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Earth Today | Children with disabilities to get up to speed on climate readiness

Published:Thursday | April 25, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Christine Staple-Ebanks (second right), founder of the Nathan Ebanks Family Expo and Fair, in discussion with Dr Winsome Townsend (second left), project manager for the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience, and other partners.

CHILDREN WITH disabilities will, in a few weeks, have the chance to get in the know about climate change, thanks to the Nathan Ebanks Foundation (NEF) and its partnership with the Adaptation Programme and Financing Mechanism (AP&FM) of the Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience.

The foundation, which advocates to broaden the base of support for children living with disabilities, is collaborating with AP&FM, along with other partners, to host its annual family expo and special needs resource fair in two locations this year – Kingston and St Elizabeth.

“We are aware that it can be a challenge for persons with disabilities and their families to access information and resources needed to best plan for themselves and their loved ones. And so we were very happy to get the opportunity to share information on climate change and how we can reduce the vulnerability of persons with disabilities,” said Dr Winsome Townsend, project manager for the AP&FM.

Other partners include Supreme Ventures Limited as well as affiliates from the Child Protection and Family Services Agency, Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, National Parenting Support Commission, Jamaica Fire Brigade, National Child Month Committee, and the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management.

“We are happy to be taking the event out of Kingston and to another area, as we realise that sometimes persons with disabilities and their families are not able to access this kind of information as easily outside of the urban areas,” said Christine Staple-Ebanks, founder and president of the NEF.

Platform to be heard

“Through the Family Expo and Special Needs Resource Fair, we continue to give children with disabilities and their families a platform to reach a broader audience and let their voices be heard, and to connect them to resources and support in the community,” she said.

At the April 10 launch, Ebanks and her team announced the dates of the two events – the Kingston event is to be held at the Hope Gardens on May 25 and the second fair and expo on July 4 at the Alpart Sports Club in Nain, St Elizabeth.

These events are designed to support NEF’s quest for the inclusion, participation and empowerment of children with disabilities and special needs.

“Our vision of the future is to see all children of varied abilities and talent grow, thrive, learn and uncover their own unique gifts in a way that respects their diversity and celebrate potential,” said Staple-Ebanks.

There are an estimated 200,000 children living with disabilities in Jamaica and inadequate systems in place to effectively include them into society. Since 2007, the Nathan Ebanks Foundation has been on a mission to advocate for, and strengthen capacities to promote the best interests, rights, safety, education, and inclusion of children with disabilities and special education needs in Jamaica.

The fairs this year will feature an emergency preparedness resource booth, academic screening, mental health checks, health checks, dental services, vision screening, developmental screening, adaptive sports games and demonstrations, and a gospel concert, among other things.

Staple-Ebanks started the NEF in honour of her son Nathan, who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 2005 at the age of nine months. The foundation was set up to serve children with disabilities through, among other things, the:

- training of policymakers, teachers, parents, and administrators;

- researching key sector issues to inform policymakers and local practitioners; and

- providing resource and support for the nation’s educational institutions and agencies creating and integrating study plans for children with disabilities.

So far, achievements include over 5,000 persons reaching awareness and capacity building, two nationwide disability awareness public education campaigns, and multiple advocacy platforms. The foundation has also had more than 20,000 books donated to 50 schools and institutions islandwide through partnerships with St Bernard’s School in New York, USA.