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2020

June 2020

The impact of COVID-19 continues to be felt in Sierra Leone. Strict quarantine measures are in place for anyone with the infection. This can be especially devastating for people with disabilities, who are often dependent upon others for support.

The Dorothy Springer Trust is working hard, in collaboration with the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL), to combat the pandemic among people with disabilities. We are delighted to report that friends and supporters have raised over £5,500 since the start of the pandemic, to confront this challenge.

As reported in April, DST used the first part of the money raised to produce communications materials with clear messages about safety precautions, focused on people with disabilities. Our signature song, published on 20 April, was launched at an event with the Government of Sierra Leone’s Emergency Operations Centre on 6th May. The song has also been used in a video which explains the messages in more detail. You can watch this below.

Since then, the funding we received has also enabled DST to purchase sanitation and prevention items including 60 buckets, over 450 bars of soap and 60 hand sanitisers. 1,000 face masks were also made in the Freetown Cheshire Home. DST distributed these items to 20 different Disabled Persons Organisations, consisting of over 1,500 disabled people, in the rural and urban areas of Freetown. Since then, the Government has agreed to fund DST to make an additional 1,000 face masks to support the national response.

The final strand of our COVID-19 project is to ensure that any people with disabilities who are affected by COVID-19 receive the support they require. DST is using its connections with a wide network of Disabled Persons Organisations to monitor cases as they occur. Earlier in June one person with disabilities and his family was confirmed as having COVID-19. They were quarantined on 2 June. DST has been swift to respond, providing support, including funds to help with food and other basics. We are pleased to report that the family involved have responded well to treatment.

The COVID-19 project has been covered by major television networks, internet news providers and print media. Our signature song is also receiving airtime on radio stations. This is great news and will help ensure the COVID-19 protection message gets across to people with disabilities.

The generosity of our supporters is making a difference in the lives of people with disabilities in Sierra Leone. DST expresses heartfelt thanks to all those who are making this happen.

 

April 2020

Over the last couple of months, the world has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. For some time Sierra Leone was one of the few countries that escaped a case, and we were hopeful that we could continue with training our ten new recruits, selected on 21 March. Perhaps unsurprisingly, on 31 March the country had it’s first case of COVID-19. As of today (27 April), the country has had 93 cases, and sadly four deaths. Community transmission of the virus has begun. Therefore, DST has taken the difficult decision to postpone the commencement of our training, until such time as it is safe to begin.

However, Dr Abs Dumbuya, our CEO in Sierra Leona, and the DST team have not been idle. People with disabilities are especially disadvantaged, and at particular risk from COVID-19. More often than not they are impoverished, face prejudice and are on the margins of society. Recognising this, DST has quickly stepped up to provide support where he can. His first step was to co-ordinate the distribution of bags of rice to people with disabilities, to ensure they have food during any lockdown. He is now leading on the development of COVID-19 awareness materials that are specific to people with disabilities – for example, if you use crutches to assist walking, you need to wash the crutch handles as well as your hands. A week ago DST published on our Facebook page our new song (CLICK HERE TO HEAR OUR NEW SONG), recently recorded, which tells people with disabilities about the importance of social distancing, handwashing and not touching your face. Abs does a star turn at the end with some very accomplished rapping!


The hard work continues, with plans for more educational materials and the production of face masks. DST will also monitor cases of COVID-19 amongst the disability community, to ensure they receive the necessary support. Your support at this time is highly valued in helping to protect one of the most vulnerable elements of Sierra Leone society. If you want to find out more or support us, please get in touch – more details are on our Get Involved and Contact Us pages.

Rice for distribution

Providing bags of rice

Abs Rapping

Abs Rapping 

 

March 2020 – Preparing for a new course

On 21st March 2020, the Dorothy Springer Trust (DST) conducted interviews of applicants for the Basic Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Level 2 program. It was a marathon event, starting at 7:30am. 16 candidates travelled from across the Sierra Leone to attend – from Bo, Makeni, Moyamba, as well as the capital Freetown. Candidates have a range of different types of disabilities: mobility, visual hearing impairments, kyphosis and amputee.

