Digicel Foundation opens 10th Centre of Excellence
The Digicel Foundation opened its 10th Centre of Excellence to significantly boost learning and skills-development opportunities for persons with special needs in St Thomas.
The centre, officially opened on April 7, marked the fulfilment of the commitment made in 2014 by Digicel Foundation patron Denis O'Brien to build or significantly expand 10 Centres of Excellence for special needs.
The J$37.73-million state-of-the-art facility will be the only institution of its kind in the parish, catering to students of high-school age. It is administered by the Region 2 office of the Ministry of Education, which identified the great need for such a facility in St Thomas.
Before the centre opened its doors in September 2017, all students over the primary level with intellectual disabilities had to travel to Kingston to attend school. This placed considerable financial strain on their families.
Chief Executive Officer of Special Olympics International Mary Davis was among those who attended the opening in the small seaside town of Lyssons, lending support alongside Member of Parliament Dr Fenton Ferguson, Digicel Foundation Chairman Jean Lowrie-Chin, Digicel Jamaica Chief Executive Officer Justin Morin, and officials from the Ministry of Education.
"Before this, there was no other facility in St Thomas to serve students with intellectual disabilities at the high-school level," said campus coordinator Jacqueline Hendricks-Wilmot.
"We are extremely grateful for this collaborative effort with the Digicel Foundation, because so many of our parents were distressed, as they were not able to access facilities for their children. This facility will open so many doors for our students and we intend to use it to its full potential," Hendricks-Wilmot said.
Enhance learning experience
The building consists of three classrooms, a kitchen, and bathrooms for students and teachers, a sickbay and an administrative block. With 51 students enrolled and accommodation for up to 80, the centre is equipped to meet the educational needs of more students in the parish.
The centre aims to develop vocational training programmes, covering the areas of digital animation, agriculture, welding, home economics, numeracy and literacy. It works not only with students and teachers, but also with families to enhance the children's overall learning experience.
Morin observed that April 2018 marks Digicel's 17th anniversary celebration. He described the centre as "Digicel's birthday gift to Jamaica," even as he thanked the company's customers.