Monday, October 19, 2009

Saluting Women of Merit for National Heroes Day

With today being National Heroes day, we recognise some of the women who've made the news for their work in 2009.. Meet marjorie, who is a famous Jamaican educator who is tackling Autism in the most fundamental ways. Shauna and Rosetta are living overseas but are Jamaican mothers Rosetta is an author mother and grandmother and despite not personally living with Autism has written a romance around the topic of Autism which she sent here she will be carrying out a book signing in New Jersey at the Barnes and Noble in Springfield


How one woman created an entire village

Barbara Gilbert does not own a home. The single mother of four still lives in a rented home in Atlantic Beach, Florida. Yet she has used her own money and raised more than US$200,000 in donations to build houses for 84 families across Jamaica who had nowhere to rest their heads.

She works through Food For The Poor, the Florida-based international charity with Jamaican roots. Now 14 families have settled in a community built three years ago with the money she raised and named in her honour - Barbara's Village, located at Bernard Lodge in St Catherine, on land donated by the Sugar Company of Jamaica.

Gilbert learnt about the needs of poor Jamaicans while listening to a radio telethon in 2005 in Florida.

When she visited the island to help one family she saw greater need and began what she says is a lifelong commitment to providing shelter for the poor who cannot afford a place to lay their heads.

When God called, Maia answered

When God told Maia Chung-Smith to start a foundation for autistic and disabled children, she heeded the call without knowing where the money would come from.

But thanks to her continued commitment, she continues to bring help and hope to children and parents who have to deal with the condition on a daily basis. To ensure that she reaches every sector of the society where autistic children are found, the journalist launched a radio programme to allow parents of autistic children to share their testimonies and coping strategies.

One of the group's major charity projects is the Promise Learning Centre which is the country's only dedicated autism school. Chung-Smith's organisation has lobbied for computers and other educational items for the children so far and intends to do much more for autistic children in Jamaica. See our Interview with Maia Chung-Smith here

The women of RISE

They are three completely different women, with their own challenges, unique characteristics and past. But for the last 19 years, Debbie Pinto, Sonita Morin-Abrahams and Jan Lopez have spent their time and energy working to better the one project that brought them together.

The women are the founding members of the RISE Life Management Services (formerly Addiction Alert) and like proud parents, have seen the programme through some of its toughest hours and rejoiced in some of its shining moments. Today, RISE works primarily in six inner-city communities where they try to educate children and adults alike about the dangers of addictions. It also operates a number of services including a life management skills training programme, parenting workshops, remedial and HEART Trust/NTA accredited vocational classes, adolescent and family counselling services and a classroom for drug and gambling prevention education. They also have a toll-free counselling service for addictive disorders and do assessments, referrals, drug-testing, family interventions and short-term individual and group counselling.

Marjorie Hylton's Promise

Despite their shortcomings, Marjorie Hylton is extremely proud of her 45 children, so much so that just talking about them brings tears to her eyes. Hylton is the founder and principal of the Promise Learning Centre in St Andrew, which for the past 16 years, has been a place of refuge for autistic children. The school is the only one of its kind in Jamaica and was borne from her desire to provide a nurturing environment for children with special needs. "I wanted to do something more than just ordinary teaching and I thought teaching special needs children would give me that fulfilment, and it certainly has," Hylton said. Hylton said she is flooded with calls from parents locally and oversees who want their children to be educated at Promise Learning Centre.

"People need a place to have their children schooled, because no matter how they push them in the regular school, the children are just squeezed out because they cannot function in the regular environment," she said.

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