Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Facility for children with Down syndrome in Trinidad in financial trouble, teachers unpaid

From Newsday in Trinidad-Tobago:

A play fort promised to the children of the National Association for Down’s Syndrome (NADS) by Fluor Daniel South America Limited has been put on hold as the international engineering, procurement and construction company has discovered more urgent issues to be addressed first.

Fluor had promised to construct a special play fort for the 16 children who attend NADS at Sydenham Avenue in St Ann’s, but general manager at Fluor, Jim Wilkins, said the facility was in financial trouble.

“We came out here for a visit to do some final logistics and planning for the play fort and what we found was that they had needs that were more urgent.

“They owed money on their telephone and electricity bills, Internet, TTEC,” Wilkins told Sunday Newsday.

“They haven’t been able to pay their teachers and so we decided to take some of those things on.

“The fence is damaged and some folks tend to come in here and when they come in here the staff is worried they might take part of the fort or break it or something,” Wilkins explained as Fluor employees set to work scrubbing, painting and power washing the one-storey structure.

“We helped them with some of their bills, paid their teachers and we’ve gien the place a general cleaning for the new school year.

“Then we’ll look and see what can be done to address some of their concerns they’ve got and then put the play fort in,” he said.

Wilkins said they have already bought everything that is needed for the fort, but felt helping with the bills was priority number one.

Volunteer Tara Mootoo is begging Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh to step in an assist them.

“We haven’t paid teachers for July, August and this is September. We don’t have a cash flow to address anything in the school, working material, nothing like that. Our bathroom is hardly functioning. Our water tank is not even connected to give a supply of water to the school.

“These are children with disabilities and we need to address it. There are children who cannot afford to come out to school.

“Let us get those children out and get them in school, the parents could get a reprieve and the children could be in a nice atmosphere,” she said.

Mootoo added that they had no security on the compound. She said most of the people at the school were volunteers who were willing to try to keep the institution running, but they needed help.

“Imagine teachers haven’t been paid yet and they only receive $2,500 a month and yet we can’t pay them, but they are still here. We have been trying for the longest while to get the school registered under the Ministry of Education and for some reason or the other we haven’t been successful so far.

“We would at least like the ministry and the minister to step in to help us get this school functioning, for the community and for all the children with disabilities who cannot afford it. Sponsor the children so they could have transportation, or play a sport.

“We have been neglected because a lot of people don’t even know this place exists or that there are children here,” Mootoo said.

She added that she has been at the school since 2006 and the place had never been cleaned the way it was now, and praised Wilkins and his staff.

“It’s the first time we have had a company with its manager and staff coming out to help us put it together,” she said.