November 5, 2010
Big helping hand for Helping Hands Centre

Helping Hands Centre in Montrose, Kingstown, recently received a generous donation of equipment from the Alma Jean Henry Charitable Trust based in the UK. Alma Jean Henry, originally from Trinidad and Tobago, entrusted her life savings from a successful operatic career to charitable works, mainly involving the homeless.{{more}}

Last year, Trustees donated funds for four teachers to travel from the UK to St Vincent to take part in training in Special Educational Needs supported by the Ministry of Education. This year, further funding allowed the purchase of sensory educational materials that are to be used by disabled persons who cannot physically access the Helping Hands Centre.

Joanne Whitehead, niece of Cecil and Kathryn Cyrus, handed over the materials as boxes which will operate on a library system as part of the Helping Hands Centre outreach work. Whitehead said: “It is important to ensure that we allow access to learning for everyone, regardless of their perceived difficulties. If we can encourage access at all levels, this eventually eliminates learned helplessness, recognizes the contribution that everyone can make to society as well as placing value on people as individuals.”

Whitehead, herself the mother of a young man with severe autism and learning difficulties, acknowledged the challenges faced by the educational system. With an MA in Education, her work in the UK involves improvement and development of Special Education that focuses on the specific needs of individuals as opposed to one system that disabled children are unable to access.

Whitehead said: “I am fortunate to understand and be able, through invitation, to influence policy decisions at strategic level in local and national government. By involving parents of disabled children, officers can ensure that the money spent actually meets the needs of people, and this means that later more costly social support may be reduced.”