Robbed blind

Robbed blind

Trade centre for the visually impaired raided, ransacked

Associate editor

Monday, January 11, 2021

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DIRECTOR of Creative Craft Plus trade centre in downtown Kingston, Paul Wilson, is distressed that, even as the self-help facility struggles to stay open, it was invaded and ransacked by burglars early Saturday morning.

“They made off with the last three days' sales and turned over everything,” Wilson told the Jamaica Observer on Saturday.

The 92 Hanover Street location in downtown Kingston specialises in chair caning, as well as wicker furniture making and repair — tasks carried out by the blind and visually impaired.

“This is a big lick so early in the year, when last year was really not so good,” said the director. “We left here around three o'clock yesterday [Friday] afternoon and everything was okay.”

He expressed heartbreak that people could choose to further dispossess the programme, which is fighting to continue to help society's vulnerable.

“They came searching. They pull out drawers, files, everything to dig up the place.”

Started in 2000, funding was supplied through Jamaica Social Investment Fund and the then HEART Trust/NTA. However, these sources have ceased financial support of the venture, so it struggles to stay open.

“You know how it is, some 95 per cent of blind people cannot find a job. So we use this to give them a skill that is [portable] and they can take it with them to help provide for themselves and their families,” said Wilson.

He said that, over the years, they have trained many blind and visually impaired individuals who have gone on to support themselves as entrepreneurs or work in the larger Jamaica Society for the Blind programme, which also includes Batik craft. However, the offerings have had to be scaled back.

“We no longer run a full-time training programme, because we don't have the funds, so what we do now is that whenever jobs come in we bring in somebody who is already trained and an apprentice to learn alongside...” said Wilson.

He told the Observer that they depend heavily on kind customers who know about their service to come in with jobs so that the programme can earn.

“There is no big set-up, so we depend on the little jobs that come in, and want other people to know what we do here so that it can continue and even grow,” the visually impaired man said.

The location also houses a feeding and self-help project organised by Errington Pellington, which offers meals to 25 people monthly. That project also fixes and lends wheelchairs to those in need. Its room was also plundered; however, the exact list of items stolen was not available when the Observer visited.

“The last feeding was December 18, and several care packages were handed out during the corona [lockdown],” Wilson said.

Among the items identified as being taken are an amplifier and speaker boxes stored in the building.

With the cash box now left bare by robbers, Wilson hopes that a job or two will come in soon so that the programme will not be forced to wind up.

“We have the skills to work, so we can try to keep going. So many people depend on what we do here to survive and the thieves have really set us back,” he lamented.

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