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21 October 2014

Tuesday 21 October

Not many people know this but Woodrow High House hosted the first ever Duke of Edinburgh expedition in 1956. Following this we regularly have campers who use the surrounding area to run their own expeditions for the Bronze award and use our grounds to camp in. This blog is about the experience of eight young people with learning difficulties who had their practice expedition at Woodrow High House over the weekend of 17-19 October. The young people came from EPIC, a network of youth organisations in Kensington and Chelsea and the surrounding communities, including Earls Court and Ladbroke Grove.

This group of young people first came to Woodrow in July 2014 as part of London Youth’s “Forward Thinking” residential. This was aimed at helping us and our member clubs develop programmes which ensure that young people with disabilities are able to fully engage in all the opportunities London Youth has to offer and can achieve the same outcomes as their peers.

We used the residential to consult young people with additional needs from three member organisations (WAC Arts, AbPhab and the Earls Court Youth Centre – which is part of EPIC) and a school – about how we can continue to have an inclusive approach across our organisation. The weekend was a great success and following this the young people and youth workers from EPIC decided to run their expedition at Woodrow as they found it safe and secure yet still challenging enough for them to really get the most out of the expedition.

Due to the additional needs of the young people in the group they had contacted The Duke of Edinburgh award before their expedition to change some of the 20 conditions for expeditions which meant that they would be staying in the house and having direct supervision throughout their expeditions. For me this is a great thing that the Duke of Edinburgh Award offers as it really means it is accessible for all young people regardless of ability, as for a young person with a disability it can often be very difficult to access awards like this and it really gives them the chance to become more independent, resilient and confident as well as developing hard skills including map reading, cooking, teamwork and campcraft.

After arriving on Friday evening the young people got settled in and were given time to get used to their surroundings and go through their routes ahead of the expeditions over the weekend. Saturday was an overcast day however the young people had a fun packed morning of expeditions in the lovely Chiltern countryside surrounding Woodrow and in the afternoon some team building sessions on our Team Exercise area. This was finished off by a campfire in the evening.

Sunday was a brighter day and the young people began the morning by going on an expedition in the grounds followed by having a go at our newly built Challenge Course. It felt like this was really the culmination of the whole weekend as it really gave the young people chance to use their newly enhanced teamwork skills to get each other over our two metre tall wall and through our tunnel system giving them a real sense of achievement.  After a late lunch they then spent some time making collages of their stay and then left in the afternoon feeling tired but very proud of themselves for their achievements over the weekend.

Jade Herriott is a Senior Instructor and Inclusion Champion at Woodrow High House and Duke of Edinburgh Supervisor for Buckinghamshire County Council.