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GOB Signs MOU to Provide Differently-abled Children Much Needed Therapy

The Ministries of Education, Youth and Human Development have inked a memorandum of understanding with the Chicago-based Therapy Adventures. A release says that the agreement is for the company to provide free occupational, behavioural, speech and language therapy to Belizean families. In exchange, these ministries will assist in providing the necessary space to facilitate the therapies. Executive Chair of Autism Belize, Christy Almeida spoke about how the initiative came to fruition.

Christy Castillo Almieda, Autism Belize: “Therapy Adventures actually contacted us at Autism Belize because they wanted to do a project and give back. They recognize the work they had done in Chicago and felt that this was the right time for them to sort of expand and do more. And initially they called Christa Courtney because of the whole mental health aspect of it and she told them to give me a call and they did and we started talking about it and at first you know I’m excited, I want this but I saw tremendous potential for this and growth and would be fine for Autism Belize to open up and give therapies and that would have been wonderful and that’s what my parents need but there’s so much potential and I wanted it to be bigger and have lasting effect and I didn’t want it to just be something that I just start and the leave. So as I continued to think and Quinn who is the director of Therapy Adventures unfortunately couldn’t make the trip because he just had knee surgery but as we continued to bounce ideas off of each other we just realized there was a lot more we could do if we had more. And so I reached out to government and I honestly it was an easy sell. I said hey we’ve got this and they want to do this but if they come we can do so much more and we wanted to build local capacity and we wanted to make sure that even if they would leave that we would have people here that can continue to do things and if we take it as an intersectoral approach then we can do more. So it’s more than just giving therapies its’ gonna be working with Special Olympics, it’s gonna be helping the social workers and how we can help them develop their projects and that sort of thing and it just kinda grew. But I mean honestly it was an easy sell to all of these faces and even UB who I approached actually last minute I had a meeting with them and I sat down and they were like yes. There wasn’t any thought or process or let’s see how it is.’ immediately the dean started saying ‘Oh but we can do this.’ and if the universities are sending we can build a relationship with the other universities and everybody just saw the potential for it and said yes we want to make this happen. And I’m so glad that the memorandum of understanding has been signed and we are slated to start like February. Now it’s just making sure all the details are done and we’re ready to go.”

Chief Executive Officer for the Ministry of Education, Dian Castillo-Maheia discussed the ministry’s role in the program.

Reporter: Talk to us about your Ministry’s role in this project. 

Dian Castillo- Mhaeia, CEO, Ministry of Education: “So the Ministry of Education is a major partner in the project that we’re unrolling. What we envision our role is a supportive role. We believe that the Special Education Unit in the National Resource Center for Inclusive Education is going to be able to be strengthened, the capacity will be built for the special ed officers who work with NARCIE. We feel that in developing the skills of the officers that we’re going to be able to work better with the teachers in the classrooms so that’s definitely one huge advantage from our partnership in this project. Another thing that really has to be considered is the fact that the development the provision of services here is going to strengthen the capacity of education services on a whole because we know that these services aren’t being offered and we feel that wherever we can begin to extend the offer of services that we’re going to be able to improve what happens for all our children and all our young people indeed.”

A representative from Therapy Adventures is visiting Belize this week to tour the sites and discuss with all relevant parties the next steps to ensure that the much-needed services can be offered by early 2022.