In a society that is constantly changing, where a lack of empathy and sensitivity prevails even for those who appear normal, for those who are differently abled, there exists an organization that continues to fight for them.
The National Vocational and Rehabilitation Centre for Persons with Disabilities is a division within the Ministry of Health & the Environment. It was established in 1984 and has been an advocate for persons living with disabilities in Antigua and Barbuda.
At its inception more than three decades ago the Centre functioned merely as a day care for disabled persons but through the years it has evolved by adding new initiatives to improve the lives of those living with disabilities.
Today, with a new director at the helm, the programmes being offered have expanded to include not only lifestyle skills such as cooking, cleaning, art and craft but recreational activities as well.
According to Acting Director of the Centre, Regan Calliste, the recreational activities like swimming and sailing are more than exercises to stimulate the muscles or having fun. They are geared towards fostering communication and building good relationships with each other.
Presently, there are more than 60 persons registered at the Centre, with ages ranging from 20 to 50 years. They live with various forms of disabilities, among them dwarfism, neurological disorders and mobility impairment.
Those charged with the responsibility of managing the Centre have formulated activities which often take them away from their regular environment or comfort zone, activities which are of physical and emotional benefit to them.
One such activity is a camp that started ten years ago with personal funds and contributions. Today, it has grown to become an annual summer event, funded by the division through the Ministry of Health and the Environment.
The campsite is usually located on the eastern side of the island and this year accommodated over fifty persons including adults and children from 0 to 50 years.
The summer camp was expected to run for two weeks, July 3rd to 14th, 2017. However, due to the presence of viral conjunctivitis (Red Eye), the 2017 event was cancelled after only one week.