The Lady Hochoy Vocational Centre will celebrate its 25th anniversary on Friday, October 4.
As the student population increased at the Lady Hochoy Special School, Harding Drive, Cocorite, space for vocational training had become inadequate.
Located just a block away, on land leased by government, the construction of the Vocational Centre commenced. The building was completed in 1994 and the vocational department transferred to its new location at Dunlop Drive, Cocorite. Today, the Vocational Centre has a total enrolment of 80 (male and female) trainees and caters to intellectually challenged young adults from 16 years of age. It has been managed since its inception by Sr Margarita Chan O Carm together with her loyal staff.
Training is provided in the major vocational areas that are within the capabilities of the student body: woodwork, art, handicraft, sewing, home economics, computer literacy, self-help and life skills.
Within the last ten years, the production of bottled peanuts was introduced. Carrying distinctive labels, the ‘Lady Hochoy Vocational Centre Tasty Nuts’ and ‘Spicy Nuts’ brands are now available at several supermarkets.
Recently, a couple small trial shipments were exported to Barbados. This peanut project has been quite successful. However, due to the present economic situation, overall production and sales have decreased immensely.
In the art department, wooden, hand-painted craft items are produced and available for sale, while in the woodwork programme—constructing as well as the repairing of many wooden items including chairs, tables, and footstools is done.
In keeping with today’s awareness of the environment, trainees collect, sort, wash, and package glass bottles which are delivered to a glass manufacturer to be recycled.
A gym room, complete with the relevant equipment has recently been built and physical education/fitness is now included as a regular class.
Socially, they participate in concerts, singing and dancing and are active in sports as well as partaking in the Special Olympics.
Some of our capable trainees are quite efficient in jobs that match their ability and have been successful in obtaining employment. An appeal is made to corporate T&T to assist by employing those with the ability, thereby helping them in becoming more self-sufficient, as well as raising their self-esteem. Unfortunately some, due to the measure of their disability will always remain with us.
The Centre continues to promote the spiritual, physical, intellectual, emotional and social development of the trainees to achieve their full potential for inclusion and integration into society.
Over the 25 years, we have grown and expanded our programmes to facilitate the mentally challenged young adults in our community which covers Port of Spain and the East-West Corridor, thanks to the assistance of our many benefactors and the financial support by Government.
Currently, and for the past two years, there have been drastic financial cuts by Government, along with seemingly insecure funding, while operating and maintaining the Centre is now more financially demanding.
Much to our regret, should this situation continue, we may have no choice but to close this facility.