All this happened in the midst of the growing global threat of COVID-19. DST took all the necessary precautions and carefully followed Government guidelines. It brought back memories of DST delivering training to people with disabilities (PWDs) during the 2015/16 Ebola epidemic.

Ten candidates were successful. They will be given training in hardware and software, with life skills in internet and social media, and employability skills training. This training is completely free of charge, and DST will also provide candidates with funds for the duration to cover expenses such as travel to the training and other necessities. The training is planned to commence in the first week of April.

DST has a proven track recorded of supporting PWDs through training and advocacy for them to gain employment or further their education. Over the past ten years, we have trained 80 people, with 75% now in employment or full-time education. This is a great success rate, in a country where at best only 30% of people with disabilities have any form of income.

It will cost around £250 to train each student. Can you help support this? You can donate easily via our Just Giving account.

Picture of the new DST Opportunities House

March 2020 – DST Opportunities House update

Our Freetown Office DST ‘Opportunities House’ is being put to great use as a base for a community-based rehabilitation project, supporting 115 children with disabilities and their families from across Freetown and surrounding areas. Activities include the provision of health equipment and medication, learning materials, funding and transport to schools. DST are also supporting the delivery of specialist vocational skills and IT training, readying young people with disabilities for the workplace. The rehabilitation project is funded by the Lilliane Foundation, in partnership with the Freetown Cheshire Home and One Family People (OFP). 

2019

2019 Trustee Visit to Sierra Leone


DST Trustee Andrew Brown visited Abs in Sierra Leone over Christmas 2019.  This was a great opportunity to see the new DST Office in Freetown, fully kitted out with equipment ready for training.


 Photo below of ten laptops, ready to be used by new trainees.    And a photo of the new DST offices meeting room:
    

2019: A new chapter in a new building

2019 has been a year of change for the Dorothy Springer Trust.

Earlier this year we made the difficult to decision to move from our office in Pultney Street, at the centre of Freetown, where we have been located for five years.

We celebrate our time at Pultney Street: it was initially a dilapidated building, but after £11,000 of investment, it became a modern model office with state-of-the-art equipment, accessibility and modernity. The office was officially opened in 2014 with great fanfare, and it was from Pultney Street that we began to deliver training directly by DST, rather than relying on an outside training provider. Within three months of opening, 40 members of the local community had been trained. The office has served the disabled community and the public well, through IT training courses, employment creation, advocacy and other services.

Despite this, a significant increase in rent has led to the decision to move to new offices on the East side of the city, co-located with the Freetown Cheshire Home (FCH) and school. DST built the new office, enabled by the generosity of friends at Easthampstead Baptist Church. The office will be used for training, and as the base for the DST Employment Bureau other operations of DST.

There are many benefits to moving:

• Larger offices, giving DST the opportunity to expand operations
• A new building in an excellent state of repair
• Purpose built training facilities
• Located in a part of Freetown which has a high incidence of disability, so it is close to the community DST serves
• A reduction in annual rent

 

The equipment we used at Pultney Street has been transferred to our new offices. This includes the laptops generously donated by the UK company TRL.

 The building has been appropriately named "DST Opportunities House". 

In late November, DST celebrated with a grand opening of the new offices. This was supported by Chief Komrabai Peter Penfold (former British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone), with the unveiling of the plaque by His Excellency Simon Mustard, the current British High Commissioner to Sierra Leone. The cutting of the tape before people went in to inspect the new building was officially done by Rev. Mrs Linda Koroma of Regent Road Baptist Church.
2019C


April 2019 graduation of our DST scholars

In April 2019 we held a special graduation ceremony for fifteen students who completed either the Basic ICT course or the Digital Literacy and Numeracy course. All these students were funded by DST UK.

