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Canolfan Amanwy Bronze DofE participants

Canolfan Amanwy group achieves Bronze DofE

Liz Hopkin is a Key Stage 4 and 5 teacher at Ysgol Dyffryn Aman, a comprehensive school in Ammanford, Wales. Liz volunteered her time to lead a group from Canolfan Amanwy, a specialist facility for young people in year 7 to 14 who have severe learning and medical difficulties.

Liz encouraged a group of students with special needs from years 10 – 13 to take part in The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) by offering to be their DofE Leader. The group included young people with cerebral palsy, a young person who is wheelchair bound with spina bifida, and another with downs syndrome.

To help the group complete their Bronze Award, Liz arranged volunteering opportunities for the DofE group to fit in with their school day school hours; making sure that all the planning and preparation was done, allowing the participants to be transported to various volunteering opportunities, along with the adults that needed to be with them to help support. Some of the pupils found their own volunteering opportunities supporting in a local care home and Rainbow group.

The local Adult Day Service Centre – Manor Road, run a volunteering project where the group regularly help locally with countryside management at Llyn Llech Owain Country Park. Liz arranged for her DofE group to go and work alongside the adults as part of their Volunteering section.

Some of the students did their Physical section outside of the school, including trampolining and boxercise. For their Skill section, the group chose to learn how to cook together. They will be hosting a ‘secret restaurant’, each DofE participant will invite two people in to eat the food they have cooked as part of their section, and the guests will pay what they think the meal is worth.
Liz has seen the participant’s confidence rise, from doing activities such as the secret restaurant as a group.

Unlike the DofE group in the mainstream school, the hardest part of the programme to complete was going to be the expedition. The original plan was to take the participants to Pembray; an open campsite with woodland and the millennial costal path. However, Liz and staff had some concerns about the different types of terrain for those in a wheelchair and with cerebral palsy.
After speaking to Paul Smith, Education Officer at The National Botanic Garden of Wales, it came about that The National Botanic Garden of Wales own a lot of land, some of it is rough terrain and other parts are paved. The varied options of possible routes to walk meant that the Canolfan Amanwy DofE group had the opportunity to complete their expedition with as little stress as possible.

As well as a lot of land, the glass dome at The National Botanic Garden is available for groups to experience sleeping under the dome; this was the first time the dome and gardens have been used by a DofE group or a group with learning and medical difficulties to use as a base. So with the hours that Liz put in, the support of her fellow staff members and the excitement from the young people, their expedition went ahead.

All those who took part are extremely proud of the group for completing what some people thought was impossible, but the young people came away feeling a sense pride for achieving something so big.

The Canolfan Amanwy DofE group had the opportunity to share their story with HRH The Earl of Wessex as part of the DofE Royal Tour in Wales in September 2017 at the National Botantic Garden of Wales.

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