You probably know all about 15 year-old Rowan Garel, the blind young man who’s taken on great challenges to raise money for the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired. He’s climbed Victoria Peak, walked across Belize, and dove the Blue Hole.
But, while Rowan is the model of living with disabilities, he is not the norm. Children all across the world struggle with their disabilities on a daily basis, and that struggle was the main focus of the launch of the UNICEF’s 2013 reports.
They’re called the State of the World’s Children: Children With Disabilities, and the Situation Analysis of Children With Special Needs and Disabilities. Today, all the outreach organizations gathered at the Radisson Fort George Hotel for the launching where they shared their perspective on how well Belize is performing to improve the lives of children living with disabilities.
Here’s an excerpt of what the speakers presented to their colleagues and peers:
Eloida Bautista - Special Olympics Belize
"Today is indeed a great pleasure for me to stand here among friends and colleagues who have championed the rights of children with disabilities. It is also a memorable occasion to know that all organizations such as Care Belize, NCFC, Special Olympics Belize, NARC, Paps Now, Office of the Special Envoy have joined forces to build awareness and work arduously for children with disabilities. We welcome you to join us in our work without children and add aspects of their well-being and focusing on their abilities."
Kim Simplis Barrow - Special Envoy for Women and Children
"Children with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable groups and ironically they are one of the groups in our society that we have the least evident base information about. The situation analysis on Visual Impaired and blind children in Belize is certainly a significant contribution to the body of knowledge of children with disabilities in our country."
Evan Cowo - Representative, CARE Belize
"In terms of legislation, even thought the report quotes international rights movement and says that Belize does not have legal protection for persons with disabilities - we do have mechanisms in place by NCFC - the National Resource Center for Inclusive Education that cover the issues and protection of persons with disabilities."
Joan Musa - Executive Director, BCVI
"BCVI's main strategies include - age appropriate and accessible care. Today we have over 1,200 people on our blind register and as resources are limited, children are given priority to either prevent their vision lost or to help them to cope with it as they will experience many more years with living with their blindness. We have many more adults who are actually blind but I'd like to emphasize that a child that is born blind is going to live with that blindness throughout their years and there are certain skills that they will have to learn to overcome it."
Ivan Yerovi - UNICEF, Representative
"We at UNICEF are working closely with the government and the NGO's to help develop programs and policies that give children with disabilities the opportunity to live dignified and fulfilling lives. These children, their rights to live a fulfilling lives deserve more national and global attention because our children here in Belize and around the world have a right to be safe and secure, healthy and protected, educated and able to pursue their dreams."
Rowan Garel - Ambassador for Sight
"Being blind might be seen as an obstacle for some but for me and my fellow blind children, adults and people in general it is a way of life and like it or not that is how it is. If you sit there and complain about things that are beyond your control, you will not get far in life - that is what I stand by."
“See Ability in Disability” was the theme of today’s launch.