At the graduation the DST funded students were joined by 15 non-disabled students who have also been trained by DST. Many of these students pay a small fee to receive the training. Any income generated in this way is used to support the operations of DST in Sierra Leone.
Special thanks to the Mayor of Freetown, Her Worship Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr as Keynote Speaker, Ambassador Catherine Campbell, Deputy British High Commissioner, plus others.

Below is a selection of photos from the graduation ceremony, there are more are on our Facebook page:

2019Graduation    2019GraduationB    2019GraduationC

You can see news coverage of the graduation ceremony on Sierra Leone National Television (AYVNEWS) on the following link. It starts 16:06 minutes in, and last for approx. 3 minutes.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSG1xJMxD-k


2019 DST Advocacy Report


Our CEO Dr Abs Dumbuya is on the ground in Sierra Leone, campaigning for the rights of persons with disabilities (PWDs). His efforts in this respect have been nationally recognised, which has led to a wide range of roles. Abs is now Chairman of the Technical Committee on Special Needs Education set up by the Sierra Leone Government’s Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), and Chair of the Finance and Development Committee of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD).

He has also chaired the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), and the National Disability Election Network, working for equitable representation of disabled people in the Parliament.

On behalf of Freetown City Council, DST led a consortium of disabled organisations in successfully bidding for European Union funding to train teachers to provide vocational training for persons with disabilities in schools.
On 5 December 2019 Abs reported: “My International Day for Persons with Disability (IDPD) celebrations were with two slum communities in Thompson Bay and Dwazark, both in Freetown; sharing stories and sensitising community stakeholders on ensuring persons with disabilities have equal access to education, healthcare services, mobility, etc. I celebrated with a team of researchers from the Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC), Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDURP) and University College London (UCL) on a DfID funded project on Assistive Technologies 2030 (AT2030).


Sierra Leone has so many PWDs with hidden talents and it is great to make new friends and also provide opportunities to them for training at the Dorothy Springer Trust in 2020. See front-page articles of our celebration of IDPD 2019 with a theme: "The future is Accessible". I hope this becomes a reality for many PWDs in these settlements!”

     Abs on a Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation (SLBC) news programme, discussing funding for schools for children with special need (Feb 2019)
 2019H     
 

2018

In April seven students with disabilities were recruited to our three-month Basic ICT course. The training is designed for people with no previous experience with computers, and teaching essential computer skills required for the workplace, including keyboard and mouse skills, Microsoft Office packages (Word, Excel, etc).

Many of our students will face significant challenges attending our training. In order to ensure they obtain the most benefit, we also provide a contribution towards living and transport costs, for the duration of the course.

In total, DST has trained up to 80 students since we commenced operations in 2010 in Sierra Leone. Around 75% of our beneficiaries have gone on to acquire good jobs, supporting themselves and their families and contributing to national development through the payment of government taxes.

Photo from Basic ICT training being delivered, 10 May 2018 8 July 2018 – students who completed the Basic ICT training, with Dr Abs Dumbuya, CEO of the Dorothy Springer Trust Training is delivered at our Pultney Street offices, in the centre of Freetown

2018 – Results from the empowering disabled women programme

It’s good to follow the progress of our trainees. With support from British High Commission, in 2015 DST delivered pioneering IT training for women with disabilities, to empower them in their lives ahead. Our aim was to give them opportunities in employment and further education. We are delighted to report that out of seven women trained in 2015, by the end of 2018 six are working, and the seventh is now in her final year at University.

July 2018 – Your generosity is overflowing

DST has been distributing computers, laptops and furniture donated to DST by its friends and supporters in the UK. Donations have gone to National Commission for Blind, Sierra Leone Union on Disability Issues, Media Watch, Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation, Radio Democracy, Freetown Cheshire Home, and Journalist Sarah of Star Radio/TV, amongst others.

Thank you to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), Easthampstead Baptist Church, Schools in Bracknell, Individuals and friends of DST.


