First Lady Arya Ali on Thursday officiated the ceremonial sod-turning for a $130 million state-of-the-art business centre at Palmyra, Region Six, for persons living with disabilities (PLWD).
It is the first of a series of such regional centres to be established by the Government.
According to the First Lady, within a few months, the building is expected to the erected, furnished and operational.
“This site will soon house what will be a state-of-the-art business centre exclusively for persons with disabilities. Construction of the facility is expected to commence and there are discussions with various groups which represent disability communities have commenced to solicit and incorporate their ideas.”
She said the long-term aim is to ensure that persons who are living with disabilities – some of whom are already making products – will be able to use the facility for all aspects of their business. It is hoped, the First Lady added, that beneficiaries will also use the facility to train others.
Efforts are being made with the Guyana National Bureau of Standards to provide the necessary resources to ensure quality with the ultimate goal being to have craft, snacks and other items being produced by persons living with disabilities at the business centre, branded with the Made in Guyana certification.
“Apart from that, we would want to assure that these persons benefit from technical training and functional support that they can be empowered to lead their own lives. As it is, the majority of persons with disabilities live in relative poverty; that is because disability increased the risk of poverty through lack of employment and educational opportunities,” the First Lady said. In Guyana, there are about 30,000 persons living with disabilities. Hence, Ali said the private sector, non-governmental organisations and Guyana’s international partners needs to all come on board to assist.
Meanwhile, Coordinator for Guyana Council of Persons Living with Disabilities, Ganesh Singh at the event noted that this is a new chapter for persons living with disabilities.
He referred to the project as transformative as it will transform the lives of beneficiaries who are part of a vulnerable group.
“These individuals, most of them, live in impoverished circumstances. A high percentage is unemployed. With this centre, that will change. You will have persons with disabilities gaining employment and lifting themselves out of poverty,” Singh said.
He added that he is humbled to know that there are persons who care to improve the lives of persons living with disabilities.
However, Singh called for the project to be replicated in other regions.
Similar sentiments were expressed by Region Six Chairman David Armogan, who went on to explain that similar business centres for persons living with disabilities will be built in other regions across the country.
Armogan noted that in Region Six, training of persons with disabilities is taking place at every level.
“Persons living with disabilities should have no less opportunity and should be given no less treatment than persons who do not have disabilities. That is the Government’s commitment to persons living with disabilities in our country.”
Also attending the ceremony were China’s Ambassador to Guyana Guo Haiyan and Housing and Water Minister Susan Rodrigues.
The building was designed and is being constructed by the Housing Ministry. According to Minister Rodrigues, persons living with disabilities are part of the tone “One Guyana” notion.
“They must not be left out. We are a Government that pays heavy emphasis on empowerment. We do not want to be a Government giving handouts,” she explained.
On the other hand, Minister Persaud said through her Ministry, much attention is being placed on persons living with disabilities.
“Persons living with disabilities are being trained free of cost in all of the regions of Guyana in various skillsets including ICT – equipping them with tablets loaded with the JAWS program for those who are blind or visually impaired; persons who have mobility issues or any other form of a disability have benefited from programmes such as garment construction or sewing.”
Through the Office of the First Lady, the Chinese Government is assisting with funding for the programme. Ambassador Guo Haiyan explained that both countries have been placing much focus on improving the lives of persons living with disabilities.
When completed, the Office of the First lady will be furnishing the building which will be equipped with a conference room that can be used for training. (This story was first published by Guyana Times)