We are the first and only corporate Foundation in Jamaica to focus on Special Needs. As there continues to be challenges caused by the lack of funding and awareness, we’re helping to create a world where no one gets left behind by shining a spotlight on those with physical, intellectual and other developmental disabilities.
Since inception, we’ve worked closely with Special Needs organisations, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and the Ministry of Labour and Social Security to offer assistance. This includes partnering with UNICEF in 2018 to get 3,633 persons (including 847 students) registered with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, which allows them to receive government benefits and services.
One of our major fundraising and awareness initiatives is the Digicel 5K Run/Walk/Wheel for Special Needs, which is now in its ninth year. Over the years, this event has raised US$457K for numerous Special Needs organisations.
We have invested in Special Needs education to increase access for students at all levels. Since 2005, we’ve partnered with the Special Education Unit of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to renovate 10 special education schools. We also constructed 10 Special Needs Centres which are run independent of the Special Needs Units – all still in operation today.
In 2021-2022, we hosted our first Virtual Conference on Special Needs. This event replaced our usual Digicel 5K in October. As a part of the activities, we awarded US$50,000 to the renovation of the Jamaica Paralympic Association's basketball training court at the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre.
In FY 2022-2023, through an investment of JMD$39 million, we renovated the Missionaries of the Poor's Bethlehem Home, which provides care to persons with moderate to severe disabilities. Following this, Bethlehem Home was able to attain the CPFSA’s 12 operational standards and subsequently received its license to operate.
In continuing our mission to invest in Special Needs education to increase access to students, we partnered with the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) to establish two inclusive classrooms in rural Jamaica. The schools are Bethabara Infant in Manchester and China Goodwill Infant in St. Thomas. The undertaking forms part of the ECC’s Jamaica 60 Legacy Project.