April 2018 – a personal testimony from one of our graduates, Andrew Sallieu Lansana:

“Life before DST

I was born in August 17th, 1990 in the Provinces, the East of Sierra Leone, Kenema and contracted Polio at the age of 6 month. I lost my mum when I was only 13 years. I grew up with my dad and other family members taking care of me. Through sheer determination, I was able to go to primary and secondary schooling in Kenema and later moved to Freetown after taking my West African Senior School Certificate Examination, to look for better opportunities in the city.

When I arrived in Freetown, I faced a lot of challenges before my encounter with the Dorothy Springer Trust. Let me use this opportunity to highlights some of these constrains that I was going through before entry at DST; namely:
• It was difficult for me to acquire my basic needs e.g. food, shelter, clothing.
• It was also difficult for me to get a job, although I was a graduate from a recognised University in Sierra Leone.
• Dealing with negative perceptions including family members. Some family members did not recognise me or would use disparaging remarks. For example, in Africa, especially in Sierra Leone the moment you don’t have money or a job, all sorts of words or labels are used to refer to you as lazy, useless, and so on”.

Studies at DST and Life after that

In October 2016, I enrolled at the Dorothy Springer Trust Intermediate Level ICT Training. We completed rigorous training comprising of Computer Systems, Software Applications, Employability Skills, Entrepreneurship, etc. I graduated with Certification in ICT in April 2017. Through the Employment Bureau, I was able to get a job as an Accountant at Family Kingdom Limited, Aberdeen Freetown and after six months I was able to become a permanent staff member. It is almost getting to a year now, and my life has been transformed in so many ways:
• A man who was not able to get his basic needs is now a father of a baby girl two months old, what this means is that this man can now even take care of others with the help of DST training and Dr Abdulai Dumbuya .
• With the help of DST training and Dr Abdulai Dumbuya, I am now trying to be enrolled for the 2018/2019 academic year for my Master’s course at the Institute of Public Administration and Management, University of Sierra Leone (USL) by the grace of God.
• With the help of DST training and Dr Abdulai Dumbuya ,a man whose family members didn’t even recognise is now getting calls from them for support; some are even apologising for their wrong behaviour.
• With the help of DST and Dr Abdulai Dumbuya, a man who was very slim has now put on weight; although trying to control this so I don’t get as big as Abs!
• There are still some challenges but a very big praise to Dorothy Springer Trust (DST), Dr Abdulai Dumbuya and all other key players of DST for such a wonderful role they have played in transforming my life. Thanks to you all once more God bless you more for your support.”


October 2018 – Advocacy Report

DST is working with the Government of Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children’s Affairs in writing the country’s first report on the status of implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). DST and partners are leading on education and employment chapters.

We have also influenced the inclusion of disabilities issues in the country’s National Development Plan - Poverty Reduction Plan. We are calling for disability issues to feature prominently in the country’s eight priority areas.

DST advocacy for people with disabilities has led the new Minister of Higher and Technical Education to send out a memorandum to all educational institutions to honour the Sierra Leone 2011 Disability Act, by providing free education to persons with disabilities.


22 Sep 2018 – Global People’s Summit

DST hosted a range of disabled groups who took part in the Freetown “Global People’s Summit” live webinar. The summit had participation from 174 countries, including Global People's Hubs in 44 countries and 26 remote interviews. Participants were invited to reimagine a world without silos, barriers and obstacles to achieving a more sustainable and equal future.

The focus was the Transformative Power of the Free and Quality Education for Persons with Disabilities. Technology provides just such a platform; DST provides this through training in ICT and creating jobs for people with disabilities.

Further details on the Summit can be found here: https://www.globalpeoplesummit.org/2018-summit

 

Jan 2018 – Equality in political representation

During 2017, Dr. Abdulai (Abs) Dumuya, CEO of DST in Sierra Leone commenced a campaign to stand as a Member of the Sierra Leone Parliament. However, in January 2018, Abs took the difficult decision to stand down from the race.

Abs has joined forces with Media Watch Sierra Leone to advocate for aspiring disabled members of Parliament to be given the same opportunity by their respective parties as their non-disabled counterparts.

