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Interview with UNICEFsxm

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

"Children with disabilities have the right, as all other children, to express their opinion and wants," states Eridania Millers, a group leader at the Sister Basilia Center.

Eridania works with some of the centre’s younger clients, sharing that communication is always possible: "you just have to listen a bit differently at times."

Read more about Eridiania's work and the Sister Basilia Center below.

Photo: UNICEFsxm "Growing up safe on SXM"

“We all want to be treated with respect and dignity. For persons with disabilities, this is no different,” states Mimi Hodge, who is the department head at the Sister Basilia Center (SBC). The SBC, founded in August 1984, is a department within the White and Yellow Cross Care Foundation. The department provides a Day Activity Center, Night Care and Guided Living, which caters to those with cognitive disabilities. The vision of the SBC is that “every individual with a disability should be treated with dignity and equality and should be given the opportunity to develop to their full potential.” To reach this goal, the SBC has a full team with group leaders, doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, speech therapists, and physical therapists. Mimi: “The group leaders are integral to the work that we do. They spend the most time with our clients and help keep them on track.” Eridania Millers is one of those group leaders. She works with some of the centre’s younger clients. “I hope that our community becomes more accepting of people with disabilities. This also means learning how to include them in our society more actively”. Of its 70 clients, the SBC caters to 36 children, with the youngest being four years old.

What are some of the children’s rights that the SBC upholds?

Eridania: “A safe environment, education, protection from violence, freedom of expression, right to privacy, social inclusion, and the list goes on!”

Can you describe some of the children that you work with?

Eridania: “In my group, I have seven clients between 14 and 21 years old with a range of cognitive impairments, including Autism, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Wiedemann-Steiner Syndrome. For example, our client with cerebral palsy is wheelchair-bound and cannot move physically. However, you can see that she actively participates with her eyes. Others can't speak but have their unique way of communicating. It is all about creating a bond and working on skills together.”

What kind of skills do you teach the children in your group?

Eridania: “Our Daily Activity Center runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. We have a wide range of skills that we teach, all planned according to each individual’s ‘care plan’ and personal goals. We want them to be as independent as possible and teach life skills such as cooking, washing, folding, self-help and also academic, exercise, sensory, and communication skills.”

Are all children allowed access to your services at the SBC?

Mimi: “The SBC is a facility for children with (severe) cognitive impairments. We have a testing process that our clients go through to see if they ‘fit’ in with us. There are also children with disabilities that fit into a special education setting, such as at the Prins Willem Alexander or Excellence Learning Academy. Or there are also children with disabilities that can attend regular school. The latter can be difficult due to a lack of policies within schools to help include children with disabilities. There are also children that ‘fall through the cracks’ either because they don’t have legal paperwork, or their guardians don’t take the needed steps to enroll them.”

“Children with disabilities are more vulnerable, because they can be more easily manipulated”

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