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$70M Expansion For Stimulation Plus Childhood Centre

$70M Expansion For Stimulation Plus Childhood Centre
Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Shahine Robinson (right), escorts a student of the Stimulation- Plus Early Childhood Development Centre in Rockfort, Kingston, to the site of the facility’s expansion project, for which ground was broken during a ceremony on Tuesday, April 25. Accompanying her are Director of the Early Stimulation Programme, Antonica Gunter Gayle (left); Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Colette Roberts Risden (2nd left); and Councillor for the Springfield Division in Eastern Kingston, were the Centre is located, Lorraine Dobson (right).
(Media Credit: Dave Reid)

KINGSTON (JIS) -- Students and staff at the Stimulation-Plus Early Childhood Development Centre (STIM-PLUS) will benefit from a $70-million expansion of its facilities that is slated for completion by the end of 2017. Ground was broken on Tuesday, April 25, at the facility’s Ostend Close premises in Rockfort, Eastern Kingston, for the construction of seven classrooms, bathrooms, physiotherapy rooms, administrative offices, a sickbay and specialised play area. A cottage to house a caretaker, who will provide security, upkeep and maintenance, is also expected to be included. Funding is being provided by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) under the Social Protection and Labour Programme aimed at improving human-capital outcomes for the poor.

Delivering the keynote address at the ceremony, Labour and Social Security Minister, Hon. Shahine Robinson, welcomed the expansion, which is expected to increase the facility’s enrolment by at least 40 per cent. She also used the opportunity to again urge Jamaicans to assist the society’s disabled.

“The Jamaican society is moving away from a welfare rehabilitative approach that views persons with disabilities as victims, rather than able and active citizens. A shift in thinking is taking place and a transforming, rights-based approach now puts persons with disabilities, no longer as guests of society, but as integral to its development,” Mrs. Robinson said.

The Minister also called on Corporate Jamaica to lend its support and resources to the disabled community, especially in the areas of training and employment.

The IDB’s Senior Social Protection Officer, Donna Harris, who brought greetings, lauded the Ministry’s work through the ESP.

“The Ministry’s vision has been one of courage and determination when it took the first step to start what is necessary to equip and empower young children living with disabilities, in order to ensure that they are able to maximise their full potential, through STIM-PLUS. This goes to the heart of the IDB vision,” she said.

For her part, Director of the Early Stimulation Programme (ESP), Antonica Gunter Gayle, in thanking the Ministry and IDB for their support, said the ground breaking symbolises the “celebration of a new era that speaks to (a) rights-based approach, opportunity, equality and meeting the challenges of our children”.

Meanwhile, several parents have hailed the programme, noting that it has significantly improved their children’s development.

Janet Johnson, who has a six-year-old daughter with mild Down’s syndrome, told JIS News that she was pleased with her child’s progress, noting that prior to enrolling her in the Programme, she was unable to speak normally.

“People (now) say that my daughter is (going to be) a lawyer (based on) the way she speaks (more frequently). She can (now) identify objects and tell me when she gets homework,” Ms. Johnson said.

Dionne Brown’s eight-year-old son, who has developmental delay, said she too was “very happy” about the news of the facility’s expansion, and “hopes the services of the ESP will continue to grow to help other (parents and children)”.

The ESP caters to disabled children up to six years old and serves 1,539 youngsters, 416 of whom are from rural communities.

The range of disabilities managed under the Programme include cerebral palsy, sensory impairment, autism, Down’s syndrome, developmental delay, psychosocial deprivation and co-morbid behavioural problems such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).