Disabled people face discrimination in Sierra Leone and are rarely nominated by members of political parties to stand for election to Parliament. In June Abs spoke at a press conference to highlight the issue and launch the Network of Journalists on Disability issues.

It was reported on here https://sierraexpressmedia.com/?p=84668 (please note the inaccurate reporting of the name, Dr. Alhaji Dumbuya is in fact Dr Abdulai (Abs) Dumbuya).

2017

 

In 2017 all nine of our students who started the intermediate ICT training in October 2016 completed the programme.

DST, in collaboration with Irish Aid, held its third graduation ceremony in April 2017. The occasion was held at the organisation’s Pultney Street office in Freetown with the theme: “Celebrating Successful Persons with Disabilities in Sierra Leone”. 

Five outstanding people with disabilities who have served as role models and an inspiration to others were also presented with the Disability Ambassador Award. 

The ceremony was well attended. In his opening remark, the Director of British Council, Simon Ingram-Hill said his institution has a very good working relationship with DST. The British Council frequently receive students who have graduated from DST, for a year’s internship.

The ceremony received good coverage in the Sierra Leone news:

http://awoko.org/2017/04/07/sierra-leone-news-celebrating-ability-in-disability/?fbclid=IwAR0b7CGjID0Vfw-eb9_ru0YlbLhnqR_DrPgWD7EasJ536tOScPdsGxHu3iQ

https://medium.com/@desmondtundecoker/sierra-leone-dst-awards-successful-persons-with-disabilities-3f762e62923c

Earlier in April 2017, we welcomed DST volunteer from the UK, Jack Smith. Jack spent six weeks teaching nine students on our second Digital Literacy and Numeracy course. This course is designed for people with disabilities with little, or no, background in formal education to write, read and gain numeracy core skills using the computer. Over the two courses we have trained a total of 18 disabled people in total, from the four corners of Sierra Leone. 

To have a native speaker of English running the course was very useful and has contributed immensely to DST's work in transforming the lives of people living with disabilities in Sierra Leone through IT training and employment opportunities.

Jack left in June, and as always here at DST we had a short ceremony to mark the event, with short statements from Abs Dumbuya and Jack Smith followed by a presentation of African shirt and thank you card with messages written by his students and staff. Here’s a photo of Jack with some of his students and DST staff:

  

During 2016/17 DST has also provided several tailor-made training programmes for non-disabled people including staff at the British High Commission, Irish Embassy, Bennimix Food Company, Sierra Leone Ministry of Defence (MoD), and a number of other organisations and private individuals – income generated from these training courses is used to support the operations of DST in Sierra Leone.

 

December 2017 - Workshop on Sierra Leone Disability Act 2011

On 16th Dec 2017 The Dorothy Springer Trust (DST) in collaboration with One Family People (OFP) and Lillian Foundation (LF) convened a Consultative Workshop on "Studying the Sierra Leone Disability Act 2011 and Deriving Key Messages from the Act". The organisations are embarking on Disability Advocacy and lobbying to fully implement the Act.

The workshop was hosted by DST and addressed the four thematic areas of Education and Employment, Health and Enabling Environment of the Disability Act.

 

SpringerFest 2017

Click here to go to the SpringerFest FaceBook Page

2016

 

In October 2016 DST recruited nine candidates for its new ICT training in Intermediate Level. This training is targeting some of the candidates who have completed the Basic ICT course and will provide skills suitable for the now well-established DST Employment Bureau. Training will include modules such as employability skills and entrepreneurship, to support our students to gain internships and employment when they have completed their training.

We go through a rigorous process of interviews and assessment to select our trainees. The training will last for seven months and DST will spend up to 32 million Leones (£4,600) on this programme.

