bmobile encourages empowering the Differently-Abled as it is Key to our Development as a Country
TSTT Corporate Communications
There are 45,000+ persons living with disabilities in Trinidad and Tobago, of which a significant percentage cannot afford or cannot access therapy to treat with and manage their conditions. As such, the Caribbean Kids and Families Therapy Organization (CKFTO), a registered non-profit, was formed in 2008 to assist in the provision of subsidised occupational therapy, particularly for children in need. To date, they are the sole non-profit therapeutic service provider for persons living with disabilities and also engage in public education initiatives, workshops, developmental programmes and more. Since their establishment, they have consistently expanded to meet ever-growing needs and demands with support from companies and brands like bmobile.
Krista Hamel-Smith, General Manager for CKFTO, noted that despite the adaptation required with the covid-19 pandemic, reaching those in need with much-needed therapy remains critical, "We collaborate with several other NGOs including the Lady Hochoy Home, Life Centre and the CP Society and many others to offer occupational therapy, speech and physical therapy but also have an ongoing outreach with kids with disabilities who have been abandoned by their families on the wards at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex." The organisation continues to fund these outreach activities through its Sponsor a Child Program. "Currently we subsidise up to 70% of the cost of therapy which we are able to do, through contributions from our corporate partners like the bmobile Foundation," Hamel-Smith pointed out.
bmobile has always recognised the need to uplift persons living with disabilities and has been committed to helping organisations like CKFTO with this vision achieve their goals. Gerard Cooper, TSTT's General Manager Shared Services, believes in creating a more equitable future for all citizens, noting, "Our mandate to connect all citizens of our country together and with the rest of the world, is built on the premise that connectivity equals opportunity - and we must ensure that all of our citizens, including and especially the young and the differently-abled are a part of that. We are proud to contribute to the empowerment of CKFTO and similar organisations that offer therapy-based approaches for the differently-abled to those in need, so that those persons can truly see the ability that exists within them." The bmobile Foundation places a strong emphasis on seeking projects that help to develop youth with a particular focus on health and education (which are both achieved in this collaboration) as well as sport and culture.
Currently, only 30% of differently-abled persons are economically active, compared to 70% of those without disabilities, according to a 2018 Commonwealth of Learning report. The key to tackling issues related to the differently-abled, personally and nationally, lies in awareness, early diagnosis and therapy-based approaches so that the differently-abled can become independent and productive members of society, which is why the bmobile Foundation continues to align with the CKFTO. The CKFTO offers occupational therapies as well as speech and physical therapies, through registered therapists but also conducts other programs such as the Helping Our Parents become Empowered (HOPE) program, as well as an educational Puppet Program which seeks to erase the stigmas and misconceptions related to differently-abled persons.
The bmobile Foundation also echoes the sentiment found in the National Policy on Persons with Disabilities, which states, "Persons with disabilities are agents of their own destiny and equal citizens of this nation. They have the same rights and responsibilities and should enjoy equal access to the services available to each and every citizen."
In an effort to continue its critical work, CKFTO has been actively seeking new ways to connect with contributors. This has become more crucial as health restrictions have led to the need for the organisation to adapt through greater technology use. The organisation will also launch their Donate Now button through their website (www.ckfto.org) within the next few weeks, which will allow citizens to make contributions directly to the organisation without having to queue at the bank or establish standing orders.