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President of the Cornwall Combined Disabilities Association (CCDA) , Andrew East (left), thanks John Bechthold. who along with his wife, Ann, donated his wheelchair, at Sandals Royal Caribbean in Ironshore, St. James, on October 27.
Photo: Okoye Henry

Story Highlights

  • The Cornwall Combined Disabilities Association (CCDA) has been a voice for change, advocating for support and assistance for persons living with disabilities in western Jamaica.
  • The CCDA has been able to address some of the needs of its members. One such recent donation took place on October 27, through the efforts of the Sandals Foundation and its repeat guests, John and Ann Bechthold, from the United States.
  • Acting General Manager of Sandals Royal Caribbean, Dawn Smith, notes that donations such as these, speak to the power tourism has on the lives of not just the disabled but Jamaicans on the whole.

The Cornwall Combined Disabilities Association (CCDA) has been a voice for change, advocating for support and assistance for persons living with disabilities in western Jamaica.

The non-profit organisation, which was formed in 2014, boasts more than 100 members across the parishes of St. James, Hanover, Trelawny, Westmoreland and St. Elizabeth.

President of the CCDA, Andrew East, tells JIS News that the group has been instrumental in making the needs of its members heard by partnering with other advocacy and self-help organisations in the country. Among these are the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) and the Combined Disabilities Association (CDA).

“We lobby to all of them, talk to them and help work on the new policies that are being pursued. We have become that much recognised throughout the years and they do involve us,” he says.

“However, we still play our own part in getting our members’ voice out there,” Mr. East adds.

He points out that one of the most forefront needs of the CCDA is to secure the donation of wheelchairs for its physically challenged members.

Mr. East is physically challenged, having lost his ability to walk, following a shooting incident 20 years ago.

The CCDA has been able to address some of the needs of its members. One such recent donation took place on October 27, through the efforts of the Sandals Foundation and its repeat guests, John and Ann Bechthold, from the United States.

“I am receiving a wheelchair. It was appropriate for me at this time, as the one I have currently is in need some serious repairs,” says Mr. East, who is also Guardian Life’s 5K 2018 and 2019 wheelchair champion.

“Sourcing wheelchairs in Jamaica is an expensive venture. All my wheelchairs were donations. The last one was donated back in 2015, so these gestures are very valuable [to the community],” he adds.

Mr. East expresses thanks to the couple, Sandals Foundation, JCPD, CDA and all the other bodies that have worked closely with the CCDA since its formation to cater to the needs of the disabled community in the west.

“On behalf of the organisation, I want to say thanks to the persons doing these donations.  We really encourage them, because they will go a far way for the persons who receive them. I also want other persons to emulate the same thing, because we do appreciate them a lot,” he says.

In the meantime, the humanitarian couple tell JIS News that they have been donating to the disabled community in Jamaica and the region for the past five years.

“We have been working with the Sandals Foundation since 2018. We started donating to the Foundation because we think it is a great cause. It gives us a chance to give something back to the people of the islands where we get to go on vacation,” Mr. Bechthold tells JIS News.

“We decided that every time we make a trip to one of the islands we are going to donate something to someone in the local community. So, every time we come we bring a wheelchair,” he adds.

The couple indicates that they will continue to donate to persons with disabilities in Jamaica and the region, and are encouraging others to emulate this, because “it is everybody’s responsibility to give back and share when they can”.

Acting General Manager of Sandals Royal Caribbean, Dawn Smith, notes that donations such as these, speak to the power tourism has on the lives of not just the disabled but Jamaicans on the whole.

“I was really happy when we came together and issue this wheelchair. He (Mr. East) received it with love and honour, just because of our guest,” Ms. Smith says.

“This just lets Jamaica know how important tourism is to our island and the fact that it [contributes a lot] to the country’s economy and we are not going to stop. We need this market, so I implore every Jamaican to focus on the guests coming to our island. Let’s treat them with love and dignity, and let the world know Jamaica is the place to go,” she adds.

 

 

 

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