This month is Child Month in Jamaica – although it is one of those cases of “every month is Child Month.” The dedicated Christine Staple-Ebanks, the founder of the Nathan Ebanks Foundation, is unusually aware of the vulnerability of our children, especially those with special needs like her own son. The Foundation is organizing a Family Expo and Special Needs Fair at Hope Gardens in Kingston on Saturday, May 26. I hope you will go along and support. Here is the Foundation’s press release – see contact details below also:
Pay more attention to Child safety especially re: fires, disasters and climate change
Kingston, Jamaica, Wednesday, May 16, 2016: There was a strong call for Jamaicans to pay more attention to the safety of children and to be more proactive in protecting them from threats such as fires, disasters and climate change at the media launch of the Nathan Ebanks Family Expo and Special Needs Fair.
“My passion is safety for our children. We had 6 children dying in fires since the start of the year. That does not touch those who have gotten burnt – many of them are in the hospital for months. Too many times as well we are not paying attention to children with special needs,” said Assistant Commissioner, Floyd McLean, Jamaica Fire Brigade in his remarks to the roughly 30 persons attending the launch on Tuesday, May 15 at the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation’s Conference Room.
“One of the children who died in the fire at the Walker’s Place of Safety was a special needs child,” he said while relating another incident of another special needs child that died from smoke inhalation because she was forgotten in a burning house.
“We need to have a buddy system for these children – so that in an emergency situation especially there is someone there for them,” said McLean.
His remarks were similar to those of Christine Staple Ebanks who spoke of the vulnerability of youth with disabilities.
“Children with disabilities are most vulnerable to disasters. The issues faced by adults with disabilities are compounded for children, who rely on the adult – parent/guardian, caregiver or teacher to help them move to safety. So, what happens when those in charge of programmes,
facilities or the home are not empowered with the information needed to supportthe safe evacuation of children who are blind, deaf, have
intellectual/cognitive or physical disabilities?” said Christine Staple-Ebanks, Founder and President of the Nathan Ebanks Foundation.
“For people on the Autism spectrum, for instance, rigidly sticking to routines and spending their time in repetitive behaviors are ways for them to reduce uncertainty and maintain the predictability of their environment. This makes the individual greatly resistant to any change in routine. So how does a teacher, caregiver or even rescue worker move a grown person, – say a teenager or large child – quickly in the instance of fire, hurricane or flood? These are conversations we need to have as a society to put plans and contingencies in place.”
The Nathan Ebanks Foundation is organizing the Family Expo and Special Needs Fair for May 26 at Hope Gardens in Kingston under the theme:
Staple-Ebanks expressed concerns that more needed to be done to ensure that policy and planning for climate change in Jamaica catered to the needs of persons with disabilities.
Her sentiments were supported by Communications Specialist with the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism, Indi Mclymont-Lafayette, who indicated that her project could provide grant and loan funding to help the disability sector implement projects to build their resilience to climate change.
Among some of the measures that have been recommended for action are:
1) Greater inclusion of persons with disabilities in climate change and disaster planning;
2) A National Disaster Early warning system that caters to the needs of persons with disabilities starting with communication of these warnings
to the deaf, blind, persons with mobility/physical and intellectual disabilities;
3) Funding of climate adaptation measures for persons in the disabilities sector including assistive technology;
4) Public education to share about the warning systems, to inform and educate the persons with disabilities themselves and those supporting or caring for them of what to do when there are emergencies.
The expo is endorsed by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education Youth and Information, Early Childhood Commission, National Parenting Support Commission, National Child Month Committee, Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, National Parent Teachers’ Association and is sponsored by Supreme Ventures Foundation, National Health Fund, LASCO Financial Services Ltd., Party Plus Entertainment and Tsumani Sounds, PixStoryz Photo Booth, Chrismix Radio, AP & FM, Tarrant Media Group and Power 106.