March 21, 2014

Good Morning to you all!

I am happy to be here at the School’s Inaugural Founders’ Day Ceremony.  In spite of my hectic schedule, I am delighted for the opportunity to share with you even if it is for a brief moment.

This month marks Intellectual Disability Awareness month, and today, March 21, is World Down Syndrome Day.

I am sure you all agree that children are our future.  Not just some children but all children.   How we chose to love and care for them will determine our future and write our history.  A child with disability or special needs deserves to be loved and cared for in a special way so that he/she can become a great human being and a worthwhile citizen of our nation.

The Randolph Lopez School of Hope gives this hope to young people ages six (6) to twenty (20) years.  The hope that they can impact our nation in a positive way.

Your Mission, “to provide services that will positively transform the lives of all persons with intellectual and other developmental disabilities” seeks to help Jamaica achieve our vision for 2030, that is – to make Jamaica a place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.

Randolph Lopez represents what vision 2030 is about.  A father’s love for his only child led him to establish The School of Hope, renamed Schools of Special Education.

As I reflect on the journey of Randolph Lopez I feel honoured to be here with you and to bring Greetings.

He did not do this alone; his friends joined him in this pursuit. Thus this school needs cooperative Jamaicans and individuals to join them as they seek to give hope to these students.

The school was founded in 1956.  Later in 1974 the Government of Jamaica through the Ministry of Education and the Jamaican Association of Intellectual Disabilities (JAID), joined the partnership of the groups and volunteers which today form a network of schools operating island wide to help children with intellectual disabilities.

I am pleased to commend another great example of fruitful partnership between government and non-governmental organisations and individuals, who have pooled their resources for the benefit of our children.   Volunteers, parents and professionals share their love for special children.  They work together through education, advocacy and research to improve the development and quality of life of persons with intellectual disability and developmental disabilities.

There are numerous challenges and obstacles that persons with disabilities face every day of their lives.  They have to face myths, stigma and prejudice that surround them.  They face obstacles other human beings do not face.  To help them, we must as a people, show them our love and support.  We must help them in any way we can to live a normal life and do everything we can to increase their opportunities in our society and in our nation.

Bringing awareness is the beginning process for a deeper understanding of how to do this.

The World Health Organization reported that over a billion people in the world are living with disabilities. Let us work together to bring not just awareness but also change.  Let us work together to change the way individuals with intellectual disability are viewed.  Let us work together to improve their way of life, education, training, and opportunities.  Let us work together to include them into our society.

It is indeed a joy for me to support this event and I would welcome the opportunity to support the school again in future.

God bless you all and Jamaica land we love.

Thank you.