In its continued quest to address the concerns of the special needs community, the Digicel Foundation organised a series of learning and development seminars for teachers and caregivers across the island. The third training session was held on Friday, November 1 at Genesis Academy in Kingston. The seminars, dubbed Improving Special Needs Collaboratively, first began in August, with the second seminar held in September. In this third phase of the project, approximately 80 teachers from six schools benefited from the programme. The session was divided into three components. The first titled, “Early Academics: First Academic Steps for the Early Learner,” was led by Occupational Therapist and Managing Director of Therapy Plus, Lisa Stoddart McDaniel Millingen. The second, led by Occupational Therapist, Simone Duquesne, detailed aspects concerning visual motor skills and the early learner. The third session titled, “Speech Therapy: Tools for Early Communication,” was headed by Speech and Language Therapist, Deniece Williams. The seminar concluded with a showing of videos that featured ways of dealing with children with behavioural problems. The project is a collaborative effort with the Foundation’s partners – NAZ Children’s Centre, Genesis and Liberty Academies, the STEP Centre (School for Therapy, Education and Parenting of Children with Multiple Disabilities) and Early Stimulation Plus. “These training sessions have been very helpful to our teachers, some who have travelled from Portland, St. Thomas and St. Catherine to participate,” noted Antonica Gunter-Gayle, Director and Principal of Early Stimulation Plus. “Since the training sessions began, our teachers have been incorporating the various activities learned and these have been particularly helpful, especially, for children with mobility problems and we have already seen improvement. Even the slightest intervention can make a big difference in the life of a special needs child,” she continued. The overarching goal of the training seeks to empower teachers and caregivers to better care for special needs students. “We are extremely happy to be able to facilitate the continued training and development of our Special Needs partners,” remarked Judine Hunter, Programme Manager for Special Needs at the Digicel Foundation. “We at the Foundation believe that all children have the right to the same level of education, regardless of their challenges.” She added that the Foundation is committed to providing first class resources for members of the special needs community by creating environments conducive to the learning and development of children with challenges and equipping caregivers with the necessary skills. In keeping with its commitment to special needs education, the Digicel Foundation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Labour and Social Security with a view to enhancing the welfare and quality of life of children and persons with disabilities in Jamaica. The MoU was recently signed by Hon. Derrick Kellier, Minister of Labour and Social Security, and the Foundation’s Executive Director Samantha Chantrelle. Under the MOU, the Digicel Foundation has agreed to contribute J$25 million to the development of the government’s Early Stimulation Programme, which caters to the needs of disabled children and their families. Over $100 million has been invested in the building of three Special Needs schools over the last year. Students and teachers at NAZ Children’s Centre in Montego Bay and the STEP Centre moved into their new classrooms this September for the start of the new school year. In addition, the second staging of the Digicel Foundation 5K Night Run/Walk was held on October 26. The funds raised will be donated to 11 Special Needs entities. These are: NAZ Children’s Centre, Early Stimulation Plus, Genesis Academy, the STEP Centre, Mustard Seed Communities, Liberty Academy, the Jamaica Association on Intellectual Disabilities, Jamaica Autism Support Association, Jamaica Association for the Blind, Jamaica Association for the Deaf and the Jamaica Downs Syndrome Foundation.