Disabled Peoples' International North America and the Caribbean

Regional Happenings July 2006

Events in Antigua and Barbuda

MDGs Task Force - In October 2005, the Government launched a Task Force to spearhead the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) programme in Antigua and Barbuda, and the Economic Policy and Planning Unit was mandated to coordinate this project.

As part of the initiative, the Economic Policy and Planning Unit planned a series of workshops to sensitize participants to the programme and to seek their involvement and commitment.  The Task Force put on a consultation in this connection with civil society NGOs and CBOs on Monday, 15th May, 2006 from 5:00 p.m.-6:30 p.m. at the Government Training Division on Church Street, upstairs Christian Literature.  Assistant Secretary-Treasurer of the Antigua & Barbuda Association of Persons with Disabilities, Mr. Bernard Warner represented persons with disabilities at the meeting.

Fundraising Workshop for NGOs-CBOs - The Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) a NGO based in Barbados in collaboration with the Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development Center (GARD Center) in Antigua sponsored and organized a two-day training exercise on fundraising on 22nd & 23rd May, 2006.  The workshop was held at the GARD Center and focused entirely on the design and implementation of a fund-raising plan.  Two persons from each organization were invited to participate.  Ms. Shirley Austin and Mr. Leslie A. Emanuel, President and Public Relations Officer respectively of Antigua & Barbuda Association of Persons with Disabilities attended.  The workshops were conducted by Mr. Richard Jones and Ms. Cecilia Babb from CPDC.  Mr. Jones is CPDC's chief fund-raiser and had just finished managing a USD 700,000 civil society programme in Grenada, which he raised himself.

Events in The Bahamas

Mr. William E. Lightbourne, a past president of the Disabled Persons' Organization (DPO) of The Bahamas addressed a forum on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities on Wednesday, 12th April, 2006.  Mr. Lightbourne highlighted the DPI North America and the Caribbean Regional Development Officer as an example of a person with a disability who is executing the business of his office with distinction and efficiency.  This event was a live broadcast over ZNS Radio 1540 in The Bahamas at 7:30 p.m.  The title of Mr. Lightbourne's topic was “Methods of Communication in the Age of Information Technology."

Events in Dominica

The Dominica Association of Disabled People (DADP) will stage the following events as part of their annual activities:

April 30 - Wheel-a-walk-thon from Loubierre to St. Joseph to climax with a blind cricket match with the Somerset Cricket Team

May 27 - Benefit Dance to be given by The Swinging Stars

June 7 - Commencement of Amateur Radio 6-month Training Course

June 19 - Commencement of Summer Programme in Floral Arrangement

July 1 - Love Gospel Concert at Castle Bruce

July 4-11 - Regional Blind Cricket Tournament in St. Lucia 

Guyana Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities (GCCD) to get CIDA Intern

On 18th May, 2006, the DPI North America and the Caribbean Regional Office was informed that CIDA had approved the placement of a DPI intern with the Guyana Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities for a 6-month period starting in September 2006.  The intern’s title is Women’s Network Project Developer focusing on women’s issues in the Region.

Mainstreaming HIV/AIDS and Inclusive Tourism Meetings in St. Lucia

The DPI North America and the Caribbean Regional Executive Council, the Regional Development Officer and other DPI National Assembly Heads got a chance to meet face to face after an extended period while attending a two one-day meetings sponsored by the World Bank in St. Lucia.

The meetings consisted of a one-day exploratory session to review the achievements and challenges in mainstreaming disability into HIV/AIDS prevention and control in the Caribbean Region on Monday, 5th June, 2006 at the Coconut Bay Resort & Spa.

The exploratory session was followed by a seminar on Inclusive Tourism in the Caribbean Region on Tuesday, 6th June, 2006 at the same location.  This activity explored opportunities for the Caribbean countries to better serve the growing population of disabled and elderly tourists, while promoting accessibility and social inclusion for people with disabilities in the Region.  During the Seminar, a study on Inclusive Tourism in St. Lucia was presented.  The DPI North America and the Caribbean regional development officer was given responsibility for starting a discussion group that can be found at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/InclusiveTourism/.

