Catherine becomes an advocate for the improvement of animal welfare
After moving to Saudi Arabia from the UK during a time of great change, Catherine had to adapt quickly. Taking part in the Award gave her stability and structure when she needed it most.
This is her story:
"I always wanted to take part in the Award after my older brother started while he was in the RAF cadets. I joined the same squadron and was keen to get involved right away, beginning my Bronze which I was set to finish in the spring, however, our family were required to move to Saudi Arabia in January and my chances for completing the Award suddenly diminished significantly.
In order to complete my Bronze Award, I was given special permission to attend a Silver expedition with my older brother as he was completing this at the time too. This gave me the opportunity to fulfil the last requirement needed. Having now completed my Bronze with a silver expedition, I decided to jump straight to Gold. My main motivation was the restrictions around females not being allowed to go camping with males in Saudi Arabia. This meant there were zero expeditions, but being told “no” made me want to do it even more!
I was on my own for most of the Award and it was sometimes very difficult to motivate myself to continue on, when no one else was; no Arab or expat friends really knew what I was trying to achieve. When everyone was going out, I had to choose to stay at home and work through the Award but, the support my female Saudi friends gave me was immense - they were just so excited for me for taking on this challenge!
Whilst doing my Residential Project for my Gold, I travelled to Vietnam to help build a house for a family. I loved the country and the people were so kind and welcoming. Every day, we walked 5km to the house and back, walking past different villages with farms and schools and I got to see how the Vietnamese really live outside of the cities. Seeing the children in school, doing their morning exercises while we walked past really helped me to see the differences between cultures. We would arrive at the village every day with all the villagers greeting us, excited to get started, teaching us their building techniques. At the end of the build, we had a big thank you ceremony in the house we'd created. Seeing it all come together, and learning how it would change the young family’s life left me so humbled and allowed me to see the benefit of charity work first hand.
For the Service section of my Award, the start of radical changes in Saudi Arabia meant I was left with little choice. On campus, there were no regular weekly volunteer opportunities, so I had to think outside the box. I had always loved dogs and missed mine back in Scotland, so when I found the charity Open Paws Jeddah (OPJ), more than 100km from where I lived, I was inspired to start fostering and adopting dogs. Harley was the first dangerous dog that OPJ took in, and I had the responsibility of retraining him. It was very hard at first, but I persisted because if we couldn’t help him, he was going to be put down. After only a few weeks with me, his muzzle came off whilst he roamed around our house.
We had retrained him, but he couldn’t stay in Saudi Arabia, so the charity started rehoming rehabilitated, 'dangerous' dogs in other countries like Canada and the United States. Over the course of 3 years, we sent 11 dogs to the States, Canada and Australia. My choice of charity work really motivated me and rescuing dogs helped keep the task at hand fresh and exciting over the 18 months. In total, I fostered 81 dogs in Saudi Arabia!
The Award allowed me to embrace my sense of fun, and at the same time, allowed me to become internationally independent. I now have a deep empathy for other cultures, and an understanding of how to make my own luck. Most importantly, I have come to realise that is it is not all about me; it is in fact about the person standing beside me. I feel that through my experience, I have learnt that true quality of life only exists in service to the greater community."
Catherine is off to study Law next year and in December she will be heading with her brothers to travel across South America and Antarctica.