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Story Highlights

  • Twenty-one-year-old Cavian Morgan’s face takes on a serious expression and her voice resonates with emotion.
  • Shortly after Cavian took her first steps as a toddler, she became seriously ill. Her limbs ceased to move, and her eyes began to turn over uncontrollably.
  • Today, Cavian is dependent on the use of a wheelchair, as she is not able to maintain her balance and is still cross-eyed. However, there is not a note of despair present in her face.

Twenty-one-year-old Cavian Morgan’s face takes on a serious expression and her voice resonates with emotion.

“My family did not give up on me, and for that I am very thankful,” she says meaningfully.

“I have heard the stories of some persons with disabilities who have been abandoned by their parents; that when they took sick, their families gave up on them. I am thankful that I have a very good family by my side,” she tells JIS News.

Shortly after Cavian took her first steps as a toddler, she became seriously ill. Her limbs ceased to move, and her eyes began to turn over uncontrollably. To this day, the doctors have not been able to offer her family a diagnosis, despite several tests. It would be years and the constant care of her mother and grandmother, before she was able to move her feet and arms again.

Today, Cavian is dependent on the use of a wheelchair, as she is not able to maintain her balance and is still cross-eyed. However, there is not a note of despair present in her face.

“If you only knew how far I have come, you would just say wow,” she exclaims.

It is this indomitable spirit and positive energy that continue to impress Cavian’s employers at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Kingston, where she has been a receptionist since May.

Cavian wasn’t able to attend primary school due to her illness, but she pursued secondary education at the St. Andrew Technical High school and passed five subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level.

Despite this achievement, she felt hindered by her disability and uncertain about what next to do with her life. However, her mother, Lesline Laing, a constant champion for her daughter’s success, began a search and came upon a training programme being offered through the Social and Economic Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Project by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security.

It was this project, designed to provide training to persons with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 36 who are beneficiaries of the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), which resulted in Cavian being able to receive employment at the YMCA.

“Before the project, my mother wanted me to be able to understand a little about the workplace, so she would take me to her [office]. Going to my mother’s workplace was good, but it was just not fulfilling enough. I did not feel as if I was going anywhere. This programme was a turnaround in my life,” Cavian tells JIS News.

“I am very thankful because I did not know what I was going to do,” she says. She believes that one day she will achieve her dream of being a Counsellor and a Writer.

She encourages employers to be more accommodating of persons with disabilities. “I would say, don’t judge a book by its cover, it might look as if we are not able to manage, but if you just give us a chance, we can succeed,” Cavian says.

Chief Executive Officer of Boss Furniture, Omar Azan, is one employer who also believes it is important to include persons with disabilities in the workplace. He partnered with the Ministry to offer hands-on experience to persons involved in the project at his factory in Kingston.

As a result, two young men with intellectual disabilities, 19-year-old Omar Hall and 22-year-old Robert Lewis, were offered full-time employment at the company as production workers.

“At Boss Furniture, we are happy to be a part of this programme with the Ministry and we believe that everybody deserves a fair chance in life,” Mr. Azan tells JIS News.

He describes the young men as energetic and motivated to do well. “They want to work, they are young and energetic and they are looking at making themselves better,” he says.

Mr. Azan is recommending that other entrepreneurs include persons with disabilities into their operations.

“It is very important, because there are so many people with certain [challenges], and they need to be facilitated and given a chance in life. As human beings and as Jamaicans, we need to look out for others and try and assist where we can,” the CEO says.

The young men, who were both students at the Randolph Lopez School of Hope, say they are very happy to be able to work, and are grateful to have been given the opportunity through the project.

Their supervisor, Eric Jarrett, describes them as very helpful. He says they were able to quickly acquire upholstering skills and now work as part of a team in the factory to make beds, sofas and chairs.

He says the work ethic of the young men has changed his perspective on persons with disabilities.

“Seeing that they have been classified as disabled and seeing how they perform in the working world, the Social and Economic Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities Project is a good programme. My thinking was that they wouldn’t fit so well into the normal working area, but this has changed my perspective on that. I think they can do well, even better than some average people,” Mr. Jarrett tells JIS News.

Twenty-seven persons with disabilities have so far received permanent employment through the project. It is being funded through the World Bank at a cost of just under US$3 million. One hundred and Seventy two persons were trained and given work experience through collaboration with HEART Trust/NTA and the National Youth Service for the 2014-2015 period and 150 are enrolled for the 2015-2016 period.

The project is a four-year initiative and is being done in partnership with the non-governmental organisations that work closely with persons with disabilities.