Wednesday 2 December, 2020

5 special needs institutions receive $7.5m raised from Digicel 5K

Representatives of the beneficiaries along with Digicel Foundation executives pose with the symbolic cheques at the handover ceremony on Thursday. (Photos: Marlon Reid)

Representatives of the beneficiaries along with Digicel Foundation executives pose with the symbolic cheques at the handover ceremony on Thursday. (Photos: Marlon Reid)

Digicel Foundation handed over cheques valued at $7.5 million to five special needs organisations on Thursday.

The organisations each received $1.5 million. They are Jamaica Association for the Deaf, Jamaica Autism Support Association, Early Stimulation Plus, Jamaica Downs Syndrome Foundation and Promise Learning Centre.

The funds were raised via the Digicel 5K Fun Run/Walk For Special Needs, which was staged virtually this year due to COVID-19.

Charmaine Daniels, CEO of Digicel Foundation said that the charity had to make changes to ensure that the event, which is in its ninth year, could still be able to assist the special needs community.

Charmaine Daniels, CEO of Digicel Foundation, addresses the audience at the presentation ceremony.

“A lot of the work we do with the special needs community is about advocacy. So with COVID restrictions, we decided to go ahead and try a virtual 5K because it would allow us to advocate on behalf of the community,” Daniels said.

“This was a watershed moment for us because we have never done a virtual 5K and we had no clue how to go about navigating it. Running Event, which is our partner in our 5Ks, was willing to come on board and show us how we needed to navigate the space.

“We made a lot of new connections with the diaspora as we try to push and raise awareness, get registrations. We got many countries signing up as we did the 5K and it was successful, a great learning experience and we did not regret it,” Daniels said.

According to chairperson of Digicel Foundation, Jean Lowrie-Chin, the initiative is part of the entity’s efforts to assist a wide cross-section of Jamaicans.

Chairperson of Digicel Foundation, Jean Lowrie-Chin, presents the symbolic cheque to Kimberley Sherlock Marriott-Blake of Jamaica Association for the Deaf.

She said that over the past 15 years, over US$40 million has been invested in Jamaica with over 1,200 projects completed and supporting nearly 680,000 people.

In the special needs community, the foundation has enabled over 800 children with disabilities to register for government support and has invested in two literacy labs for the deaf.

The foundation also recently partnered with UNICEF Jamaica and Special Olympics Jamaica for Play Day Ja towards the construction of two centres of excellence. It has also partnered with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to build two special needs schools, in addition to the 10 that were either built or renovated before.

Meanwhile, Marjorie Hylton, Principal of Promise Learning Centre, a special education school, said the funds will assist the institution with a stimulation room, which will help students with behavioural challenges.

Digicel Foundation 5k Presentation

Hylton said the room is especially important, since the institution caters specifically for students with autism and learning disabilities.

“With our special needs, especially with autism, they have sensory issues, they have behavioural issues and they also have communication needs.

“This will be a room that will ease some of the stress that they go through daily. When they have a challenge in the classroom, they are taken to this room for relief. It will be a soundproof room where there will be soft music and padded walls,” Hylton said.

She said that while in the room, the students will still be able to participate in classes, as there will be a sensory touch board.

The money, she said, should cover the cost of completing the new room, as the administrators of the institution have allocated space for it and purchased some of the equipment.

This is unlike the goal of Jamaica Association for the Deaf. Kimberley Sherlock Marriott-Blake, executive director, said the funds would start the process of creating online content for students.

“Our entire system has gone online and so, what is required of us, is that our students can access content online to have a visual language ... so it means additional videos, additional information in ways that they can benefit from the content.

“This money is a start and I think, at this point, if we are to use our Jamaican colloquial term ‘every mikkle mek a muckle’, this is definitely something that’s going to be a contribution towards making it happen and that’s most important for us,” she said.

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