Best Care Foundation arms challenged kids with lifetime skills


Physically and mentally challenged individuals may be seen as a burden to society. But this may not be entirely true as, if given adequate attention and proper guidance, they can gain a skill to enable them to become productive members of society.
This is the thrust of the Best Care Foundation (formerly Best Care Lodge) which operates a school, catering to children who are physically and mentally challenged. The Best Care Special School focuses on introducing the students to skills, from early on, that can be honed throughout their time at the institution.
“The aim and the objective of the school, is that we provide them (students) with a skill that they can become employable…and move on into independent living and be productive in society,” Child Care Manager at the Best Care Foundation, Margaret Loney, tells JIS News.
The Best Care Foundation, located at 11 Trevennion Road, Kingston, is home to most of the children who attend the Best Care Special School. The institution, which was started in 2008, offers kindergarten and primary level education and, for more mature students, another section offers vocational training which entails cosmetology and home management.
Normally, children six to 18 are accepted. However, because of the special needs of the students, the school also accepts pupils up to 21 years old. They will be able to participate in the vocational aspect of the school.
Miss Loney also explains that the school makes provisions for students who may have completed studies at a special school and are now teenagers and young adults, but are still not advanced enough to enter the regular school system.
Over the last year, the school, which is registered through the Child Development Agency (CDA), has been expanding its programme to meet the individual needs of the children, through a standard-based curriculum which is currently being implemented. This allows for individualised instruction and maximised direct intervention, through the use of best teaching practices, staff development and ongoing assessment.
The mandate of the teachers is to enhance the students’ learning experience, by captivating and stimulating their minds, through the use of technology and other means, and promoting self expression, self help skills, independent living skills and physical activities.
Miss Loney says the Foundation, which currently houses 52 children, is also seeking to assist them in acquiring jobs.
“This is something new for us now. I am expecting, next summer, I can, maybe, ask business persons and so on to give them the experience of working outside and, if they start their skill from now being 13, 14, 15, by the time they become adults, they are well-grounded in their professions. So they can now get a good job outside,” she asserts.
She notes that the long term goal is for the HEART Trust/NTA to certify the students in their respective fields.
“So you see in the vocational area, the cosmetology side, the girls will be certified, (others) doing their cushions, mat-making, curtains and so on, they can also be certified in that, and in the Home Economics too,” she says.
Getting students computer literate is another area that the school is focusing on, to enhance the student’s learning experience and ensure that they are more marketable when seeking employment.
The school’s expansion also includes undergoing a major refurbishing process, through financial and other assistance from several organisations. This restructuring has enhanced the physical surroundings, as well as expanded the school’s structure, with additional space to house a new Home Economics Centre, and facilitated the expansion of the kitchen area and construction of the Cosmetology school.
“The refurbishing was done by the Digicel Foundation (and included) putting on the resource room, the kitchenette for home management, and now we have onboard HEART Trust/NTA building our Home (Economics) Centre. We also got help from the Optimist Club, the International Proxy Parents refurbished the kindergarten section and gave us equipment, and…a group named Justice for Children also gave a small donation towards teacher’s salaries,” she informs.
She says the Cosmetology school is being set up through partial funding from the home and the International Proxy Parents, and is near completion. Member of Parliament, Maxine Henry Wilson, is donating the shampoo basin and a teacher has volunteered to teach on Wednesdays. Service clubs and churches have also provided assistance.
The Best Care Special School is approved by the Ministry of Education, which provides oversight and technical support. The Ministry also provides the school with yearly financial assistance, in terms of part payment for teachers’ salaries. The Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ) has also assisted with more than $2 million for teachers’ salaries, equipment, assessment of children, training of caregivers and money for workshops.
Miss Loney notes that, even though the institution receives financial assistance from the Ministry and other bodies, it still strives to be self-sufficient.
“We cannot continue (relying) on getting funding, because we have to pay our teachers, we have to pay electricity, we have to buy our equipment…We want to generate income, we want to show the community that we provide a school wherein the child can come in, learn remedial work, get independent skills at a cost and we are looking at maybe $25,000 a term for a child in a stimulating environment such as this,” she says.
As part of efforts to be more independent, the Foundation has, over the years, embarked on income-generating projects, including a chicken farm.
“We have a fowl farm here. We have had a fowl farm here from in the 1980s and we have been self-sufficient in eggs.to ensure that there is a certain level of protein for the kids here at the home, and we also sell eggs outside,” the Foundation’s Board Chairman, Orville Johnson, tells JIS News.
He also points out that the home has started a vegetable garden, but was unable to maintain it, due to the cost and other factors.
“In better days, we had a pretty good vegetable garden, but the ups and downs with the drought and all that we have not been able to sustain it, plus the water bill and all that,” he explains.
Mr. Johnson notes that the Foundation tries to do as best it can, with the resources it has in order to “keep things going”. He also states that the entity has to be aggressive with fundraising and is always seeking sponsors to assist with the bills and feeding the children.
“We like to tell people what we are doing and invite them to come, to drop by any time. They don’t need an invitation. We try to organize ourselves here that people can always come, see what we are doing and see what you can do to assist us and it doesn’t have to be money,” he says.
He is also inviting persons to visit the home even to interact with the children, which is very important to their development. Most of the residents are wards of the state abandoned by parents who could not deal with their disability, so making them feel loved is essential.
“Folks can come here and play with the kids, bring games for them and that kind of thing, because that interaction is very important. They are like all other children, they like to play and they like to see people come around and they like to feel that they are part of some greater family,” Mr. Johnson said.
Meanwhile, Miss Loney is encouraging persons to participate in the institution’s Open Day on November 24. She says the Day will showcase the work of the students of the Best Care Special School.
“Persons can come in and see the work of the children, and it’s another form of sensitising the public about the Best Care Special School and what we do here,” she tells JIS News.
Parents with children with special needs, who wish register them at the school, can call the Foundation at 960-3620 for further details.

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