Mon | Sep 23, 2019

Baby Oprah Foundation assists children living with Down’s syndrome

Published:Saturday | August 17, 2019 | 12:15 AMOlivia Brown/Gleaner Writer
Oprah Bennett
Oprah Bennett

The Baby Oprah Foundation, a registered charity programme operating out of New Paisley in Clarendon, has been assisting children with Down’s syndrome across the parish for the last 14 years.

The foundation, named in honour of Oprah Althea Bennett, a 16-year-old girl born with Down syndrome, is spearheaded by director Karen Samuels, attorney-at-law, and Oprah’s sister.

Norma Simmonds, founder of the organisation and mother of Bennett, said the Baby Oprah Foundation was initiated through her personal experiences, following the birth of her own child being born with a disability.

“When she was born, I was a bit worried, but I said, there is stuff I can do for this baby, it’s not what the doctors say. It makes me want to help other children because some children don’t have the opportunities she has,” she said. Simmonds noted that medical experts had advised that her daughter would never be able to walk or speak, but said she was adamant to prove otherwise, hence she started developmental teaching activities with Oprah, incorporating simple exercises and the use of educational toys.

The family said being disabled does not mean different as they have allowed for Baby Oprah to live a normal life. Samuels, charged with duties of director and big sister, said, “Oprah cannot speak fluently, she can’t read or write, but we still send her to school, we never give up. We’re planning on teaching her how to cook. Oprah think she’s normal so we don’t let her feel any less. She has a lot of self-confidence because we instil stuff like that in her.”

The foundation has facilitated donations to the Windsor School of Special Education in May Pen, Clarendon, the foundation’s main recipient, the May Pen Hospital, the May Pen Infirmary, the School for the Deaf located in Woodside, Clarendon, and other persons across the parish. Samuels noted that the foundation has plans of accommodating donations outside the parish with the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre, St Andrew, as their next target.

BENEFIT CONCERT

Samuels said the foundation is funded mainly by proceeds from benefit concerts and gifts from kind donors. The foundation hosts its annual benefit concert, May Pen Halle-Lu, a usually sold-out event which saw its last staging on July 6. The Baby Oprah team added that donations are not limited to monetary gifts, but they have received and welcome donations of school and medical supplies. Samuels said Prime Minister Andrew Holness is also a donor to the foundation.

While the team admits that they have seen several accomplishments and have facilitated many ventures over the last 14years, they say that funding is a challenge. Simmonds said, “We do a lot, but we need help. We would be very grateful for any assistance.” The Baby Oprah team says members of the public are invited to visit their website at babyoprahfoundation.org to see excerpts of their work and contributions. Samuels added that the page is equipped with a Go Fund Me button that allows the public to donate directly to the foundation. She said the foundation is also receptive to donations of food and clothing items.

Contacts can be made to the Baby Oprah Foundation by­ emailing babyoprahfoundation@gmail.com or by calling the foundation’s director, Karen Samuels at 876- -321-6717.