Sat | Dec 3, 2016

Bennett siblings find employment through NYS despite disabilities

Published:Saturday | January 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM
From left: Dorian, Sherian and Jurian Bennett at their home in Rozelle, St Thomas.
From left: The Bennett siblings, Dorian, Sherian and Jurian with Donna Lee Duffus-Clayton (second right) of the NYS, and their mother Elaine Bennett (right) share a light-hearted moment.
Elaine and Dalgo Bennett are proud parents who encourage their childrens entrepreneurial spirit.
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Jolyn Bryan, Gleaner Writer

Jurian, Sherian and Dorian Bennett all suffer from a mysterious illness that has left them partially paralysed, with difficulties speaking and walking. They also endure muscle spasms that cause immense pain.

With no history of disabilities in the family and no plausible explanation for their rapidly deteriorating health, the Bennetts struggle to cope with having to adjust to their limited mobility and the resulting difficulties in navigating everyday life.

Elaine Bennett, mother of the stricken siblings, says 32-two-year-old Sherian was the first to get sick.

Her sickness happened suddenly. Sherian broke her leg while she was at Happy Grove High School. When the cast came off, she still wasnt walking well, she said.

Thirty-year-old Dorian followed shortly after, falling off a bus on his way home from school. Elaine became alarmed when another of her five children, 24-year-old Jurian, was ill with vomiting and muscle weakness identical to his siblings. Doctors were just as baffled as the family, recommending invasive procedures such as the removal of Jurians skull cap to determine what was wrong, something which the Bennetts declined to do.

Several medical tests have revealed nothing and, in the years since, no one has been able to explain why the siblings bodies are failing them. Their mother, who went back to school to become a nurse, assists with their day-to-day care but like most young Jamaicans, Jurian, Sherian and Dorian treasure dreams of employment and independence. And for the past few years, the National Youth Service (NYS) in St Thomas has enabled them to gain valuable work experience. Through the NYS, the siblings have worked at the St Thomas Parish Library, the office of the Member of Parliament for Western St Thomas and the Social Development Commissions (SDC) office in Springfield.

VALUABLE EXPERIENCE

I was at the SDC front desk, and I was responsible for pressing the buzzer and letting people in and taking their names in the book, Sherian told Rural Xpress.

In addition to clerical work, the siblings also had responsibility for customer service. They have said that their relationship with the public and with their co-workers has helped them to grow.

Regional field officer, Donna Lee Duffus-Clayton, also had high praises for the Bennett siblings.

They were always early, always on time. They were always punctual and polite, and I have had nothing but great feedback about their work and their attitude on the job, she said.

Duffus-Clayton also outlined to Rural Xpress how the NYS came to the aid of the Bennetts.

We decided to have a summer programme where we would target persons from the community with disabilities. We partnered with the SDC, the Ministry of Labour and various community development groups to identify those most suitable for the programme. We also found businesses that were able to accommodate disabled persons, those with ramps that were easily accessible.

She went on to explain that interviews were done at the Bennetts home in Rozelle after a team from the NYS had visited them to assess their disability and functionality.

Their inner strength was there, but the fear of that first step kept them back. But once they came to the orientation, they were talking and interacting, and the other students welcomed them. Lorian Peart Roberts of the SDC was also instrumental in making them feel at home, and creating a level playing field for them.

In the past year, many businesses have requested that we send them, she said.

GRATEFUL

While the Bennetts are grateful for the opportunities provided by the NYS, they are still hoping for permanent employment that will enable them to take care of and support themselves, and eventually allow them to move out of their childhood home.

Our disabilities cause us to stay home, but if we get a call to go to an interview, we will take it, cause we know what to do and we know how to manage ourselves on the road, Sherian said.

In the meantime, the siblings keep busy and earn a little money in whatever way they can. While not overly proud of her choice of product, Sherian sells cigarettes but has plans to open her own pastry shop. Jurian also sells cigarettes and phone cards, while Dorian has a small community shop and plans on renting another.

Their family continues to search for an explanation and possibly a cure for what ails the siblings, and are willing to support them in whatever way they need.

I feel the frustration of my children because they are adults and cannot work, the siblings father, Dalgo Bennett, said. But I will do all I can for them until the breath of life leaves their body.

rural@gleanerjm.com