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Canadian charity aids local children 'Reach Up and Learn'

Published:Monday | February 13, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Karen McDonald-Gayle (left) of the Helping Hands charity organisation hands over a cheque to Dr Susan Chang-Lopez (centre), of the Reach Up and Learn Programme and head of the Epidemiology Research Unit at the University of the West Indies (UWI), and Christine Gore, director, Gore Family Foundation.

Canadian charity organisation Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation has donated Cdn$15,000 to the Gore Family Foundation (GFF) to help fund the Reach Up and Learn Programme, which provides skills to trainers who work with mothers of children in targeted basic schools across the island.

The trainers coach mothers on how to talk to, play with and sing to their children. They are shown how to do puzzles with, and read to, the pre-teens so as to improve the children's vocabulary and generally stimulate them in the easiest, happiest way, while encouraging good nutrition at the same time.

Helping Hands, organised by former Jamaican Davis Cup player and tournament director for Canada's prestigious Rogers Cup, Karl Hale, has used volunteer tourism to help build 13 schools across Jamaica and has been recognised as a steadfast friend to Jamaica and the GFF.

Dr Susan Chang-Lopez of the Epidemiology Research Unit of the UWI, heads up the Reach Up and Learn Programme which started in the 1980s.




The programme, which aims to be self-sustainable, is web-based, fully funded and low-cost, as the children's toys are made from recycled materials, including the small Chubby brand plastic bottles to make rattles, other material to make dolls, push-alongs and puzzles - simple, fun toys, still beloved by kids everywhere.

Research has shown the psychosocial stimulation the programme provides has farreaching positive effects on the growth and development of the children concerned.

Positive financial outcomes have also been found to be related to the programme. The children were monitored at ages 7, 11, 18, 22, and now at age 30. At the 22-year-old stage, economists came on board to look at the various incomes. The children who were beneficiaries of early intervention were earning 25 per cent more on average.

Dr Lisa Gore-Seifart, a director of the foundation and herself a clinical psychologist at Florida International University, had high praise for Reach Up and Learn and described it as "excellent".