Here’s some photos of the new recruits outside our Freetown office, and starting their training:

 

September 2016 – Employment Bureau review

The British High Commission, which sponsored the creation of the DST Employment Bureau, completed a review of the Bureau. The report concluded with the following summary, and an endorsement of DST:

“The Dorothy Springer Trust (DST), a modestly-sized NGO that punches above its weight when it comes to promoting disability rights in Sierra Leone, has a strong track record for delivering value for money. DST’s project was designed to be sustainable and offer longer-term benefits after completion. The Employment Bureau provides a means to support its ‘graduates’ as they enter the local job market and, as DST’s reputation for providing good-quality candidates builds among local businesses, they should be well placed to expand support for persons with disabilities (and, in slower time, off a similar service for able-bodied ‘graduates’). Their efforts to tackle the stigma of persons with disabilities will help make Sierra Leone’s labour market fairer and, ultimately, will support the Government’s post-Ebola recovery efforts to develop the private sector.”

The Employment Bureau has also received formal recognition from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security through an attestation letter from the Minister, noting that; “As the Ministry responsible for facilitating job creation, we appreciate your initiative and assure you of our support and cooperation in the successful operations of the facility. It is indeed a noble intervention worthy of commendation for which my [Minister of Labour...] extends its profound gratitude to the pioneers of this project”.


2016 – DST Projects update

DST continue to partner with other organisations to deliver training and advocacy work on behalf of people with disabilities:
• Joined partners in a consortium of Non-Governmental Organisations, led by Sightsavers, who have won a multi-Euro project to develop an Inclusive Education Policy for the government of Sierra Leone Education Ministry.
• Commissioned by Irish Aid, to identify and profile successful disabled people as role models for other disabled people. The aim is to change the negative perceptions of society towards people with disabilities.
• Donating computers to the Freetown Cheshire Home for disabled children and setting up a computer hub in the Home’s Vocational Skills Centre, to enable the residents to learn more about computers.
• Delivering ICT training to driving staff of a German Aid Agency (GiZ).

June 2016 – Congratulations on the Internship

We are seeing more results from our Employment Bureau, which officially opened in March 2016. The project has already seen four out of the six test cases now in employment, through internship and entrepreneurship. Pictured below is DST graduate Kadiatu Mansaray, who has commenced an internship with the British Council.

 

 

2016 Advocacy Update

In June 2016 Dr Abs Dumbuya, the DST CEO was appointed by the President of Sierra Leone as the Disability Lead in the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). This is a good governance body for the entire African continent. On 22 August Abs travelled to Nairobi, Kenya, to the National Governing Council of the APRM. Abs made strong contributions that any country governance system should also consider disability issues, and Sierra Leone was highly commended for bringing among their delegation a person with disabilities who could speak expertly on the subject.

Photo of the APRM Sierra Leone Delegation all seated for the APRM Pre-Summit Meeting in Nairobi, Kenya - 23.8.16. The delegation is led by Hon Minister of Political and Public Affairs, Madam Nanette Thomas, and Abs was also accompanied by Prof. Osman Gbla, Hon. MP JB Mansaray and Alphonso Manley.


March 2016 – Launch of our new DST Employment Bureau

On 10 March 2016 the new DST Employment Bureau Desk was officially opened by the British High Commissioner, His Excellency Peter West.
The creation of an Employment Bureau has been sponsored by the British High Commission. It supports graduates from the DST training scheme with job searches, CV creation and cover letter writing. We provide training in interview techniques such as coaching, mock interviews, etc.

The Employment Bureau is a fundamental part of the DST strategy for persons with disability (PWD) in Sierra Leone. DST trains people for a purpose: to enable them to gain employment, leading to independence and transformed lives.

DST has created a brochure describing the services offered by the new Employment Bureau. See the photo of our first six cohort candidates for employment. They all went through intensive training on employability skills and five initially secured jobs.

   emp bur
Employment Bureau Opening Ceremony  Pictured here are the first six DST graduates ready for employment through the new Employment Bureau.

  


January 2016 – Officially Ebola Free

On 14 January 2016 Sierra Leone was declared Ebola Free. The epidemic lasted for almost two years and was the source of much tragedy and disruption. DST persevered during outbreak, continuing to deliver training to persons with disabilities.