Caring for Jamaicans with Special Needs

The Digicel Foundation continues its focus on strengthening educational and care facilities for Jamaicans with special needs, and they are really making a difference. I was not able to attend the opening of a multi-functional centre – the Care Plus Centre of Excellence – at the Jacob’s Ladder community in Moneague, St. Ann, last Wednesday, March 26. But I can tell you a bit about it.

From left: Thyra Heaven, board member, Mustard Seed Communities, Judine Hunter, programme manager - Special Needs, Digicel Foundation, and Sandy Wallace, resident of Jacob's Ladder, cut the ribbon to officially open the Care Plus Centre of Excellence. (Photo: Carl Gilchrist/Gleaner)
From left: Thyra Heaven, board member, Mustard Seed Communities, Judine Hunter, program manager – Special Needs, Digicel Foundation, and Sandy Wallace, resident of Jacob’s Ladder, cut the ribbon to officially open the Care Plus Centre of Excellence. (Photo: Carl Gilchrist/Gleaner)

Jacob’s Ladder is a place in rural Jamaica where the wonderful Mustard Seed Communities (MSC) care for seventy Jamaican adults with special needs. It is the only facility of its kind in Jamaica. A bauxite company, Windalco, donated the 100 acres of land on which it is situated to MSC. The focus is on family homes, as well as on sustainable agriculture, living in harmony with communities close by.

The J$17 million Care Plus Centre of Excellence in Moneague will take one additional, major step forward, by providing a skills training curriculum in the areas of culinary skills, art and craft, information technology and occupational physiotherapy. Additionally, the Centre will provide a facility to host awareness forums and workshops for families in the surrounding areas that require experience and training in dealing with persons who are differently abled. This is one of ten Centres of Excellence that the Digicel Foundation plans to open this year in celebration of its ten-year anniversary.

 

 

“The vision of Digicel Foundation augurs well for the lives of persons living in the Special Needs Communities,” remarked Darcy Tulloch-Williams, MSC’s Executive Director. “We are extremely grateful for this partnership as it will allow us to move beyond offering simply room and board, and giving them industry. This will undoubtedly build their self-esteem and enable them to become more educated.”

A joyful ribbon-cutting! Sandy Wallace, Resident at Jacob’s Ladder is embraced by a Mustard Seed Community  volunteer as she cuts the ribbon for the official opening of the Care Plus Centre of Excellence on Wednesday, March 26. Joining her is Judine Hunter (left), Programme Manager, Special Needs, Digicel Foundation and Thyra Heaven, Board Member, Mustard Seed Communities. Care Plus Centre of Excellence, equipped with rehabilitative and therapeutic facilities, was erected as part of the Foundation’s 10th Anniversary goals, to build 10 Centres of Excellence for Special Needs schools across the island this year. (Photo: Digicel Foundation)
A joyful ribbon-cutting! Sandy Wallace, Resident at Jacob’s Ladder is embraced by a Mustard Seed Community volunteer as she cuts the ribbon for the official opening of the Care Plus Centre of Excellence on Wednesday, March 26. Joining her is Judine Hunter (left), Programme Manager, Special Needs, Digicel Foundation and Thyra Heaven, Board Member, Mustard Seed Communities. Care Plus Centre of Excellence, equipped with rehabilitative and therapeutic facilities, was erected as part of the Foundation’s 10th Anniversary goals, to build 10 Centres of Excellence for Special Needs schools across the island this year. (Photo: Digicel Foundation)

Samantha Chantrelle, CEO of the Digicel Foundation, stressed the Foundation’s commitment to the Special Needs sector in Jamaica. She said, “The work of the Mustard Seed Communities reflects the conviction of the Digicel Foundation that the opportunities for those in our society that are differently abled should not be limited due to lack of resources or adequate training for their caregivers. So we are pleased to partner with them for the building of this facility and will remain committed through our Centres of Excellence programme to provide the highest quality resources that will enable our Special Needs community to thrive.” 

