THERE was much optimism expressed by chief executive officer at the Digicel Foundation Charmaine Daniels on Monday as she noted that the organisation will improve its efforts in educational development and helping people with special needs come 2023.
"I think, like fine wine, we age to perfection, and we learn along the way, and we take that learning and we revamp. I have a very dynamic team who is always thinking creatively. I have no doubt that the foundation will outperform what it did this year," she told the Jamaica Observer on Monday following the release of the foundation's annual report 2021-2022, 'Made in Jamaica: 18 years of giving back'.
"We will be focusing again on special needs as always; that is the area of work we do that's closest to our heart. We will be looking at therapy rooms and how we can assist in building/renovating therapy rooms across the island," she said.
Daniels also stressed that there are plans to develop solar projects and five more smart technology rooms in rural schools to bridge the digital divide.
"In terms of our community development and the work we do around our grant, we are looking to target solar projects. We saw what happened with the spike in electricity costs and we know that a lot of our community centres or even our smaller basic schools and primary schools struggle, so that's an area we are looking at targeting our grant next year, just as we help our communities to be more efficient," she said.
In the foundation's annual report Daniels said that the organisation doubled down on its commitment to enable Jamaicans to access digital resources with the launch of two information and communications technology (ICT) labs in rural primary schools, each equipped with the latest technology.
These ICT labs, she said, which are located at Harry Watch Primary in Manchester and Anchovy Primary in St James, are the first of 10 to be constructed by 2025.
"Each lab is connected with Digicel fibre Internet, bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Jamaica so that our students in the most remote communities are connected to opportunity. Our ICT labs are supported by the Ministry of Education and Youth, which provided training to teachers," she said.
Additionally, the foundation partnered with the Amber Group to launch the national Coding in Schools programme to provide a diverse coding curriculum for students in grades one to 13 earlier this year.
"Our focus on digital access was also seen in our micro-grant portfolio, with 16 of the 20 grants benefiting basic and primary schools with a view to creating hybrid learning spaces. The other four were focused on after-school assistance, youth training and skills development in the areas of agriculture, sports and craft. These grants were selected in partnership with the Digicel Jamaica retail team, which had representatives on the ground in various communities to encourage groups to apply," she added.
"While we have made significant investments in education and community development, our special needs work remains at the heart of what we do at the Digicel Jamaica Foundation. We launched our 'Together, We Can Be The Change' campaign in October 2021 to advocate for equality and equity in the workplace for those living with disabilities," she said.
Meanwhile, in the report, Digicel Foundation chair, Jean Lowrie-Chin referred to the funding of St John Bosco Vocational and Training Centre in Manchester as highlight for this year.
"This state-of-the-art facility will offer HEART/NSTA Trust courses, qualifying students to take their place in the working world or to start their own businesses," Lowrie-Chin said in the report.
"As we consider Jamaica's mounting needs, we know that this is no time to rest on our laurels. We will redouble our effort in our quest to help create a world where no one gets left behind," she added.