The sessions were facilitated by Rosangela Berman-Bieler and Catalina Devandes of the Disability and Inclusive Development Team (DIDT) for the Latin American and the Caribbean Region of the World Bank.

National Society of Persons with disAbilities (NSOPWD) in St. Vincent

The National Society of Persons with disAbilities now has on sale products from its Skills Training Workshop that is sponsored by the Social Investment Fund, and is comprised solely of persons with disabilities as its producers!

Items include decorative cushions, wedding cushions, bed sheets, bedroom curtains, pillows and pillowcases, bathroom supplies such as toilet paper holders, soap holders, face towels, washcloths, kitchen curtains, kitchen towels and potholders.

Check at the office opposite the Imani Pre-School at 2 Webb Street, New Montrose.  Items can be purchased between 1:00pm to 3:00pm, Mondays to Fridays. Call (473) 456 8888 for more information.

Police in Trinidad Rescues Teen Sex Slave - Search on for 34 Men

A disabled teenage girl has been removed from a house in Barrackpore and put in a safe home after reports surfaced that she was being sold as a sex slave.

Sources said police have already compiled the names of 34 men who allegedly had sexual intercourse with the teenager over the past 2 years. The suspects are being sought and are expected to be questioned in connection with the incident.

Preliminary reports indicate the girl, who cannot speak fluently, has been living with a female relative at a house in Barrackpore.

Police said, based on a statement from villagers, a relative sold the teenager, at the age of 14, to a man for TTD 200.00/USD 32.36.  Since then, it is alleged, men from the district have been paying the relative to have sex with the disabled girl.

Police said once they complete investigations the relative may face charges. The men who had sex with the teenager could also be charged for having sexual intercourse with a minor.

Police said the victim would undergo counselling. Officers have contacted the Social Welfare Department for assistance.  The teenager is currently staying at another relative’s home after having been removed from the house over the weekend. Police said social workers have been sent to investigate and are expected to submit recommendations.

Detectives have taken statements from neighbours who have reportedly confessed knowledge about the sex ring.

Contacted yesterday, a source at the Ministry of Social Development said a psychosocial assessment may be done on the victim. The source explained that, in such situations, the National Family Services Division is contacted and social workers are mandated to investigate.  The source said the unit had not been informed about the incident but would investigate immediately.

The official said once the initial assessment is completed recommendations for long term counselling may be made for both the victim and relatives.

Policy on Persons with Disabilities getting relevant attention in Trinidad and Tobago

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago has committed to the full inclusion and holistic development of persons with disabilities.  In the pursuit of developed country status by 2020, Government is steadfast in its resolve to address disability issues from a human rights perspective, which in essence is to view persons with disabilities as holders of rights that are to be protected and enforced.

Within this context, it is Government’s firm intention to implement measures (policy) that will ensure the dignity and full inclusion of persons with disabilities and which will ensure equality of opportunity and respect for differences as part of human diversity.  These measures will be implemented in Trinidad and Tobago within the extent of Government’s resources, and in collaboration with the relevant stakeholders, utilizing a holistic and integrated approach to achieve the goals of social inclusion and equality of opportunity for all citizens with disabilities in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

FEATURE

A Glimpse into My World: Meeting and Overcoming the Challenges of My Disability

By Kevin E. Cartwright

Having come from humble beginnings, I can appreciate the struggles, hardships and challenges of life.  I have felt the fears, cried the tears and so valiantly paid the price.  Though fate has not dealt me the hand of my choosing, I dare not think of my life as being without purpose or accuse our master of being unfair.  Instead, I continue to press on with confidence knowing that He who made me loves me dearly.

I am the third of four siblings, and the first in my mother’s household to attend college.  Despite not having much, Mother always unselfishly denied her own wants and needs for the sake of her children but most importantly, she provided us guidance, nurture and love.  Most of my successes today, I attribute to her continued support and encouragement.  To this end, I owe her a debt of gratitude for giving me so much.

