Georgetown, Guyana – (April 28, 2019) First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Granger, this morning, joined the Step by Step Foundation and Republic Bank (Guyana) Limited, in their annual ‘Light it up Blue’ Autism Awareness Walk 2019.

The activity aims to spread information about this condition and to raise funds for the Step by Step Foundation’s Autism programmes.

Mrs. Granger, who is also a patron of the Foundation said it is necessary to increase the element of encouragement when caring for children with special needs.

“You have to accept that people are different and really enjoy the difference because a lot of my joy out of life comes from seeing how different people are and how differently they respond to different stimuli,” she said.

Mrs. Granger, commended the collaboration among the Foundation, Republic Bank and the Ministry of Education even as she encouraged all of the stakeholders to extend their collaboration to include the Ministry of Social Protection, the Department of Youth and the Ministry of Communities to foster a nationwide campaign to tackle this condition across the country.

“We have to start thinking big and getting out there and bring other persons on board so that you can expand so that all of our citizens, wherever they might be can benefit from the kind of services that the step by step foundation has to offer,” the First Lady said.

Meanwhile, Chairperson of Step by Step Foundation’s Executive Committee, Dr. Suraiya Ismail, said the organisation has received tremendous support from sponsors and donors. The Foundation’s goal, this year, is to see the establishment of a range of skills in Guyana so that it can function more independently and not rely totally on expertise from abroad, she said. The Ministry of Education’s commitment to aid in the construction of a larger school building will greatly influence that goal, she added.

Additionally, Dr. Ismail, believes that autism awareness has improved significantly in Guyana since the start of the Autism Awareness Walk. She also noted that the Foundation intends to take the initiative across the country so that all Guyanese become familiar with autism.

Moreover, she believes children who have mild autism ought to be placed into schools within the Government’s education system rather than special needs schools.

“Children with mild autism can be educated in regular mainstream schools and there are many such children who are often wrongly classified as slow learners or [those with] behavioural problems. So, a further aspect of our collaboration with the Ministry of Education is a project addressing the needs of these children with mild autism introducing them into regular schools,” Dr. Ismail said.

Meanwhile, Managing Director of Republic Bank (Guyana) Limited, Mr. Richard Sammy, applauded the work of the Step by Step Foundation and expressed the Bank’s intent to strengthen the partnership with the aim of generating greater awareness and deeper appreciation and respect for persons living with autism.

He called on participants to continue raising awareness about autism while encouraging stakeholders to continue contributing financially to the Step by Step Foundation so that its 2019 goal of raising $1M can be met. Thus far, the Foundation has raised $860,000.

At the conclusion of the walk, participants were presented with prizes and enjoyed a Zumba session to complete the day’s activity.

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