Sat | Sep 22, 2018

EU Sugar Transformation | May Pen Unit for the Deaf signs thanks to European Union

Published:Monday | July 30, 2018 | 12:00 AM
The entrance to the Woodside, Clarendon-based school for the deaf.
1
2

The May Pen Unit for the Deaf, located in Woodside, a remote district in rural Clarendon, caters to the educational needs of children from 10 months old to 21 years of age.

A satellite school of the Lister Mair-Gilby High School for the Deaf, more than 80 kilometres away in St Andrew, the May Pen Unit receives much of its support from the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD).

But the administrators of the May Pen Unit must engage in fundraising activities to fully meet the requirements of their special-needs students.

For many years, the May Pen Unit for the Deaf was in search of funding to refurbish the restroom facilities for students and staff of the school.

The 31 students (15 girls and 16 boys), eight teachers, five deaf culture facilitators and four ancillary and administrative staff had to share the limited bathroom facilities of the school.

With men and women staff having to use the one poorly functioning bathroom for adults, and one bathroom for boys and another for girls, things were uncomfortable, to say the least.

"It wasn't really a restroom, just a bathroom. It was supposed to have been temporary, but it was there for years because we didn't have the financial support to get a proper one," Porsha Byfield, a teacher at the school, explained.

Given their desperate situation, staff at the May Pen Unit for the Deaf kept reaching out to potential benefactors, but with no success.

They were starting to lose hope until they reached out to the Sugar Transformation Unit (STU) in the Ministry of Agriculture.

The STU is the implementing agency for the European Union (EU)-funded project aimed at improving the lives of people living in mostly sugar-dependent areas.

"She wrote a proposal to STU requesting financial support and we are happy that we are successful now that we received $11 million to build the bathroom," said Byfield through a sign-language interpreter.

She noted that the children are just as happy with the vastly improved restroom facilities that they have been using since last September.

"We noticed that the children take care of their bathroom and are very thankful. The community is just as appreciative because sometimes when we have sports day and fundraising events, we didn't have a proper bathroom, and this could really affect attendance because everyone knew the situation.

"But now that we have proper restroom facilities, they come out and support us more because it's really comfortable. We really appreciate it," Byfield signed.

The project far exceeded the expectations of the beneficiaries and included the construction of fully functional and up-to-date restroom facilities and a sewage-treatment system.

"I want to say a big thank you to the EU and STU for the support with the bathroom, because many times schools like ours are left in the dark. We don't get a lot of support from others, so we really appreciate it," said Byfield.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com