Let us face it; I have a disability.  So what.  Should my blindness be an issue?  No, I do not think so!  I do not have a problem with it, neither should you!  I do not have time to wallow in self-pity or worry about what ifs and could have been.  I want people to see me as a person first who just happens to have a disability.  I want to be given the same opportunities afforded my “able-bodied” counterparts.  I want to achieve my hopes, aspirations, goals and dreams.  I want to become the person that I am destined to be--a leader, teacher and nation builder.

Every day thousands of students scurry like frightened squirrels across the very busy campuses of West Virginia State University to get to their classes.  Are you surprised?  Do not be.  I, too, am a part of this scurrying group.  With the help of my Seeing Eye dog, Quella, I travel safely, confidently and successfully to every class, to every building, to every meeting place.  Simply put, this is college life, where I am nothing but a number, a statistic, a dream to be realized.  I am in a place where survival depends on confidence, self-sufficiency, quick thinking and mental prowess.  I am not pampered or shown favour because of my disability.  However, like every one else, I am provided with the tools and support needed to be successful.  In my case, I am provided special accommodations by the student support services department of our university.  Such accommodations include the provision of audio and/or Braille textbooks, note takers, screen-reading software (Window-Eyes, JAWS), test proctoring and so on.  The provision of these services not only helps to level the playing field; they help to make the achieving of success a reality. 

Since attending WVSU, I have enjoyed much academic success.  I now hold an Associate of Science in general education as well as other numerous scholastic awards.  At present, I am in my senior year, pursuing a Bachelor of Science in special Education and a Bachelor of Arts in English literature.  How exciting!  After undergraduate school, I hope to continue my studies at the graduate level.  Although I am provided special accommodations, I want to make it clear that there is nothing magical about these services.  These services only can be used as stepping stones to facilitate the attainment of my academic goals, but they cannot guarantee my success.  Ultimately, success is achieved through hard work, commitment, dedication and sacrifice.  It is these factors that have contributed to my success thus far, and they will continue to do so to the very end. 

One of the greatest challenges I have faced since my enrollment at WVSU is meeting extremely high tuition cost.  As an international student from the Bahamas, I am not eligible for Financial Aid, i.e., money given by the American government to students for college after high school.  Moreover, scholarships available to foreign students are very limited, and those who receive them do not get very much money.  To make matters worse, as a student with a disability studying abroad, my financial needs are two times that of an “able-bodied” student.  In addition to growing tuition cost, there are other finances to be considered.  These include living expenses, special transportation, assistive technology, Braille and audio textbooks along with the maintenance of a Seeing Eye dog.  For the most part, the bulk of my college fees are paid by government scholarship/loans that my mother has to struggle to keep up interest payments of almost USD300.00 per month in order to ensure my funding the next semester.  As this is my primary source of funding, I am left with no other choice but to accept it.  I know that there is a price for success, and a mountain of debt after college, is the one that I must pay.

Although I am thousands of miles away from my homeland, I always pride myself in promoting and sharing our Bahamian culture with my friends and professors.  I am a Bahamian at heart, and like the true ambassador that I am, I am ever mindful to reflect this pride in every aspect of my life.  After college, I desire to return to my country, where I can make a meaningful difference in the lives of our people.  I want to use the skills and knowledge acquired from my studies to inject new energy, new life and new ideas into our country.  Even more important, I want to provide the expertise needed in helping to improve the quality of education for students with special needs.  Just like other Bahamians, both past and present, I sincerely believe that my contribution is as equally important to shaping and directing the future of our society.  Furthermore, I believe that I have a voice to be heard, a system to help to change and a job that must be done.

As I hasten my footsteps toward the achievement of my academic goals, all I ask from you in return is your continued support and prayers.  May He Who made us continue to strengthen and make us strong.  May the God of our nation perpetually safeguard and protect our beautiful shores.  “March on Bahamaland!”