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By Debbie le Quesne

Students forget own challenges to help at orphanage

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Students with learning disabilities from Staffordshire have been helping with a building project at an orphanage in Bulgaria.

Nine 16 to 25-year-olds undertook voluntary activities at the village of Doganovo near Elin Pelin to contribute toward their Silver Duke of Edinburgh awards.

Work included removing old wooden panels in a playroom which were considered a fire risk, plasterwork repairs, decorating, clearing rubbish and creative a decorative pebble path.

The path project involved digging eight inches into the hard soil, laying concrete and then spreading pebbles taken from a local riverbed.

Jim Glover, vice principal at Strathmore College in Stoke on Trent, was reported as saying in the online Care Industry News magazine: “All our young learners worked incredibly hard.

“The learners, working under supervision and supported by our staff, and seemingly never tiring, worked throughout our two week stay and took it as a personal challenge to do their best for the orphans.

“They never stinted in their determination and in fact were able to complete both tasks and took on additional work that needed completing too. At the same time, they delighted in being able to interact with the orphans.”

The work was part of their community service element of their Duke of Edinburgh award.

Hey, this is nothing short of wonderful!

Learning difficulties, yet taking on a new culture, a new language and very different food . . . I’m impressed.

And how proper it is too to have forward thinking people who see real value in the work of these students.

I read with interest the students had language lessons during their visit, but there was one remarkable quote from Nr Glover.

He was reported as saying: ”Our learners felt their disabilities became invisible.”

The Bulgarian project has achieved an awful lot, but more than the fabric of the students’ work is the feeling of worth and acceptance and being able to be normal. An amazing result and a real benchmark for learning disabled services.

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