St Albans’ Red Kites are flying high after charity adventures

AN INSPIRATIONAL group of people with learning disabilities from St Albans has returned from its final adventure challenge in Kenya and looks set to be awarded gold medals as part of the National Mencap Gateway Award.

Michelle Peers, Rebecca Somerset and Ian Fincham – collectively known as The Red Kites – have spent five years completing challenges and learning new skills as part of the Gateway Award, which is very similar to the Duke of Edinburgh Award. They have completed 10-mile walks, swam a mile and picked up new hobbies.

During the last five years the group has also worked hard to raise over �9,000 towards their trip to Kenya which saw them take part in a 16-day safari.

Christine Fincham, who is the group leader and Ian’s mum, said their progress over this time had been phenomenal and that she had seen each of them grow and develop beyond recognition since they started out.

“People with a learning disability have amazing resolve to accomplish anything that is set for them and through their commitment to achieve the award, they have undertaken successfully many challenges that someone without a disability may find unachievable.”

She added: “They don’t want to stop here either. Whilst we were in Kenya we visited a school that was particularly struggling: it had no electricity, holes in the walls and the children didn’t have any shoes.

“The Red Kites are now going to continue their fundraising work to raise money for this school and support the students who attend it.”

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Michelle, Rebecca and Ian have been friends for over 30 years and first met when they attended Watling View School. They came across the Gateway Award whilst on a day out and knew instantly that they wanted to be part of the project.

The Gateway Award has three levels: bronze, silver and gold. In each level, participants must achieve five sections and one of these is the adventure challenge. The aim of the award is to give people the opportunity to experience real challenges, express creativity, increase their independence and gain a sense of personal achievement.