Hamish’s adventurous journey is just starting

May 4, 2021

Hamish Gilbert completed a gruelling 100km cycle ride through Hawke’s Bay in gale-force winds as part of his mission to earn gold in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award.

The ‘Adventurous Journey’ section was a three-day hard slog and the third and final requirement for his gold award. Hamish had meticulously planned his route and every detail of the journey. “It was headwinds all the way,” he says. “By the time I arrived home I was very tired. I was very pleased with myself.”

But Hamish’s adventurous journey is only beginning. He finished at Havelock North High School last year with his Duke of Edinburgh gold – one of only two students at his school to achieve it in 2020.

His achievement is all the more remarkable because he did the challenges solo rather than as part of a school group. He started in 2016 and it took him four years. Hamish is a passionate environmentalist and for the service components of the bronze, silver and gold awards he collected scrap metal to raise funds for Special Olympics. For bronze, he collected 60 kilograms of metal. By the time he got to his gold award he had collected that in the first week.

Hamish was a member of the Environment Committee at Havelock North High and was involved in recycling food waste – converting his family to Bokashi bins – picking up rubbish, gardening and composting. “It has been taking all my lunchtimes all year,” he says. “I am right into these things.”

On a family holiday to Coromandel early last year he took a Toyota Kiwi Guardians citizen scientist challenge, sampling metre-square sections of beach as part of a marine monitoring exercise. Hamish says he checked what was there in the way of seaweed, stones, bark and shells on the surface, and then dug some samples to see what was underneath. “I compared what was there on the east coast and west coast beaches.”

Hamish finished school with NCEA Level 2. At his senior prizegiving he was awarded the Ron Shakespear Cup and a Citizenship Award for his contribution to the school. He was also the winner of the 2020 Attitude Special Olympics Award and runner-up for Disabled Athlete of the Year at the 2020 Hawke’s Bay Sports Awards.

Hamish is a competitive swimmer at Special Olympics Hawke’s Bay and is training for the national championships later this year.

Hamish first found his voice as a public speaker in 2017 with a school speech assignment about the Duke of Edinburgh’s Hillary Award. Since then he has spoken to the community about Bokashi bins at a joint Napier City Council and Environment Centre Hawke’s Bay event about composting and worm farms. When Special Olympics New Zealand needed a guest speaker to launch the ‘Dukies’, the Special Olympics Duke of Edinburgh club in Wellington, they went to Hamish.

By the time he got to the Attitude Awards in December 2020 he was comfortable giving an acceptance speech to a live TV audience.

A lot of what drives Hamish is keeping up with his twin brother Sam. Now that Sam has headed north to the University of Auckland, Hamish, 19, is setting his own course with a range of volunteer and paid work.

“I am working for Nimon’s bus company. I am cleaning and grooming buses. I really enjoy that. I am working at Gracelands retirement village on the main street of town. I am also working for the Environment Centre, dismantling old modems from computers.”

All that work is voluntary but regarded as good opportunities for building up work experience and giving him a sense of value.

During summer Hamish also worked at Splash Planet in Hastings, which was his first paid role, and he has relished being given the opportunity to be part of the team and put his skills into practice.

Caption: Hamish tired but happy at the end of a gruelling three-day cycle ride.