Special-needs school a life-changer for eight-year-old Kamal
For Kamal Bulgin, his first day of school came when he was seven years old.
Kamal - whose list of medical conditions include cerebral palsy, spastic muscles, haemophilia and a speech impediment could not attend school before, as his parents lacked the financial resources to enrol him in a special-needs institution.
Kamal's story changed, however, after his encounter with Julia Chalmers, his father's employer. After meeting the youngster, Chalmers was determined to get him the help he needed.
At that time, the young boy had been fully dependent on his mother for everything, from eating to walking and other basic movements.
"When I met them, she (his mother) was carrying him everywhere. I was horrified at the lack of resources because I know a lot is needed to care for a child with such special needs," Chalmers said.
Offered a scholarship
With Chalmers' help, the family got in touch with the Naz Children's Centre in Montego Bay, St James - a special-needs institution that specialises in caring for and educating children like Kamal.
Following an assessment, Kamal was offered a scholarship from the institution, which covered tuition fees, transportation and some medical expenses.
After attending the school for a year, Kamal now shows tremendous improvement and promise.
"Everything has changed for Kamal since he started going to school," shared his mother, Gricell Pearson.
"Now, he's trying to be his own little man and he doesn't rely on me so much anymore. I used to have to feed him and bathe him completely, but now he's so active and happy and he's trying to do things for himself.
"When I used to put him down on the floor, he would just stay there trembling, but now he's stronger so he's moving around and playing and having fun."
She added, "I used to worry about his future, but now it's not so bad. I see him improving and I just know things are looking up for him. We're very grateful for the scholarship and all the help we've received."
Director of the Naz Children's Centre, Alixann Narcisse-Campbell, was also very excited about Kamal's improvement.
"He is going in the right direction and for that we are grateful. Now, we are looking about getting him a personal aide, which is someone that provides support more tailored to his needs. This will help him to become more independent and self-sufficient over time," she said.
The Naz Children's Centre scholarship was funded by proceeds from the Digicel Foundation 5K Run in 2015.
According to Narcisse-Campbell, the Digicel Foundation's contribution to the special needs community is one that was necessary for years, as they were in dire need of beneficiaries to develop the institutions and provide essential resources.
"The Digicel Foundation has brought the special-needs community and their needs to the forefront, and they've been an example for other corporate entities showing them how they can give back to the country they operate in through action, not just words."