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.
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.
|Providing bags of rice||Abs Rapping|
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 Virgin Money Giving account, on the ‘Get Involved’ page of our website.
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).
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 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.
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:
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.
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)|