Sixteen special needs schools and organisations will begin benefitting from guidance counselling services this month through a programme being funded by the Office of the First Lady.
The guidance counselling programme was implemented last year by the Guyana Council of Organisations for Persons with Disabilities (GCOPD) with support from First Lady Arya Ali.
“Mrs Ali prioritized persons with disabilities (PWD) upon her assumption to office in 2020, implementing several projects and programmes which directly benefit them through her ‘InclusAbility’ initiative,” a press release from the First Lady’s office noted on Thursday.
According to the release, last year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mrs Ali was approached by GCOPD to provide funding for two counsellors who would deliver psychosocial support to young people living with disabilities.
“This was a programme that was needed during the pandemic because of the devastating effects it was having on children and young persons with disabilities. Life was already difficult for them so the disruption that the pandemic brought compounded the issues they face,” GCOPD programme coordinator Ganesh Singh was quoted as saying in the release.
According to the First Lady’s office, so far, the programme has been introduced in nine Special Education Needs (SEN) schools and organisations in Regions Three and Four.
It will be introduced in seven more SEN schools and organisations beginning this month. Group sessions have been held at those schools and organisations, focusing on social issues, and more personal matters including navigating adolescence and accepting and coping with a disability.
Apart from those group sessions, individual sessions have also befitted more than 70 persons from Regions Two, Three, Four, Five and Six.
The individual sessions are between six and twelve, depending on the progress and willingness of the beneficiary. Those sessions deal with personal issues affecting those individuals in their domestic, social and academic life.
According to the release, Singh explained that most of the sessions were done virtually due to the pandemic, but that there were some in-person sessions which were held.
The lifting of COVID-19 regulations will allow for more in-person sessions to be had. The First Lady shared that her decision to support this programme was one which required little thought, as she believes it is “absolutely necessary” to provide these persons with this kind of support.
“These counsellors can enhance the understanding and knowledge of issues relevant to the needs of persons with disabilities and their families, by highlighting the various forms of personal and societal barriers they often encounter and advising them on how to navigate them,” Mrs Ali was quoted as saying in the release.
She added that it was important too, for the individual needs of these persons to be taken into consideration so they can influence policy making at the national level. The First Lady noted too that this is also part of the strategy to ensure persons with disabilities have access to the kinds of opportunities, tools and resources which would support their empowerment.
Last week, Mrs Ali announced that her Office will be establishing a business centre to be run exclusively by persons with disabilities. It is expected to provide at least 25-30 jobs in the short term and another 30 in the medium to long term.