Sun | May 27, 2018

Digicel Foundation bats for disabled community

Published:Thursday | September 20, 2012 | 12:00 AM
The soon-to-be-completed Digicel building is the newest addition to the Kingston waterfront skyline. Photo by Paul Williams

The Digicel Foundation recently announced that it will be hosting a 5K night run/walk charity event in downtown Kingston, in aid of the local special-needs community. It's a novel event in more ways than one. The Foundation has proudly declared the event the 'first night race in Jamaica' and it's a sort of christening of the telecoms giant's relocation downtown. The event is themed 'take back the night' and one of the beneficiaries (there are eight) is The Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities (JAID).

The JAID all started with a father's quest to find help for his daughter. Randolph Lopez didn't know much about his daughter Laura's condition of intellectual disability, but he knew he was determined to learn as much as he could. At the time, there was no facility in Jamaica equipped to address the needs of intellectually disabled children. He therefore travelled to England to learn about intellectual and developmental disabilities.

In 1956, Lopez returned to Jamaica, and he and a core group of parents and friends of children with intellectual disabilities worked to set up The School of Hope, later renamed the Schools of Special Education.

That core group and a number of volunteers formed The Jamaican Association for Mentally Handicapped Children. The association's ambit soon expanded to include adults, and the organisation was rechristened The Jamaican Association on Mental Retardation (JAMR). In 1974, the Jamaican government joined the partnership and today, The Schools of Special Education, a network of 28 schools island-wide, is jointly operated with the Ministry of Education.

In 2004, JAMR celebrated 50 years of advocating and creating opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. In 2009, JAMR was re-christened again to The Jamaican Association on Intellectual Disabilities.

Volunteers, parents and professionals constitute a significant section of JAID's membership. They share Lopez's love for special children, and work through education, advocacy and research to improve the development and the quality of life of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

While the association has an impressive menu of programme interventions, it is the area of special education that has seen the greatest sustained success. The association has focused its energies on developing education opportunities for persons with intellectual disabilities up to 22 years old. The launch of the 5K night run/walk was held in front of the soon-to-be-completed Digicel corporate headquarters, downtown Kingston, recently.

-Information taken from