This Saturday, 16 June at Luca, a Rotaract Blue Open Arms Programme event honours parents, caretakers, teachers and others in the community who have worked hard to enrich the lives of individuals with special needs, including people who have excelled despite their disability.
Four years ago, Rotaract Blue recognised there was little focus on our disabled community and the club came up with the idea of acknowledging special needs people and their caretakers.
Founded on the belief that people with disabilities deserve the equal opportunity to learn, grow and be respected within our community, the Open Arms Programme was born.
As the club recognises these issues, the main functions of the programme are to promote non-discrimination of disabled people; build awareness and educate the public about the challenges such people face; and embrace and accept the needs of these people while enhancing their lives.
With this, and in order to increase awareness and public participation, Rotaract Blue changed its gears and took the Open Arms Programme in a different direction under the theme, “Don’t Stare. Show That You Care”.
To kick off this year’s activities, the club re-launched the programme on International Disabled Day – 3 December, 2011. In celebration of this day, Blue members spread some holiday cheer to the clients and staff of Sunrise Adult Training Centre. Following this, club members visited Maple House, where they donated school supplies and clothing to the residents.
Continuing with newspaper ads featuring Open Arms Person of the Month during January and March, profiles highlighted the success milestones of disabled people. Chosen people were vocational students Tevin Douglas-Grant and Shanike Ebanks of the Lighthouse School.
Other activities included newspaper and radio messages in an effort to promote non-discrimination of disabled people.
Most recently, through a Candies For Cash fundraiser, the club recently donated books, games and crayons to the students at Lighthouse School.
“The unique nature of this program and the appreciation expressed by the community for our hard work and commitment, being a part of this heartfelt movement gives me great pleasure. My involvement, in itself, is a constant and powerful reminder of my ability to touch the lives of others. It’s a satisfaction like no other”, said Yvette Cacho, Open Arms Programme chairwoman. “Through community awareness and participation, we look forward to seeing exceptional growth in the programme this year as we continue to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”
Under the programme, an annual awards ceremony is considered to be the biggest event to date.
A special thank you
Rotaract Blue members said they were “overwhelmed by the sponsorship” and extended “a huge thank you” to this year’s sponsors.
“Caring for individuals with special needs requires both patience and a loving touch. Not everyone is able to handle such responsibilities, but those who are should be recognised for all that they do,” Ms Cacho said.
Proven to be a heart-warming event each year, recipients and guests express their gratitude toward the club for its outstanding effort. Last year, recipients included: Long Service Award – Bonnie Binns; Parent Recognition Award – Dorcas Watson; Heart Award – Matilee Anglin; Outstanding Student Award – Quinton Ebanks; Spirit Award – Sean Gray; and The Honorary Award – Roberta Gordon.
As part of the campaign, the public is reminded to promote non-discrimination, be mindful of the use of handicapped parking and bathrooms, integrate disabled people into the community, recognise their needs and educate family and friends of challenges they face.
For additional information on the Rotaract Blue Open Arms Programme or if you wish to become a sponsor or volunteer, please contact the Open Arms chairwoman at [email protected]