story 1 June 2019

A Welsh success

Blue camping tent and cooking equipment

At the Ysgol Penmaes DofE centre in Wales, Leader Hannah and four DofE participants undertook an inspirational expedition in the Elan Valley. Using a wheelchair, walking and canoeing on the route, the young people successfully completed their five day expedition to achieve their Gold Awards.

What makes this expedition all the more inspirational is that all four participants have complex additional needs including autism and cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a condition which affects movement, posture and co-ordination. Autism is a developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them.

The group chose to complete a mixed expedition of both walking, with one participant in a wheelchair, and canoeing. This way the young people would not be constrained by any physical limitations, but at the same time the DofE participants would be physically challenged and have the opportunity to learn a new skill as well.

Using an electric wheelchair on the expedition proved to be one of the most challenging aspects of the trip for the group and Leader Hannah. Finding a route that was suitable for both a mixed expedition and for a wheelchair was very difficult; as was finding a charging point for the wheelchair overnight.

The group overcame these particular challenges with a lot of thinking outside the box, hard work and dedication from Ysgol Penmaes staff, Claire Mills, DofE Development Officer from Powys County Council’s Youth Service and her dedicated team ensuring that the DofE is truly achievable by all. This mixed expedition was yet another first for the Brecon based school inspiring others to achieve their goals within the DofE.

DofE Leader Hannah’s most memorable experience from the expedition was the young people being able to camp independently. This level of self-sufficiency has meant that the young people have reaped the full rewards of achieving their DofE Awards. They have developed great friendships through teamwork, increased their independence and their confidence has soared in a way not thought possible by staff and parents. DofE Leader, Hannah, says:

“I love seeing the participants’ smiles when they achieve something new, small steps are huge achievements for our young people. DofE is truly accessible to all!”

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