Mon | Nov 30, 2020

Digicel Foundation helps special needs students find their voice

Published:Friday | June 14, 2019 | 12:07 AM
Children supported by the Digicel Foundation have fun while posing for their picture with (back row, from left): Sonita Abrahams, executive director, RISE Life Management Services; Shawn McGregor, programme manager, RISE Life Management Services; Jennifer Spence-Silvera, programme manager/education and special needs, Digicel Foundation; and Juliet Campbell McPherson, principal, St Michael’s Primary School in Kingston.
Children supported by the Digicel Foundation have fun while posing for their picture with (back row, from left): Sonita Abrahams, executive director, RISE Life Management Services; Shawn McGregor, programme manager, RISE Life Management Services; Jennifer Spence-Silvera, programme manager/education and special needs, Digicel Foundation; and Juliet Campbell McPherson, principal, St Michael’s Primary School in Kingston.

Students with special needs at St Michael’s Primary School in downtown Kingston received additional support from the Digicel Foundation through a programme focused on sexual-abuse prevention. The programme, which ended May 31, was administered by the non-governmental organisation RISE Life Management Services and was titled ‘Find Your Voice’.

Juliet Campbell-McPherson, principal of the institution, explained that there are 18 pupils with special needs integrated into the school.

“It is inclusive,” she said. “We want our children to be heard. Children are being abused and are afraid to speak – this is what is happening in society now. This programme has motivated them through the performing arts, music and other tools,” she continued.

Campbell-McPherson said that she wanted the students to feel reassured that they can speak to trained personnel, such as guidance counsellors, who can comfort and support them. She further stressed the necessity of programmes of this nature, especially in the inner city, for the long term. The principal also noted that with the resources the school now has, it will continue to work with the students on prevention education.

Karlene Dawson, executive director at the Digicel Foundation, pointed to its long-term partnership with the school. “St Michael’s is an example of the foundation’s dedication to our youth, especially those with mental and physical challenges. We are pleased to have added this critical extra dimension to the excellent and much-needed programme conceived by RISE Life Management Services. Sadly, our children – especially those with special needs – are vulnerable and need to understand these messages on how to keep themselves safe,” Dawson said.

Sonita Abrahams, executive director of RISE Life Management Services, also noted how great it was to work with children with disabilities.

“What is exciting about Digicel Foundation being able to come in with us, is that we were able to go into the schools with disabled populations and work with those children – something that we have not done much of before. It was very well received and appreciated. I think it went very well, and we got excellent feedback. It has been exciting for our team, a wonderful success,” she said.

Cammoy Robinson, project coordinator at RISE, said the programme was a very enlightening experience as her team worked closely with, and learned from, the teachers at the school. This revealed that the students communicated most effectively through music and therefore songs explaining self-esteem, ‘good and bad touches’, and ways in which they can take responsibility for keeping themselves safe, delighted and resonated with the children.

Principal Campbell-McPherson, who has been teaching at St Michael’s for 24 years, reiterated how much she values Digicel Foundation’s support. For her part, she says she wants her young charges to regard the school as “an oasis”.