The Catherine Variety Sheridan Award, established in 1982, is presented to a person in recognition of his or her philanthropic achievements, primarily with underprivileged and disabled children. The specialization of the winner is helping and giving love and support to these needy children and asking nothing in return. The award is named after Catherine Variety Sheridan.
Variety – the Children’s Charity is proud and honored to present the 2014 Catherine Variety Sheridan Award to Senator Kerry-Ann F. Ilfill for her philanthropic achievements primarily with underprivileged and disabled children.
Senator Kerry-Ann F. Ifill was born December 20th 1973. She lost her sight at the tender age of four but this only served to boost her drive and ambition. Kerry-Ann started school for the blind at age 6 but went on to join the mainstream schools from eleven years old. She was the first blind student to attend the prestigious Combermere School, overcoming many physical challenges while she was there.
Kerry-Ann was the first blind person to graduate from the University of the West Indies, earning herself a degree in Sociology and Psychology with Second Class Honours. She went on to obtain an MBA at Durham Business School, in England.
In 2008, Barbadian Prime Minister David Thompson appointed her to the Senate, then to the position of Deputy President of the Senate. On 14 March 2012, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart announced her appointment as President of the Senate. There she continued her trend at being first, as she was the first woman to hold that position, the first person with a disability, as well as the youngest ever, at the age of 38 to hold that position.
Of her appointment to the Senate, and the effect on the community of persons with disabilities, Senator Kerry-Ann says, “I think my appointment has opened up a whole new line of thinking that life is not as insurmountable as it may seem; that strides can be made and people should feel inspired to press on with their goals”.
Senator Ifill is also President of the Barbados Council for the Disabled using that office along with her determination and dedication to excellence, to promote issues such as the Ratification of the Convention of the Rights for Persons with Disabilities; employment opportunities for the disabled; and fully accessible public spaces for persons with mobility challenges.
Along with her political role, Senator Kerry-Ann also wears the hat of Sunday School Superintendent at the Church of the Resurrection where her love of children manifests itself in her love of teaching them about God. She herself was a regular Sunday School student at St. Michael’s Cathedral, Bridgetown and even after she lost her sight, continued performing admirably at Sunday School plays and recitals.
Senator Kerry-Ann Ifill maintains a pragmatic approach to life with a disability stating, “I look at life this way – you do what you are supposed to do and you do it the best way you can. If you happen to be blind, well, just find a way to do it. With being blind, I do not waste time complaining over my being blind… Blindness is a part of me.”
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