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Report Summaries: Disability

Project B129: 'Education & Skills Training for the Blind in Sierra Leone'

Context: Powerful Information has been working with Vision for the Blind in Sierra Leone, West Africa since VFB was established in 2003. VFB organises schooling for blind children and provides advice, education and vocational skills training for blind men and women so that they can support themselves and their families without having to beg. VFB is also involved in advocacy work to change public attitudes to disability and is fighting to sensitise the public to the plight of people with disabilities and protect their basic human rights. It has offices in Freetown and Makeni.

Scope of the Report: This report covers the second year of a two year project which has provided education and skills training for blind people in Makeni. It explains how the money allocated for the programme (£20,792 over two years) has been spent, what has been achieved and how many people have benefitted. And as a key part of the work was concerned with local capacity-building, we have also included a short section on three other initiatives with VFB that were generated in part as a result of this project (see below).

Beneficiaries: The main beneficiaries of the programme are men and women in Makeni who are blind or visually impaired, most of whom previously survived by begging.

Achievements: During the course of the project VFB enrolled 89 blind men and women and organised training in soap-making, tying gara cloth for dyeing, basket making and other handicrafts. (29 trained in the second year.) The trainings typically took six months. VFB also commissioned start-up kits for trainees to enable them to support themselves and their families. Overall, 57 trainees graduated (64%), more than half were women. In addition, 18 attended classes in non-formal basic education and learned basic Braille; and 12 were coached in advocacy work and took part in 12 local radio discussions. We also devised and initiated an intensive programme of coaching for VFB staff and volunteers in Freetown and Makeni and commissioned an independent company to prepare accounts for VFB for the last three years.

Other Developments: Capacity-building was a key part of the project, and whilst none of the four proposal written as part of the coaching were successful, three others were. These were written jointly with PI and involved: providing two computers, two Perkins Braillers and a Braille embosser; carrying out research into the incidence of disability in children in 300 villages; and a two week visit to the UK for six people from VFB (including 4 who are blind) to meet with a host of specialists in Inclusive Education and attend three World Café events. We also arranged for VFB’s Director, Jonathan Conteh, to meet with David Blunkett MP and do an interview with Peter White on ‘In Touch’ (Radio 4). A number of these events were captured on a short film (available on the PI Facebook Page). Last but not least we are pleased to announce that Jonathan Conteh has been appointed onto the President’s Commission on ICT where he will be able to continue his advocacy work for people with disabilities.

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