The Spiritual Journey
June 26, 2024
Stillness in movement
June 26, 2024

Bingo fundraiser for Bethesda

Bethesda for persons with disabilities (PwDs) is hosting Bingo for a Cause 2 June 30 at Centenary Hall, St Mary’s College Port of Spain. It is the main fundraiser for the third annual Bethesda camp in August because the registration fee is only a small part of the costs associated to host this event.

The camp dates this year are: August 5-9 for children with disabilities and August 12-16 for adults with disabilities. The closing ceremony will be on August 17 and Holy Mass on August 18.  Campers will be provided with meals and will participate in activities with specialised resources to ensure a safe, secure and sensory-friendly environment suited to their needs.

Registration for the children’s and adult camps is $600 per week per camper. Registration for the parent’s camp is $125 daily.

During the two weeks of the camp, there will be enhanced respite activities for parents and caregivers, including  manicures, pedicures, massages, and, on selected days, hairdressing, makeup tutorials and perfume sensory sessions. Group therapy and individual counselling will also be available. These enhanced respite activities are made possible with the support of the Catholic Bible Institute.

“Each day will start with group counselling/therapy then lunch followed by the self-care activities. There will also be beds if parents want an opportunity to rest,” said Bethesda founder and coordinator Saira La Foucade. She explained: “The Eternal Light Community has been very supportive of Bethesda from our inception with the Catholic Bible Institute as our registered mailing address once we became a registered non-governmental organisation. They are also allowing us to use their Etta’s House from September for a daily respite centre, our camp will serve as the launch of Etta’s House.”

At the inaugural camp, there was one week of activities for children and one for adults. Thirty-five children with disabilities and 10 adults participated. Due to low registration numbers, there was no adult camp last year, but 50 children attended.

“Registration for the children’s camp closed within one week both years as the quota was achieved almost immediately, we had to turn away children both years,” La Foucade said. The ratio of attendees in 2023 was 30 boys to 20 girls. La Foucade noted an increased number of student volunteers from Presentation College, Chaguanas, which facilitated smoother transitions between activities and allowed for greater support for male campers. Additional activities were included because there was more time. La Foucade said, “There are more boys diagnosed with autism than girls as a general rule of thumb and having the male student volunteers helped us have more male volunteers to male campers.”

She continued, “Our inaugural camp hosted both an adult and children’s separate weeks however we had a very low turnout of adults to the camp. Since then, however, we have noted greater adult participation in our other activities. As such this year we will host another week specifically for adults with disabilities.”


A call for talent and time

To ensure the camp’s success, support is needed in the following categories: 12 special education teachers, 2 sign language interpreters, 10 dedicated beauticians, 2 hairdressers and 2 massage therapists. The camp also looks forward to dedicated ground staff from Holy Faith Convent, Couva for support in setting up, building ramps and cleanup activities. A range of PwDs participated in the camp last year including those with Cerebral Palsy, Down  Syndrome, Autism (Moderate to Severe), Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Global Developmental Delay, Deaf and Hearing Impaired and those with combined disabilities inclusive of wheelchair usage and Fragile X syndrome.

La Foucade said evaluations of the camps found them enjoyable and that “responsibilities were not seen as work but fun activities”. It was a learning experience for everyone, including the teachers who, although experienced in special education, did not have prior opportunities to interact in one place with many persons with different disabilities.

“The most important aspect was that our children with disabilities were simply a child first with their disabilities not defining their individuality. There is a need for more opportunities for socialisation and inclusion of PwDs,” La Foucade said.

More information on Bethesda can be found on Facebook (BethesdaTT) or Instagram at (Bethesda4PwDs). Additional information can also be obtained by emailing: or writing Bethesda c/o Catholic Bible Institute Knaggs Street, Frederick Settlement, Caroni. Donations can be made at RBC 11000 000 447 9306.