Families of children with special needs in Eastern Jamaica will soon have access to a state-of-the-art, fully equipped Early Intervention Centre in Portland, under the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP). Executive Director of the ESP, Antonica Gunter-Gayle, was close to tears at the official ground-breaking for the centre held on Wednesday, October 1 st, as she marvelled at the journey of the ESP in the parish when they operated from a small space in Buff Bay. She said, “I am so happy and overwhelmed about this development. This will provide a productive learning environment for the children with special needs and their families in this area”. The centre, which will accommodate more than 100 children with special needs, is being built by the Digicel Foundation in Low Leyton, Orange Bay, Portland. Minister of Labour and Social Security Derrick Kellier, described this development as crucial to the protection, upliftment and empowerment of vulnerable persons, such as children with special needs. Minister Kellier said, “Children with developmental disabilities - more than their able-bodied counterparts - need and receive our assistance and support simply because of the diversity of their needs. I am pleased, therefore, that a progressive company such as Digicel Jamaica - through the Digicel Foundation - is rallying to the cause of persons with disabilities and generously contributing to their development and integration in society.” The new centre will facilitate diagnosis and early interventions for children with special needs with skills provided by ten teachers specially trained for the task. According to Chief Executive Officer of the Digicel Foundation, Samantha Chantrelle, training for the teachers began earlier this year and included five disciplines: speech, behaviour, physical, special education and occupational therapy. Member of Parliament for West Portland, Daryl Vaz assured the audience gathered that this endeavour is now firmly in his portfolio and he is planning to work closely with the Digicel Foundation to ensure that the project achieves its full potential. The ESP is administered by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and caters to children, from birth to six years, with special needs. The Digicel Foundation has previously collaborated with the ESP to implement the STIM-PLUS Early Childhood Development Centre, a fully equipped facility with specialised equipment to enhance learning and development. The Digicel Foundation through their Centres of Excellence have been providing support to the ESP through infrastructure development, provision of equipment and staff training.