$73M Learning Lab officially opens

History was made on Tuesday, June 20, 2023, when Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Honorable Dr. Vindhya Persaud commissioned the $73 million ‘Learning Lab’ in Mahaica.

This is the first center of this nature in Guyana, dedicated to the development and empowerment of persons living with disabilities.

While under construction, the Ministry has received suggestions, recommendations, and feedback from various disability organisations across Guyana. It features three training halls and a state-of-the-art kitchen.

At the simple but significant opening, Minister Persaud related, “This institution has been a well thought out one where much was put into the design, its equipping and placement. This is keeping with the Government’s vision of working along with persons living with disabilities not only to provide facilities and amenities, but also work towards the attainment of various sustainable development goals…It is the intention of the government of Guyana, directly through the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security to expand those safety nets, to continue to see and increase the allocations to persons living with disabilities and in the last two years, for the first time, there were direct allocations for persons living with disabilities. Over $100 million had been allotted annually and over that time, much of that was directed towards training of persons living with disabilities.”

Minister Persaud opens learning lab

Minister Persaud added, “This is the kind of advanced work we are doing in Guyana, ensuring there is equal opportunity, equal access, and the kind of development that can stand on good stead for the years to come. At the learning lab, we focus on technical and vocational skills with the strategic direction of having persons who leave the learning lab with skills so that they can gain financial independence. It is also a center that focuses on empowerment, life skills and provides a safe space for recreation and meetings…We want this to be a space that is always happy, a space that is giving, a space that brings out the best in everyone, it’s the trainers or the persons who will be the beneficiaries of the learning lab.”

While through the Spotlight Initiative, $5 million worth of furniture was donated to the center, United Nations Resident Coordinator, Yesim Oruc highlighted how this initiative advanced Guyana’s push relating to the Sustainable Development Goals.

The learning lab

She said, “This programme has allowed us to partner with you today as part of the broader partnership with the European Union…Some of what I see here are the distinguishing features of the Guyana Spotlight implementation…I commend this initiative to make human rights, especially Guyana’s obligations to various international conventions on disabilities and its local laws to ensure that all the articles of these conventions are tangible.”

Programme Coordinator for the Guyana Society for the Blind, Ganesh Singh shared his thoughts on this move and said, “What we are seeing now is transformative and this building, from what I experienced will have a significant impact on the lives of people living with disabilities, there is now space, not just for training but recreational purposes where persons can develop and learn living skills and I must congratulate the Minister of Human Services and Social Security, the Honorable Dr. Vindhya Persaud for her vision for persons with disabilities. As we have seen since she assumed the portfolio, a lot of what is in the Guyana Persons with Disabilities Act 2010 as it relates to social services portfolio would have been implemented.”

Sabane McIntosh of the Deaf Association of Guyana reasoned, “It is a beautiful building, very clean, we were given a guided tour and access for the blind, deaf, and wheelchair users is everywhere.”

Holly-Anne Maksyhung, a wheelchair user opined, “I think it’s something that was needed for the disability community, and with the training that is expected to take place here it is definitely going to advance the cause and improve the lives of persons living with disabilities it is going to open doors and opportunities for us to pursue or entrepreneurial endeavors, learn a trade, be independent and contribute to the development of our community and ourselves.”