When a Ponteland teenager was a steward at the Queen’s Royal Garden Party, it was the second time she had been to Buckingham Palace in two weeks.
Rachel Kirtley, a member of 1st Ponteland Girls Brigade, had been along to the royal residence the previous week to receive her gold Duke of Edinburgh Award.
She was selected for the steward position in recognition of achieving the Queen’s Award – the highest accolade you can work towards in the brigade.
The 18-year-old spoke to the Queen about what she did to achieve it, which included volunteering in Kosovo to support war widows and their families.
Her role at the party was to assist the special guests, guiding them from the grand entrance to the palace steps onto the lawn.
A guard of honour for the 7,600-plus guests was formed by the Girls Brigade members present on their departure.
Rachel said: “I was absolutely thrilled to be selected as a steward and the party was a fantastic event.
“I was positioned at one of the three doors that go through to the lawn and my job was to direct the guests, who were from the UK and abroad, to the right place.
“The Queen made time to speak with us and it was great to be able to tell her about the activities I did to achieve the Queen’s Award.
“I also told her that I was at Buckingham Palace the week before to receive my gold Duke of Edinburgh Award and the Duke himself spoke to the group I was in. This was also a great day and Ross Kemp presented the awards.”
For one of her Queen’s Award modules, the Ponteland High School student spent a week in Kosovo in eastern Europe with a friend on a volunteering trip a couple of years ago that was organised through the Smile International charity.
They both did some fund-raising in order to pay for the trip.
During their time in the Gjakova area of Kosovo, they painted the house of a widow, delivered food parcels to families in need and played with local children. They also met the Girls Brigade team that has been established in the area.
Rachel said: “It was an eye-opening experience as it was a shock to see how bad things can be for some people in a poorer country.
“But that made it even more amazing when these people gave us whatever they could find as a thank-you for delivering the food parcels.”
The Queen’s Award is an international award of seven modules that can be completed in any order. Girls Brigade members can start from the age of 15 and they must complete it by the age of 25.
The voluntary service aspect can either be 48 hours within a year or 48 hours in a residential context.
Another module involves leadership tasks and Rachel’s activities included organising bus transport for a group trip to the Harry Potter studios near London.
Participants are required to pass an exam about Britain’s heritage.
In addition, they are brought together for a weekend where they are encouraged to discuss issues that affect their generation. The group that Rachel was in looked in depth at gender equality topics.