The Duke of Edinburgh International Award (DEIA) Barbados, in collaboration with The Deaf Heart Project (DHP), has welcomed its first cohort of youth with disabilities. The first participants of the programme, which officially began in September, hail from the Irving Wilson School, with varying abilities, including deaf and autistic students. The project is funded by The Maria Holder Memorial Trust.
In a media statement, Project Manager of The Maria Holder Memorial Trust, Modupe Sodeyi-Boadu, said, “The Maria Holder Memorial Trust is proud to support The Duke of Edinburgh International Award in this very impactful journey. We welcome the collaboration with The Deaf Heart Project, as this project aligns with our strategic goal, which is to assist with education and training, particularly for children and youth in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations. The students of the Irving Wilson School form part of this marginalised target group. These initiatives not only afford the opportunity for them to develop and strengthen important life skills that are transferable to living independently after they leave the school but also provide equal opportunities to succeed in life.”
Fabian Norville, Operations Manager of the DEIA Barbados, expressed excitement at delivering the Award to these students for the first time in its 60-year history. He said, “This project has shown that the young people of the Irving Wilson School, regardless of their challenges, are able to dream big, learn new skills and make an impact on their communities. We are pleased with the efforts of our volunteers, partners, and especially our participants and look forward to their continued development as we equip them as individuals to succeed in life.”
Participants have been actively engaged since the official start of the programme in pursuit of the prestigious DEIA Bronze Award. Since commencement, students have begun their Skills Section by learning to swim with the Sea Eagles Academy under Coach Roydon Blades at The Aquatic Centre and taking part in weekly sessions aimed at life skills such as tent pitching, grooming and self-care, cooking and meal prep.
They have also commenced their Voluntary Section by planting over 40 trees along the Barbados Trailway, assisting with Christmas tree decorating with the Royal Commonwealth Society, and giving back this holiday season by serving with the Salvation Army in packing Christmas hampers for families in need.
Founder of The Deaf Heart Project, Ché Greenidge, is particularly proud of the students for their participation in this programme and the impact it can have on them and their communities. She said, “It was vital for us to design the most accessible and inclusive programme that best supports the needs of our participants. There was no way we were leaving any student behind. We witness the participants build on each other’s strengths and flourish through diversity.”
Greenidge concluded by saying, “As a society, we must move beyond discussing inclusivity and progress towards embedding inclusion as a national standard into all of our frameworks. I am very pleased with the outcomes of the programme. The students deserve this opportunity.”
The Award Programme is an established global framework for non-formal education and experiential learning. It equips young people with transferable life skills by challenging and guiding them into developing capabilities, attitudes, and values that build their capacity to navigate the world. The Programme runs for a minimum of six months and requires all participants to complete a number of hours in four mandatory sections, which include recreational activity, learning or improving on a new skill, offering voluntary service to their community, and taking part in an adventurous journey.
Published Nation Newspaper Dec 22 2023 by Jonteau Coppin