Ronald Jones, Minister of Education and Human Resource Development pushes??Chestia Darlington??and Kaye Sargeant, Principal of Erdiston Special School pushes Thalisa Williams-Waithe, today, on swings at the newly opened play park at the Erdiston Special School. (A. Gaskin/BGIS)

Students at the Erdiston Special School in Pine Hill, St. Michael, now have their own play park thanks to generous donations from organisations across the island.

The park was declared open today by Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, in a ceremony that recognised the contributions of organisations including Soroptimist International of Jamestown (SIJ, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, ‘, NULL, NULL, 0); the Paloma Charitable Trust; Harris Paints; Apes Hill Golf Club and C.O. Williams Construction Company Ltd, among others.

Acknowledging that its development was as a result of their care, Mr. Jones said: "It is those who quietly go about their business delivering of themselves whatever they have…they come and give.?? As Minister of Education, I applaud your collective efforts."

And, he added: "I am pleased about the spirit of giving that has begun to engulf so many persons and organisations in our country. That spirit of giving is reflected in so many philanthropic and charitable organisations stepping up more and more to the plate."

The Minister further lauded Soroptimist International for its book scheme and assistance with bus fares and likened their work to that of the ???Good Samaritan’ in the Bible. Maintaining that his Ministry could not do it alone, Mr. Jones said: "You know that the State with its rigidity of resources cannot do it alone; that is an impossible reality. We cannot do it alone; it takes organisations made up of good people like the Soroptimist International of Jamestown supported by the Paloma Charitable Trust and all the other donors to say ???I want to be part of that effort to make the lives of people better’. In this instance, we are speaking of the lives of the children here at Erdiston Special School."

Meanwhile, newly-appointed Principal of the School, Kaye Sargeant, in explaining the origins of the park said: "Every day the students would look out and see their neighbours [children from the Erdiston Nursery] playing and ask ???Ma’am can we go and play’ and every day for years they would see others playing and they were not given the opportunity. So imagine now that they [have seen] this play park… they were besides themselves with excitement."

Acknowledging that it was an initiative of former principal, Janet Wharton and teacher Michelle Cave, Ms. Sargeant added: "The children are eternally grateful for the opportunity to climb over, romp around, jump in and see-saw on this play park.?? I cannot tell you how grateful they are. The importance of movement for children with special needs cannot be belittled; it is critical that they use their limbs; move their bodies because it actually translates into action on the written page.

"It actually assists their fine motor and gross motor skills so this play park has the word play in it but it should actually have the word development somewhere in there because it aids toward their entire development."

She lauded the several donors, noting that they had given not only of their money but time and spirit to ensure its completion. As she thanked her staff, Ms. Sargeant revealed that they were in the process of developing safety rules for the park as ???safety’ was important to special needs children.

President of the SIJ, Hannah Thomas, said the organisation was pleased to have been involved in providing such an opportunity and readily responded "recognising that the play park would add value to the educational, physical and emotional development of these precious children of our nation to assist them in obtaining their optimal potential".

She recalled that over the summer months, some 14 children, between ages six and 12 assisted in the creation of "the space with tactile, olfactory and visually delightful resources, so that while the children played, they would have their fine and gross motor skills being stimulated".

Meanwhile, Representative of the Environment Committee of the SIJ, Yvonne Vaughan said: "Much thought and care went into choosing the materials in the play park particularly the ground – combinations of grass, wood chips and rubber make for a delightful experience for the children…It is our hope that the children will be enabled by the playfulness of this space."

The play park was developed using recyclable materials. Completed recently, it includes, among??other things, one playhouse, a 33 tyre garden set of fully irrigated flowering, herbal and scented plants, see-saws, and an outside classroom. It was funded by the Paloma Charitable Trust that supports non-governmental organisations in their positive endeavours, particularly special projects like the play park.??


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