The Derrick Smith School and Vocational Centre
A social entrepreneur is an individual with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change.
Rather than leaving societal needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to move in different directions.
“The highest use of capital is not to make more money but to make money to do more for the betterment of life” – Henry Ford.
The Derrick Smith School and Vocational Centre, a state-of-the-art school for adolescents and adults with special needs is an outstanding example of Social Entrepreneurship by Mr. Derrick Smith.
Mr. Smith was inspired to donate this school by his 12-year-old grandson, Ryan, who suffered from Acute Encephalitis 9 years ago, resulting in permanent brain damage. Ryan benefited from special education schools and facilities in England and Australia, attesting to the difference that state-of-the-art facilities catering to children with special needs can make.
“I have delighted in watching Ryan grow and develop in a nurtured environment that has meant he can now enjoy his limited world, can ride a bicycle, care for his own animals and work towards some form of independence,” Smith said.
Inspired by the model of Derwen College in Shropshire, England, trustee Mrs. Phillipa Challis stated that the goal of the school is to teach independence and life skills in keeping with the global movement towards full integration of physically and intellectually disabled persons in the workforce.
Phillipa Challis, a Trustee of The Sandy Lane Charitable Trust stated:
“The objective of this project – a secondary and a tertiary college for young people is to provide a quality, state of the art vocational centre that prepares young persons to develop functional life skills that help them to navigate an increasingly complex social world.
Learners from age eleven to sixteen years will be enrolled in the school section and will receive educational instruction in functional academics… this is learning those maths skills we take for granted – counting money and change or measuring for a recipe, language arts – writing a letter or a note or shopping list.
A crucial part of this process is learning adaptive living skills – learning about social behavior, how to dress, personal hygiene and health and safety. Included is a huge “home” studio – a place to learn how to make a bed, how to do the laundry, and how to maintain a clean environment – equip them with the skills to live as independently as possible.
In addition the children will complete these and creative arts, games, computers and social skills in the morning and will gain experience in the vocational training skill areas in the afternoon.
The young adults aged eighteen and up will be enrolled in one of four training areas where they engage in skill training in the mornings and then will receive educational instruction, life skills, games, computers etc. in the afternoons.
The four skills are:
WOODWORK – which includes not only the basic woodwork and carpentry skills but teaches creative thinking, imagination, sorting, comparing/measuring, textures and properties, respect for health and safety.
SEWING & CRAFT – developing their basic needlecraft skills and the use of mechanical sewing machines. They will also learn about textiles, measuring and pattern design. The Craft Unit will have a separate room that will accommodate ceramic and pottery making and screen-printing. These areas will develop skills and will also produce items that will be sold in the Retail Outlet.
AGRICULTURE & LANDSCAPING – this area will introduce students and trainees to crop development and basic agricultural science and gardening and landscaping. Trainees will be supported to grow specific crops and plants to sell in the retail outlet and will be trained in the use of equipment and machinery to maintain the gardens and landscapes of the property. Trainees will be expected to learn a skill in this area that they can apply to grow goods that can support them and their families and also prepare them for employment in the gardening and landscaping industry.
HOSPITALITY & HOME ECONOMICS – students and trainees will be required to complete a specified number of practical assessments in the following areas. Work place hygiene procedures; health, safety and security procedures, cleaning and maintaining the kitchen premises; basic methods of cookery, food preparation; safe food handling practices, preparing menus, table settings, and customer service. These skills will prepare trainees for employment in the hospitality industry and provide critical independent living skills.
At the entrance to the facility there will be a large retail outlet – a department which provides practical training in a wide variety of retail work in a vocational setting, from deliveries, merchandising and display to money handling and customer service.
The school as an “all in one facility” whose size, facilities and high level of organization make it unique. Currently being constructed on four and a half acres of land at Lears, St.Michael, the 60 000 square foot facility will house specialized areas for classes, workshops and other activities. The school will feature five main buildings, the auditorium, lifestyle centre, classrooms, workshops and retail shop.
For recreational purposes a playground, pavilion, football and Astroturf will also be constructed at the site.”
This multi-million gift is an exceptional use of wealth to help others in need. Without this level of generosity a school of this quality and vision would not exist in Barbados.
“Life’s persistent and most urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King Jr.
Mr.Derrick Smith has answered that question emphatically.
We all owe him our thanks.