By Jasminee Sahoye
Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor, David Onley has shown a keen interest in helping to improve and rehabilitate the aged structure and technology of the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre in Jamaica, the primary rehabilitation centre for Jamaican and the English speaking Caribbean.
During a visit to the island last year to speak at the Inaugural Disability Friendly Awards gala, organized by the Jamaican Council for Persons with Disabilities, Onley visited the centre and was surprised with the outdated facilities which are still being used.
Sir John Golding arrived in Jamaica from England just ahead of the polio outbreak of 1954. An orthopaedic specialist, he set up a treatment centre for the victims and when the numbers swelled he decided to stay.
“It was obvious to me and my colleagues that they really need help to bridge the gap between needs and resources. So I came back to Ontario… it seemed to be just a matter of linking up the right people here in Ontario who have the capabilities with those who are in need. So an ad hoc group was formed,” the lieutenant governor said. The group comprised medical specialists, accessibility advocates, academics and building professionals.
“…Each and everyone of them said how can we be involved, what can be do to help what can we done to make this happen?” Only said.
The Lt Governor returned to Jamaica last month and while there he met with representatives from the University of the West Indies and the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre, including Mrs. Golding and children.
“In a three-day intensive review process, we considered all the possibilities of making repairs to existing structures or constructing new facilities, considering accessible playgrounds and most importantly, I would suggest introducing modern technology, modern technology for prosthetic devices, artificial limbs, orthopedic shoes…,” the lieutenant governor said.
Since Onley’s return to Canada, another important aspect of the project evolved, a memorandum of understanding between the University of the West Indies and the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre and the Jamaican government has been signed, which will link the centre with the university.
“Soon UWI will be organizing an event here in Toronto that will announce the details on how the Golding centre could be frankly brought into the 21st century,” he said at the fourth annual UWI Benefit gala in Toronto recently.
“We have to make sure that the staff and personnel are brought up to speed on the equipment, on the new technologies but most importantly, the whole process of rehabilitation to integrate them back within the culture. It’s just not enough to simply give them equipment.”
The project has caught the attention of Prince Michael of Kent, patron for the commission for global road safety and construction expert and TV show host Holmes on Home, Mike Holmes. They have both expressed delight with the effort to bring about change to the centre.
Jamaica has the highest number of medals in international paraplegic sports per capita in the world. All the athletes that represent the Jamaican team train at the SJGRC. The vast majority of them are past patients of the Centre and use sport as a critical path to recovery. Until 1980, the Jamaican athletes with the most medals and world records were disabled.