July 20, 2012
New 14-seater air-conditioned bus for Helping Hands Centre

Students who are physically challenged will soon be riding to school in more comfort, thanks to the purchase of a new EC$72,000, 14-seater bus by the Helping Hands Centre (HHC), in partnership with Soroptimist International St Vincent and the Grenadines (SISVG).{{more}}

Last Saturday, at the Helping Hands Centre at New Montrose, local and regional members of Soroptimist International, along with members of the HHC, all joined to witness the momentous occasion.

The fully air-conditioned bus comes equipped with a rear wheelchair hoist with room for three wheelchairs. It also has plenty of headroom to enable staff to lift children on and off.

Member of both the HHC and SISVG Kathryn Cyrus gave the background on the project. Cyrus said that the SISVG has been involved with the HHC since 1994, working with them on the purchase of the property at New Montrose and purchasing a second-hand wheelchair accessible bus, in 1991. Over the years, Cyrus said, the bus picked up children from three schools, the School for Children With Special Needs, Sunny Vale and the Helping Hands Centre.

Last year, after 21 years on the road, along with increasing maintenance costs, it was time to look for a replacement.

Cyrus revealed that a request was made for the assistance of a United Kingdom contact to look for a suitable bus at a reasonable price. That old bus she said, was sold for parts.

Cyrus noted that Soroptimist Int’l. of Solihull was the first contributor to the project, donating $4,400 and SISVG donated $7,600.

President of the HHC Junior Bacchus told the gathering that the bus will be commissioned in September to facilitate the transportation of physically challenged children.

Bacchus stated that the Association for People with Disability has been around since 1995 and is a registered charity. Since the formation, Bacchus said they have been running a day care program for children with severe disabilities.

According to Bacchus, the School for Children with Special Needs caters for children who have hearing and speech challenges.

“There was a gap to facilitate children who were kept away in their homes because there were no places for them to go…,” Bacchus added.

He said that they raised over $160,000 to help renovate and extended the Helping Hands Centre. Bacchus said their work is not about a profit, but it is all about a “labour of love”.

Board member of the Mustique Charitable Trust Basil Charles disclosed that the Trust will be donating $30,000 to assist with the upkeep of the bus. Charles said the Trust has been assisting the HHC since 2010 and, to date, has donated $79,000.

“We are in no way going to stop. We are happy to help and we will continue, not only with this organization, but with all the different organizations in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Charles stated.

Euna Thompson, president of SISVG, which is celebrating 25 years since its charter from the Federation of Soroptimist International of Great Britain and Ireland, congratulated the HHC for their achievement and hard work over the years.

Thompson noted that as the SISVG celebrates under the theme: “Onward together – Building on solid foundations”, they must recognize the hard work and dedicated service of community development.

Just before the blessing of the bus by Pastor Melch Pope of the Faith Temple Church, student of the HHC Juliana Doyle was given the honour of cutting the ribbon on the bus. After a few tries, the beautiful child snipped her way through the piece of yellow ribbon.(KW)