Center for special needs adults strives to meet growing demand

From left, Anita Ebanks, Rachel Ebanks and Vanessa Willams from Sunrise Adult Training Centre

West Bay’s hidden corners play host to numerous hotels, residences and restaurants, and along with them, a facility serving a very special segment of Cayman’s population.

The Sunrise Adult Training Centre serves adults with special needs who have cognitive, physical or developmental disabilities.

The facility’s new acting director Kimberly Voaden is a native of West Bay.

“I am so thrilled and proud to have been given this chance to do my part for my community,” Ms. Voaden said.

Sunrise Adult Training Centre clients attend lunch at Government House.
Sunrise Adult Training Centre clients attend lunch at Government House.

A mother of two and an active member of the John Gray Memorial Church, Ms. Voaden’s parents are Kenneth Wright, a retired building inspector and Grace Wright, a retired special educator, who along with accomplishing many other firsts for children with special needs in the Cayman Islands, assisted with the establishment of the original Lighthouse School in the 1970’s.

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A Butterfield Scholarship winner, Ms. Voaden studied as an undergraduate at Queen’s

University in Kingston, Ontario, and then pursued a graduate degree in occupational therapy at the University of Toronto. She then spent two years in Canada working at Erinoak Children’s Treatment Centre in Ontario to broaden her knowledge and experience, prior to returning home to Cayman in 2004.

First working as a paediatric Occupational Therapist for nine years within the Department of Education Services, Ms. Voaden provided therapeutic services to children in the Lighthouse School, the mainstream school system, and the Early Intervention Programme. After joining the Sunrise Centre in 2013 as program manager, Ms. Voaden has been the centre’s Acting Director since January. She was honored as an “Emerging Pioneer” at the 2015 Heroes Day Awards for contributions to the Island’s Health Services.

From left, Paula Bush, Kimberly Voaden and Oral Powery
From left, Paula Bush, Kimberly Voaden and Oral Powery

Ms. Voaden is very keen to build momentum for some constructive change at the Sunrise Centre, and in Cayman as well, and was pleased to report that good things are already happening at Sunrise this year. For one, preparations are already under way for the school’s spring concert scheduled for May. This year’s production is a Cayman version of “Mamma Mia!”

In addition, in the lead up to the arrival of Prince Edward in March, Sunrise is launching a modified Duke of Edinburgh program for participants with special needs.

“It’s based on the existing program, but will have modified requirements, and we have eight clients signed up already,” she said.

New staff are also arriving soon.

“We are about to get a second teacher who will be teaching functional academics, which covers literacy and numeracy,” she said.

Ms. Voaden explained that Sunrise currently offers three types of programs which cater to the differing ability levels of clients.

The 22 clients in the vocational stream take part in training that prepares them for and places them in the workforce.

Ms. Voaden says, along with providing those clients with life skills and employment, it also frees up space in the program for other clients. “We are full at present, we actually don’t have any more spaces,” she said.

Sunrise Adult Training Centre clients go on an excursion to Stingray City.
Sunrise Adult Training Centre clients go on an excursion to Stingray City.

The facility also offers supported workshops on the premises for other clients not in the vocational stream. For example, the vegetables and other items produced by Sunrise’s Grow Group are sold at the Camana Bay farmer’s market.

“We just had sailors from the [HMS] Mersey come by to lend a hand to the Grow Group, which was just great,” said Ms. Voaden. In another supported workshop, Sunrise clients make soap, coasters and other items for sale.

Additionally, another workshop has clients preparing meals twice a week that can be applied to employment or independent living, and clients also take part in daily light cleaning at the center, allowing them to build those skills.

The third stream of activities offered by Sunrise is a recreational day program that offers a daily rotation of therapeutic activities and classes, which include taking the clients out into the community.

“Just the other day, we had the clients out at Pedro Castle, which was great,” said Ms. Voaden. “It is important for our clients to get out in the community, as much as it is important for the community to see and interact with our clients.”

Ms. Voaden noted that these excursions are particularly important since the island is currently experiencing a shortage of accommodation for disabled clients, so many are staying at home where they have less access to the kinds of activities and programs they would receive in a specialized facility.

She said Sunrise is at capacity, with a pressing need for more space and more staff, and is in the process of pursuing fundraising for a new facility to accommodate more clients.

Along with fulfilling the daily requirements of her job, Ms. Voaden has also been participating in the Cayman Islands Disability Policy, and the islands’ forthcoming Disability Legislation, and is a member of the Cayman Islands Mental Health Commission.

“I’m a lifelong believer in the power of positive thinking, and I try to see the best in every situation,” said Ms. Voaden. “I’m confident that the future is bright for all children and adults with special needs in the Cayman Islands.”

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