Persons with disabilities in Barbados now have a new space in which they can safely engage in activities of benefit to them.
The National Disabilities Unit (NDU) Recreational and Rehabilitation Facility at Lower Collymore Rock, St. Michael was officially opened Friday, during a ceremony held in observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities.
Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Cynthia Forde said it 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 include the hosting of entrepreneurial markets where individuals would have the opportunity to showcase and sell their products and services. Additionally, the NDU will undertake sign language and floral arrangement projects, and other recreational activities.
Minister Forde noted, however, that the rollout 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.
“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.
The Minister also disclosed that another initiative, the Mangrove Agricultural Project, was on the cards. However, she said, that too 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.
“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,” he said.
“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 rollout of this programme,” Prescod added.
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.