The Care Plus Centre of Excellence at Jacob's Ladder, Mustard Seed Communities in Moneague, St. Ann. (Photo: Digicel Foundation)
The Care Plus Centre of Excellence at Jacob’s Ladder, Mustard Seed Communities in Moneague, St. Ann. (Photo: Digicel Foundation)

As I noted above, there are no other facilities in Jamaica – governmental or otherwise – that cater to the needs of people with mental and physical disabilities who are over the age of eighteen years. Children who are cared for by the government, with or without disabilities, are basically on their own after that age. This brings me to comments made by Chairman of the Gleaner Company, Oliver Clarke, at the opening of the new Centre of Excellence. He touched on something that has always been of great concern to me. According to Mr. Clarke, the government only pays local NGOs a fraction of the amount that government agencies receive to do similar work. Jacob’s Ladder’s administrator, Denyse Perkins, confirmed that they receive about one quarter.

Amazing organizations like the faith-based MSC, and many other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) operating almost on a “shoe-string” in Jamaica, provide crucial social services for Jamaicans. Neither the Jamaican government (nor the public at large, in fact) adequately recognize the work they do. Without the NGOs, many Jamaicans who are marginalized and in need would fall by the wayside. The NGOs pick up the slack, time and time again.

“I think that where charities take over looking after wards of the state, the organization, such as Mustard Seed, should receive the same contribution from the Government, as if it was a state-run institution,” Mr. Clarke said, according to a Gleaner report. I could not agree more. 

Judine Hunter (front row-second from left), Programme Manager, Special Needs, Digicel Foundation, Father Garvin Augustine ,Executive Director of Mustard Seed Community  International, and Samantha Chantrelle, Executive Director of the Digicel Foundation join the staff of MSC for a group shot following the opening of Care Plus Centre of Excellence on Wednesday, March 26. (Photo: Digicel Foundation)
Judine Hunter (front row-second from left), Programme Manager, Special Needs, Digicel Foundation, Father Garvin Augustine ,Executive Director of Mustard Seed Community International, and Samantha Chantrelle, Executive Director of the Digicel Foundation join the staff of MSC for a group shot following the opening of Care Plus Centre of Excellence on Wednesday, March 26. (Photo: Digicel Foundation)

Contact Mustard Seed Communities at P.O. Box 267, Kingston 10, Jamaica. Phone: (876) 923-6488  Email: info-jamaica@mustardseed.com Website: http://www.mustardseed.com

A word about Digicel Foundation:

The Digicel Foundation is the largest local private sector foundation in Jamaica. Since its inception in 2004 the Foundation has invested over J$1.2 billion in communities in which Digicel operates islandwide. The Digicel Foundation has been proactive in the areas of Education, Special Needs, and Community Empowerment.

The Digicel Foundation has:

  •  Invested over J$100 million in their Enrichment Initiative in partnership with the Ministry of Education to improve literacy at the primary school level islandwide.
  • Invested over J$38 million in resource rooms, including science and IT labs, in high schools islandwide.
  • Committed to building three Special Needs schools, two of which, the STEP Centre, and NAZ Children’s Centre broke ground in 2012.
  • Invested over J$60 million in Community Empowerment initiatives over the past four years, including $10 million annually and $15 million in 2012 to support the National Best Communities Competition and Program.
  • Invested $13 million in the ‘Back to Roots—Stronger Roots, Stronger Communities, Stronger Nation Project.’ The programme aims to help community organizations become more self-reliant by facilitating their transition to social enterprises, by teaching them how to run sustainable community businesses.

For more information visit: www.digiceljamaicafoundation.org  Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/digiceljafoundation  Twitter:  (@digiceljafdn) https://twitter.com/DigicelJaFdn

Speaking of disabilities issues, this is a reminder that tomorrow (Wednesday, April 2) is World Autism Awareness Day. The Jamaica Autism Support Association will be partnering with the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Department of Child and Adolescent Health to “Light It Up Blue” in recognition of the day at 4:00 p.m. at UWI Undercroft. Do go along, learn and support…

World Autism Awareness Day event at the University of the West Indies.
World Autism Awareness Day event at the University of the West Indies.

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