FOR MANY YEARS Desiree Hinds was ashamed to reveal she had cerebral palsy. She was afraid that in a society where disabilities were not readily embraced that she would be something of an outcast.
Her condition is not acute but it leaves her with impaired motor skills and she has problems with her balance.
Her teachers have described Desiree as being very bright. The 29-year-old has been a student of The Challenor Creative Arts and Training Centre for about ten years in the food preparation class learning to make meals for herself as well as her family.
But that is not the only side to Hinds; she is a golfer who represented Barbados at the Special Olympics World Games last year in Los Angeles and placed fourth. She also has part-time employment at Unlimited Collections, a clothing and variety store in Bridgetown.
Her choice to pursue studies in food preparation was born out of a love of cooking. Desiree has dreams of becoming a chef and opening a food establishment. By the end of the next school year, she would have completed the programme at the school.
“I can see myself in the kitchen being a chef, but I will still continue to play golf. I can do all of that,” she said.
The programme, which also takes on the Caribbean Vocational Qualification format, will certify that Desiree has the skills that can get her qualified. The course includes knife skills and different cooking techniques.
“It is basically the same thing that is taught at the Barbados Community College’s Hospitality Institute but at a slower pace,” she explained.
Through her involvement with the Challenor School, Desiree was placed at the Waterfront Café where she worked two days a week prior to its closing.
On her other love, golf, she said that though she had only been playing for one year, her skills were developed enough to represent Barbados at the last World Games. She is now preparing for the next games.
For that she spends two hours a week on the greens at the Barbados Golf Club in Durants, Christ Church.
“For me it was a good experience because I met friends there and I met other athletes. I brought home a fourth place ribbon. And I am practising hard for the next games so I can do better this year,” Desiree said, while admitting that training had been hard but the coach was very encouraging.
Part of her duties at Unlimited Collections includes putting out stock, assisting customers or as a sales person, and she has no issues on the job. This she put down to the owner and other colleagues all having some kind of disability.
That was not always the case as Desiree said she faced treatment which made her very uncomfortable.
“Sometimes I am ashamed to say what my disability is. I do not want people to laugh at me because some people make fun of me,” she said, while calling on people to stop
“Stop discriminating against us and do not make us feel ashamed of ourselves,” she advised.
“We understand each other and anytime I am down, my friends are there for me and I am there for them as well,” she said of her former schoolmates at the Challenor, St James Composite and The Learning Centre.
She has learnt over time to handle the disability.
“When I was a little girl I would tremble a lot. I still have problems now in the kitchen because my hands still tremble, but I learned techniques to deal with that and not cause injury to myself.”
For a long time, she said, she questioned God about why she was born with the illness but recognised that God had a reason. Now Desiree is determined to show others with disabilities that they can pursue their dreams in spite of a long tough road.