Project SEARCH Walking Challenge

DFN ProjectSEARCH Dumfries and Galloway are currently undertaking a mammoth walking challenge in aid of two very deserving local causes - Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary's ICU department and the sensory garden and playground for Calside Primary.

All twelve current interns, plus 3 members of staff, are recording their daily steps to accumulate the total required to take us from Cargen Tower (where the DFN D&G programme is based) to Cincinatti, Ohio where the World HQ is for the ProjectSEARCH. Each intern is aiming for 10,000 per day to try and chip away at the over 3,000 mile journey. It is estimated each person taking part will need to amass a whopping 500,000 steps on average during the fundraiser.

The interns themselves are co-ordinating and running the entire project from deciding the worthwhile causes we wanted to support, collecting and analysing the data each morning, creating the social media accounts and all marketing required to get the word out there. 

The walk began on February 1st and will - hopefully - be completed by the end of March. Whilst COVID-19 Lockdown has been in place it has seen our interns unable to attend their usual work experience placements as part of their course, as well as curtailing them even getting together as a group to do any preparatory work with Council and Dumfries and Galloway College staff. Whilst it was impossible to control COVID, Lockdown measures or placements, interns and staff focused on what they could control and put all their effort and energy in to improving mental health, physical health, soft skills and learning new transferrable skills remotely, whilst also wanting to do some good in the community at the same time. 

The walking challenge has allowed interns to take back some of their life whilst the World has been on hold for over a year. Staff and interns alike have commented on how there has been a marked improvement in happiness, energy and physical well-being since the challenge began. 

Well done to all involved and if you would like to donate to the cause, please click on the following link to the GoFundMe page that has been set up.

Another intern has just secured full time employment with Walsingham Support, a charity that has been supporting people with learning disabilities, autism, brain injuries and complex needs for more than 30 years. Chad came to Project SEARCH direct from school. He was very academic but further education wasn’t right for him. He struggled with travel and lived in a rural location 1 ½ hours travel from Dumfries. He also struggled with face to face communication. We worked with him on travel training and with support from Project SEARCH staff and mentors in the work placements, his front facing skills improved considerably. He was offered a modern apprenticeship through his mentor, but he wanted paid work closer to home. He was interviewed by Walsingham Support and a Project SEARCH staff member accompanied him to the interview for support. He didn’t get the job, but they were so impressed they offered him another part-time position. Less than a year later he is now in full time with the charity and travelling independently as far as London.

Project SEARCH’s primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with learning disabilities and autistic spectrum conditions. Of all the programmes to help disabled people get into work, Project SEARCH has the highest success rate. The Scottish Government’s Disability Delivery Plan “A Fairer Scotland for Disabled People” is exploring opportunities to promote the model as part of the alignment of learning and skills provision. The model is listed as best practice in the 2010 Ofsted Review, the DWP Sayce Report and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission Review.

May 2019