This year the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) is celebrating its 60th year and is encouraging all ‘to leave your comfort zone behind’ and create their own personal Diamond Award. OSS Director and muse Kari Furre is attempting to do this July when she embarks on swimming the length of Windermere in the Lake District.
A proud DofE Ambassador, Kari is currently swimming through a media wave of interest in her goal, recently appearing on the BBC’s One show, featured as a wonder woman in Yours magazine, as well as being interviewed on her local radio stations. “The Daily Express is interested next!” says Kari.
The DofE Award is a charity that has been dedicated to helping young people transform their lives since 1956. From volunteering to physical activities, life skills to expeditions, achieving a DofE Award can be seen as a passport to a brighter future, valued by employers and universities. As part of the 60th anniversary celebrations, Kari is revisiting the scheme to complete a special Diamond Challenge – swimming the 11 mile length of Windermere.
Kari first began her DofE Award when she was 15 after her father passed away. “After my father died our home life changed completely, we went from a middle class family to not having much money at all,” says Kari. “The DofE offered a distraction and something that my mother didn’t have to pay for.” Kari went on to complete a series of challenges and achieved her Gold Award – the highest achievement of the programme - in 1969. “The scheme is phenomenal and it’s still as relevant today as when I was doing it in the Sixties, although a lot has changed since then – for a start they don’t have separate boys and girls programmes like they did back then. But the best thing is that it’s completely accessible for everyone. It’s extraordinary really.”
Meeting Kari you can understand why there is such a media interest. Passionate about swimming, art and attitude to water Kari’s spirit inspires even the driest of souls to swim. “I can persuade anyone to get into lycra,” says Kari who teaches swimming in between making fish leather and metal art. “What I like most is process, I bang on and on about swim technique to people. It isn’t about thrashing about in the water, it is about being in it and your approach.” It is this style, which makes her a popular swimmer in the swimming communities across Devon, where she lives and teaches.
Kari has famously supported the OSS from its beginnings and swam the Dart 10K before it became the popular event it is today, but this challenge will be he longest swim she has ever completed in one go. “I like the endurance thing, the epic approach,” she says. “Once you get over the uncomfortable bit at the beginning and get into the rhythm. That is the part when it becomes about being in the water.”
The DofE is normally only open to young people aged 14-24, however, in it’s diamond year it is encouraging all ages to set themselves a challenge they’ve always wanted to do. “I really believe in swimming into my 90s,” says Kari. “Last year, after a fall, I broke my wrist and discovered I had osteoporosis in my spine. At 66 it is about using it before you lose it! It is going to be a difficult, but I want to make the most of what I can do now.”
As part of her role as an DofE Ambassador Kari has been invited back to Buckingham Palace in May, where HRH The Duke of Edinburgh will be presenting this year’s Gold Awards to the young achievers of today. “Last time I was at the Palace was when I was receiving my Gold Award,” says Kari. “This time the Queen will be there, so it will be very different for lots of reasons. My daughter-in-law is Icelandic so I am going to take her with me, she is very excited!”
Inspired? To find out more about the Diamond Challenge, which will also help raise funds for the awards, visit dofediamondchallenge.org