The Digicel Foundation has 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 signed by Hon. Derrick Kellier, Minister of Labour and Social Security, and Mrs. Samantha Chantrelle, Executive Director of the Digicel Foundation, at Digicel’s downtown headquarters on Wednesday, October 23. Mrs. Chantrelle expressed the Foundation’s commitment to the Special Needs sector in Jamaica. She said, “Digicel is committed to helping to increase the quality and quantity of resources available to our Special Needs communities and building awareness around Special Needs issues. We firmly believe that the intrinsic value of the members of our Special Needs community should be preserved and we believe in providing first class resources for persons with special needs. The Foundation believes that all children have the right to an education that is tailored to their needs and allows them to flourish.” 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. The Foundation will be responsible for the construction of a temporary facility to house students, while a permanent structure is being constructed by the Ministry. The temporary structure will be fully outfitted with furniture and specialized equipment to enhance the day-to-day experience of the students. This will be located at Early Stimulation Plus, 1a Ostend Close in Kingston. Antonica Gunter-Gayle, Director and Principal of Early Stimulation Plus noted that the Digicel Foundation stepped in at the right time, as the school was having serious issues with a leaking roof; “We really had hit rock bottom, when it rained we had to hurry to move the children to another classroom where the leakage was not as severe,” noted Gunter Gayle. “Now it brings tears to my eyes every time I look towards the site where the new building is going up, someone finally came through for us. And it’s not just the building, but Digicel Foundation has been having a series of training sessions for Special Needs educators and their 5K event is also dedicated to the Special Needs sector. So I just wanted to say a heartfelt thanks from our staff and our parents for what the Digicel Foundation is doing, not just for our school, but for the special needs sector in Jamaica.” Ms. Gunter-Gayle received a Badge of Honour for Meritorious Services to the Nation’s Children, especially children with disabilities, on Heroes Day, Monday, October 21. The Digicel Foundation is currently implementing the “Centres of Excellence Programme”, geared at increasing the capacity of Special Needs Schools in Jamaica, improving equipment and materials, and providing training to Special Needs educators and caregivers. Early Stimulation Plus will be fully integrated into this programme with this solidified partnership that also incorporates the training of staff members. Over $100 million has been invested in the building of three Special Needs schools. Students and teachers at NAZ Children’s Centre in Montego Bay and the STEP Centre (School for Therapy Education and Parenting of Children with Multiple Disabilities) moved into their new classrooms this September for the start of the new school year. The funds raised from the Digicel Foundation 5K Night Run/Walk will be donated to 12 Special Needs entities, including Early Stimulation Plus. The others are: NAZ Children’s Centre, 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 (JDSF).