In a bid to improve and help develop the lives of persons living with disabilities, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security on Tuesday officially commissioned a $73M training and empowerment centre known as the “Learning Lab” at Mahaica, East Coast of Demerara.
The facility is in keeping with the government’s commitment to aid persons with disabilities across the country.
It seeks to equip persons living with disabilities with technical and vocational skills through free training programmes so they can be financially independent.
Apart from the training, the centre also offers recreational space.
The state-of-the-art facility consists of three training halls, a kitchen, washroom facilities and was built to ensure easy access.
A sum of $5M was contributed by Spotlight Initiative, the European Union and the United Nation to furnish the centre.
Delivering the feature address at the opening ceremony, Minister of Human Services and Social Security Dr Vindhya Persaud said the institution is the first of its kind and will no doubt impact the lives of those who utilise it.
In light of the government’s vision of working with persons living with disabilities, Dr Persaud said “much” effort was put into the design, equipping and placement of the institution.
She said this was done to ensure “there is equal opportunity, there is equal access and there is the kind of development that can stand us in good stead for the years ahead.”
She added that “it is also a center that provides empowerment, life skills and provides live space for recreational and meetings”.
Over time, Dr Persaud noted that the Ministry has been working along with a number of other agencies to develop a digital database from which they will be able to provide direct support to the children as well as understand the needs of their caregivers and family members.
To date, some 5000 children living with disabilities have been registered.
“More importantly we are working to ensure we identity those persons living with disabilities. So instead of being reactive we can be responsive and preemptive to their needs,” Dr Persaud said.
According to Dr Persaud, the center will cater for persons living with diverse disabilities.
“… It must be a place and a space that is built to their needs, built to give support and built in such a way that it is accessible…whether its technical support, whether its expertise, whether it’s developing the kind of curriculum that we want to have,” she said.
Plans are also in the pipeline to provide transportation so that persons can get to the institution, Dr Persaud said.
“Every person living with disability must not be seen outside. They must be see as part of us. There needs must be things that we can provide and we must never stop providing,” she noted.
Meanwhile, in brief remarks, acting Director of Social Services Abike Samuels said the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security remains committed to providing and improving services to persons living with disabilities.
“Often times, this vulnerable group is neglected by society but we are doing all that is necessary to ensure they live a meaningful life, void of discrimination and to ensure they have equal access to opportunities,” Samuels said.
“It is our aim that persons with disabilities are empowered to participate in the development process, fully and equally so that sustainable development goals can be achieved,” she added.
Meanwhile, UN Resident Coordinator in Guyana Yesum Oruc said the establishment of the centre will directly aid in the attainment of a number of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Currently, Dr Persaud said works are ongoing to transform the entire area close to the Learning Lab to a complex focused exclusively on persons living with disabilities.