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The Early Stimulation Programme (ESP) hounoured its six founding members on Wednesday (December 5), at an awards ceremony held at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security’s North Street office in Kingston.

They are:  Dr. Marigold Thorburn, Family Nurse Practitioner, Joyce Brown, Daisy Mitchell, Matilda Brown, Dorothy Fuller, and Janet Ricketts.

Director of the Centre for Disabilities Studies at the University of the West Indies, Senator Floyd Morris, who addressed the gathering, lauded the work of the first ESP team, noting that they gave persons with disabilities a chance to reach their highest potential, despite the many challenges faced.

“I have to salute the pioneers of the ESP, because they have brought hope to many disabled persons in the Jamaican society, who would have been confined to their homes, if it wasn’t for the programme. This would have been extremely difficult, not only for the individuals, but also the families,” he stated.

He noted that “many of these children have great potential…but are left to go through life without a purpose; so it is fitting to honour the pioneers, who have paved the way for disabled persons, to make something of themselves."

Senator Morris said while the programme has made strides over the years, to reach more children with disabilities, it is limited in its ability to reach every child with a disability across the island.

He expressed the hope that by 2030, all parishes will have a focal point for the ESP.

Senator Morris, who is visually impaired, noted that persons with disabilities are often ignored by society, and many face discrimination, which results in this special group being left out of the economic, civil and political processes of the country.

He noted, too, that often, they do not get the requisite assistance needed, to enable them to participate effectively in the society, which results in continuous poverty.  

"This is why an intervention as the ESP is essential, and is worth highlighting, which ensures that stimulation services are provided for children with special needs from birth to six years old, not just in the urban areas, but also in rural Jamaica,” he stressed.

Senator Morris commended the existing team at the ESP, for continuing the mission of the founders and urged them to continue to build on the infrastructure that has been established, to help stimulate children with disabilities.

“I want to wish this programme all the success, and I am certain that with the committed staff, present at the ESP, the programme will continue moving from strength to strength.

Initially started by Dr. Marigold Thorburn in 1975 as the Early Stimulation Project, the programme was handed over to the Government of Jamaica in 1979 and the name changed to ESP.