(BarbadosToday)The Barbados Association for Children with Brain Injuries has called for respite care facilities for children afflicted with brain-related disabilities.
The association’s president, Marcia Brathwaite, whose grandson Daron is wheelchair-bound, said there is a need for a special facility in Barbados to provide respite care services to provide parents and other caregivers with temporary relief from taking care of their children with special needs.
She made the call for such a facility when she spoke to Barbados TODAY on Thursday, the last day of a special summer camp for children with disabilities, held at the Challenor Creative Arts and Training Centre, Canefield House, St Thomas.
Brathwaite said: “We have children here who are up to 18 years old. And after 18, where are they going to go? There is nowhere to go, so we need someplace where, after 18, they can go.
“Here at Challenor, we just started a unit where, at 18, they can go, but after 21, 22 years old, where do they go? There is nowhere for them to go, and a lot of them end up in [the psychiatric hospital]. So that is why we are trying to lobby for the Government to provide somewhere that these children can go.
“Just like how we have the Soroptimist Village, we are trying to lobby for something like that. We need an area where they can go and get the care, and it eases the parents because when they are at home, all their parents can do is stay at home with them,” Brathwaite added.
She said she hosted the camp, which started on August 8, to give parents a break from having to take care of the children full-time for the entire summer vacation.
The siblings of the disabled children were also allowed to attend the camp.
“So it is a mixture of regular children and children with disabilities, and they range from age five up to about 50 years old. I have six wheelchair children as well.
“During the camp, we did arts and crafts, and we had some kids who had done the 11-plus examination this year, so we did English and Mathematics with them. We also did some cooking; I showed them how to make sandwiches out of bread in the form of animals. The children were also taught life skills, and every day, they were assigned to clean the area where they had lunch,” Brathwaite said.
The children also went on tours and had special visitors at the camp.
“We visited the changing of the guards at the Garrison Savannah. Members of the Fire Service from Arch Hall, St Thomas, came up, and they did demonstrations with the kids on how to use the Jaws of Life, and some of the children got to go on the truck and blow the horn.
“And then, on Tuesday, they went to the airport, and they told me that they saw 18 planes coming in. That was exciting because it was the first time that a lot of them had been exposed to these kinds of activities. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to the zoo, which was cancelled twice. So it was challenging, but it was a good experience,” Brathwaite said.
She indicated that another important feature of the camp was that the able-bodied children were taught the importance of respecting persons with disabilities.
The association president extended gratitude to the Sandy Lane Charitable Trust, Signa Financial, Manulife, Bank of Montreal, Massy Warehouse, Stokes & Bynoe, Flash Zone Bar, and Confectionery and Snacks.
“We had pretty good sponsorship, and I must thank them. I also want to thank my support staff, including my drivers and coordinators, for being extremely helpful and good. I would also like to thank the management of the Challenor School for allowing me to use the facilities,” she said.
Parent Sharon Hunte said she was pleased that her wheelchair-bound son Dondre Hunte-Weekes, who is in his early 20s, was able to attend the camp.
She said while her son was at camp, she was able to run errands and attend to personal business.
“As parents of children with special needs, we are very happy the camp was held because we don’t get to do anything because if they are at home, we have to be at home with them. If we need to go to town, we can’t push them in town because there are no wheelchair-accessible roads. It is only Cave Shepherd that you can take them that has an elevator. So while they are at the camp, we will get to do what we have to do,” Hunte said.
“So we need the facility to provide respite care because, honestly, what are these children going to do when they get older? There is nothing else for them to do. I am thankful to Challenor for what they have been doing for all these years. Honestly, being a parent to a special needs child is a lot of work, and we really do need a break,” she added.
Brathwaite said she is hoping to host a cruise for children with brain injuries, next summer.