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)|