In May we brought six of our Sierra Leonean colleagues to the UK for a two week programme of activities thanks to grants from the British Council and Comic Relief.
The first grant was for a Global Community Link Project; the second, a project to explore the practicality of introducing Inclusive Education for visually-impaired children in Sierra Leone. During their time with us, our visitors helped run a series of workshops to promote understanding of life in Africa and what it is like to be a person with disabilities.
Four of our guests were from Vision for the Blind and themselves blind; and for three of our visitors it was their first trip outside of Africa. It was a unique chance for people in Milton Keynes (and our Trustees & Supporters) to meet our partners face to face. We also met with specialists in Inclusive Education.
Some of the workshops were based on a World Café theme, exchanging ideas and views from very different perspectives, and learning through food tasting, music and other informative and fun activities. The events, which were being designed for people of all ages, have helped improve our understanding of life in the Developing World, with a particular focus on the additional difficulties people face if they are blind or partially sighted. It also highlight some of the positive practical things people in the UK can do to lift people out of poverty and help meet the Millennium Development Goals.
The 'World Cafés' were held with local schools and youth groups, and there was a Public World Café event (on 25th May) which was open to all. A number of our volunteers were involved in putting together the successful application and helping organise the visit. The pictures show our group meeting to prepare for the visit.
We had a very informative session in March with a Specialist Trainer from Bucks Vision (top photo), who described how different types of white stick are used and demonstrated a whole host of practical ways that we can help our blind colleagues during their visit.
We have also had support from Loughton Manor School’s Teaching Assistant (3rd photo), who explained at a meeting in Feburary some of the ways that local schools are helping children who are blind or visually impaired. The coloured Lego-like bricks are for learning Braille. This is the kind of equipment that we would dearly love to provide for blind schools in Sierra Leone. Currently they have so little.
After the main programme of events had been successfully completed, we were delighted to have been able to organise for Jonathan Conteh (Director of Vision for the Blind) to meet with David Blunkett MP at Westminster; and also for Jonathan to record an interview with Peter White for BBC Radio 4's programme 'In Touch' (to be broadcast on Tue 21 June 2011). And both David Blunkett and Peter White agreed to appear on Jonathan's own weekly 'In Touch' programme that he runs on Star Radio in Freetown.