am one of the participants and my goals are to improve my Danish, go swimming regularly and help an international student in the Czech Republic as part of the AFS non-profit organisation.

Linda: I am the leader and mentor of Alice. I'm kind of her guide through the fun challenges she has set for herself. Together we look at how Alice is doing in meeting her goals. I encourage her and help her find her own ways to meet the challenges.

How often do you see each other?

Linda: Once every 14 days, but because we are from different cities, we prefer to do video meetings online. At GasNet, digital communication is standard and the young DofE participants welcome this form of communication. Our meeting usually lasts half an hour and I take about half an hour beforehand to prepare for it. So from a mentor's point of view it's not extra time consuming, but you need to be professional. At the beginning of my mentoring, I went through a one-day DofE training where I learned how to do it and what to keep in mind when mentoring a participant.

Why did you join the DofE?

Alice: I spend a lot of time in school and it used to be hard for me to find space for hobbies. I just wanted to carve out more time for myself, for fun, and wanted to try something that would push me further. Something where a more experienced person would motivate me, because when I tried to learn Norwegian in the past, for example, I gave up after a while. My older sister and my friends told me to try DofE.

Linda: GasNet supports DofE activities, and when we as employees were given the opportunity to volunteer for mentoring, I went straight for it: at GasNet I work in the recruitment and development department, so I often communicate with young people I recruit for IT positions, for example. I thought the DofE would give me another enriching insight into their world. Well, I'm also actively interested in mentoring, so I saw the DofE as another inspiring opportunity in this area.

How do you rate your participation in the DofE?

Alice: Great for me. I swim regularly even in winter, which was hard for me to imagine before. I continue to help out with the non-profit AFS; I've also persevered with my Danish studies and have done a DofE adventure expedition with new friends. Linda has been helping me a lot with everything. She's a mirror for me, and always makes me realize where I've moved again in those 14 days.

Linda: DofE mentoring is an invaluable experience for people who want to inspire and guide others. Alice is very handy, so she makes it very easy for me. The great thing is that the DofE enriches both of us. Until sometimes I feel like I've become a participant too (laughs). In fact, it's ideal if the mentor has some development activities too. Then he or she understands the participants better and can motivate them. It works well with Alice and I precisely because she is studying Danish, while I am studying career counselling and education at university; she swims and I run... Alice can share her feelings with me when she doesn't feel like doing something, and I can share my experiences with her, which has helped me. We complement each other wonderfully. I couldn't imagine running in the winter before. And today? I run almost 10 miles once a week.

Your final message?

Try DofE. You won't get stuck, you'll move on, you'll make new friends and it'll be fun.

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