TEENAGERS with Down’s Syndrome spent a week pushing through their comfort zones as part of Wiltshire Fire and Rescue’s Salamander course.

Sixteen youngsters aged 12 to 24 from the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group spent last week learning about fire and rescue training before demonstrating what they had learnt to friends and family.

They developed their team working skills as well as their confidence and self-esteem by taking part in a number of activities including skills with hose, pumping appliances and hydrants, abseiling, ladder climbing, search and rescue, casualty care, road traffic collision rescue skills and water rescue.

Jo Messenger, of the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group, said: “It’s just amazing the changes that have taken place just in the space of the course. At the beginning of the week there were a lot of ‘nos’ and by the end of it they’ve all turned into ‘yes’. What was a no to abseiling at the beginning of the week became ‘can I have another go’.

“It’s just brilliant how it really brings on their confidence and just how much they all enjoyed it.
Watch Manager Mark Evans, who organised the course, said: “The previous courses we’ve run have been incredibly successful for the young people involved, but they have also been really rewarding for the instructors and helpers. The changes we see as the week goes on are amazing, and I’m so pleased the Swindon Down’s Syndrome Group has again secured funding for it.”

Although Wiltshire Fire & Rescue Service runs the course, firefighters work with the other emergency services to ensure a rewarding course is delivered to the young people.

Three police community support officers represented Wiltshire Police, while two crews attended from South Western Ambulance Service. 

Paramedic Phil Griffith said: “I have had some wonderful life experiences – I’ve served with the British Army on operational deployments in Kenya, Bosnia and Kosovo, I’ve worked on frontline ambulances and, more recently, I’ve been an incident commander for the ambulance service for over 13 years. 

“However, I can honestly say that, without a doubt, this Salamander course is the single most rewarding experience of my life.”.