Inspiration from a 15 year old – Max van Heerden

Parkmore, Sandton Youth “Purple Max” Awarded 2018 Bronze Standard for Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award / The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment (South Africa)

“The Award equips young people for life and work. Not all learning happens in the classroom. Young people need experiences outside the classroom to become committed, responsible and fulfilled citizens of the world.” – DofE Award Website

 There are many people I know that I am extremely proud to keep company with. Most of these people are adults, but there is a special place in my heart for young people who I have come to know who humble me by showing me what the future will bring.

One such young person is Maximilian van Heerden. Max is my ex-neighbours son and his community service and entrepreneurial ways have astounded me from the first day I met him. I have blogged about Max in the past specifically about his Epilepsy awareness activities and him being South African ambassador for International Purple Day.

My first encounter with Max was him handing out business cards for his neighbourhood pool cleaning service – he was only 9 years old at the time! Soon after I was astounded by his entrepreneurial chutzpah as he grew amazing produce and sold it from our local SPAR store!

Image result for purple max van heerdenTomorrow evening, 15 year old “Purple Max” will receive his latest award at the Annual General Meeting of the 1stGerman Scouts in Parktown; he is unaware that he will be receiving his certificate at the event. I so wish I could attend to share in his celebration.

[Dear Max, by the time you see this post you will have heard the good news, so, CONGRATULATIONS my boy! I am so proud of you!]

This is the first time that Max has participated in this Award. He has earned the Bronze Standard for his submission of work based on his community work and his commitment to self-development.

His mother, Tania van Heerden, was overwhelmed by the news of the award and said “this award is going to mean the world to Max; he truly deserves the acknowledgement for all his hard work against all odds.”

What is the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award?

The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award is also known as DofE, The Head of State Award, The President’s Award Scheme, The International Award for Young People, and the Governor General’s Youth Award. The Award is available to all 14 – 24-year old’s and is the world’s leading youth achievement award. It equips young people for life regardless of their background, culture, physical ability, skills and interests. Doing the Award is a personal challenge and not a competition against others; it pushes young people to their personal limits and recognises their achievements.

Since its launch over 60 years ago, the Award has inspired millions of young people to transform their lives. Through non-formal education, the Award can play a critical role in a young person’s personal development and is achievable by any 14 to 24 year old who wants to take up the challenge.

The Award is comprised of three levels and four sections. Participants complete all four sections at each level (Bronze 14 years +, Silver 15 years +, Gold 16 years old+) to achieve their Award. At Gold level, participants also complete a Residential Project.

The Award in South Africa – The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment


The Award in South Africa is known as The President’s Award for Youth Empowerment and in 2013 it celebrated 30 years of operation in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was the Founding Patron-in-Chief, a role which he fulfilled until August 2010. The honourable President Mr Cyril Ramaphosa is the current Patron-in-Chief and signed Max’s certificate. There are currently 15,000 active participants in South Africa. The Award is delivered through schools, youth groups and correctional facilities.






Purple Max

Maximilian van Heerden is a scholar at the Deutsche Internationale Schule of Johannesburg who has been very active with community work and service from a young age. At the age of 7 he joined Parkmore Scouts as a Cub and one of the requirements was to do a project related to an interest; Max chose to develop an organic vegetable garden for a local Johannesburg epilepsy care centre in Craighall.

At the age of 9 he organised an epilepsy awareness campaign and toiletry drive at Brynevan Primary School that included a talk and a demo showing pupils a typical scene of a seizure. The campaign was so successful that they needed to hire a trailer to transport the donations to REEA Epilepsy Care Centre (REEA).

When he was 10, Max gathered a group of friends and surprised Sandton City shoppers with an epilepsy flash mob that was filmed by eTV for their 7pm news.

The following year he organised and performed a first aid demo for an entire school inclusive of a fund raiser for REEA; and every year Max joins forces with other REEA volunteers to wrap up gifts for and serve lunch to the residents at REEA.

Max is not unfamiliar to international recognition and awareness of his community work – he has even been featured in Australia for epilepsy awareness by Epilepsy Australia.

Responsibilities of DofE Award Alumni

Maximilian automatically joins the DofE Award Alumni as a current award holder and as such takes on the following responsibilities:

  • To be an Ambassador of The President’s Award in South Africa, and the DofE Award internationally
  • To contribute his time, knowledge and experience in coaching and mentoring others
  • To market the award programme and help recruit more young people to participate in the programme, and
  • To assist with fundraising to ensure sustainability of the award programme.


Max’s mother, Tania, added: “Max will surely be motivated by this Award and is likely to set his sights on achieving Silver Standard next. He already has very little free time available but I am sure he will make a plan, he always does”.

Well done Max. Keep on doing the great work you do!



One Reply to “Inspiration from a 15 year old – Max van Heerden”

  1. Wow! That is such an amazing feat, one Max truly deserves for his dedication and hard work. Congrats Max!

What are your thoughts on this article?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: