Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde; Director of the National Disabilities Unit, John Hollingsworth; and Public Relations Officer for the Barbados Council for the Disabled, Christopher Gilkes, unveiling the plaque to officially open the NDU’s Recreational and Rehabilitation Facility, today. (GP)

Persons with disabilities in Barbados now have a new space in which they can safely engage in various activities of benefit to them. 

The National Disabilities Unit (NDU) Recreational and Rehabilitation Facility, at Lower Collymore Rock, St. Michael, was officially opened today, during a ceremony held in observance of the International Day for Persons with Disabilities.

This facility, as indicated by Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde, would be home to a series of programmes and projects aimed at addressing the burning issue of high unemployment, and improving the overall quality of life of these individuals.

These NDU-led initiatives include the hosting of entrepreneurial markets, where individuals would have the opportunity to showcase and sell their products and services. Additionally, the Unit would be undertaking sign language and floral arrangement projects, and other recreational activities.  

Minister Forde noted, however, that the roll out of these activities has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. “There have been some drawbacks in our plans for the community of persons with disabilities. We have not let these deter us from the mission at hand, as we continue to put the necessary infrastructure in place for when we are able to resume normal and post-COVID-19 operations,” she assured.

She outlined the additional uses for the facility.  “We have created a safe space for persons with disabilities to participate in recreational activities. It will also be used by our Adjustment to Blindness Officer to train those who have become visually impaired to use physical aids in an external environment, in order to function independently.

“Once regular school resumes, students who attend special schools will be able to assemble here under supervision, while awaiting transportation to school and awaiting collection by their caregivers. Additionally, it is envisioned that this secure facility can be used by organisations to host fairs and other fundraising activities. These can be facilitated after interested parties make a donation to a charity of their choice, which advances the interests of persons with disabilities,” she explained.

(From left) NDU Director, John Hollingsworth; Advisory Committee Member, Massy Foundation (Barbados) Inc., Yasmin Ephraim; Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs, Cynthia Forde; Director of Massy Foundation (Barbados), Lennox Prescod, and Assistant Vice President – Commercial, Massy Distribution (Barbados) Ltd., Lisa Mustor, pose for the official handing over of a donation from the Massy Foundation to the NDU’s Mangrove Agricultural Project. (GP)

The Minister also disclosed that another initiative, the Mangrove Agricultural Project, was on the cards, but like the others, it has been put on hold due to the pandemic.  

She explained that in addition to agricultural training, the project was designed to impart the life skills necessary to help the participants “function independently and effectively”, through a residential component.

The project has received a welcomed donation of furniture, appliances and farming equipment from the Massy Foundation (Barbados) Inc. Director of Massy Foundation, Lennox Prescod, told the audience that the company was happy to support the NDU’s efforts.

“Certainly, a programme such as this one that acknowledges, encourages and builds on the natural talents of our differently-abled young people and equips them with the skills and knowledge to attain economic independence will help them to be more inclusive in our society. At the same time, these assets will create new opportunities for their future employment and enrich their quality of life.

“And so, on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Massy Foundation (Barbados) Inc., in concert with the Massy Companies in Barbados, is therefore pleased to make this donation of $12,000 value in furniture, appliances, housewares and farming items to the Mangrove Agricultural Project. We will continue to encourage and support equal opportunities for these individuals, and we look forward to the successful roll out of this programme,” Mr. Prescod stated.

Four fruit trees were also planted on the grounds, as part of the activities to mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.  The theme for this year was “The Leadership and Participation of Persons with Disabilities Toward An Inclusive, Accessible And Sustainable Post-COVID-19 World”

nya.phillips@barbados.gov.bb

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