A "Joined-Up" Approach 

It has always been part of the Dorothy Springer Trust (DST) vision to have a "joined-up' approach to helping disadvantaged people with disabilities in Sierra Leone. Therefore, Abs Dumbuya (Chief Executive) was really excited when the British High Commision in Freetown offered to fund a project to establish an Employment Bureau for people with disability (PWD) in June 2015.

The project purpose statement on the proposal form read like this:
"The purpose is to scale up a DST training and employment creation scheme that will see 90% of people with disabilities trained by DST gain skilled employment and who will then be able to support themselves and their families, and contribute to national development through their taxes."

A big goal indeed, but one that fits in perfectly with the overall purpose of DST which is to offer a route for someone literally begging on the streets to basic education, to basic computer studies, to advanced computer education, to applying for and gaining employment - a "joined-up" approach.

So, how did the project progress? The employment bureau is now established in the DST Office in Freetown, and has an offline database comprising of 358 potential employers (and growing) which has been a very reliable tool throughout the project. Perhaps the most impressive measure of the initial success of the bureau is that so far, 4 out of the 5 scholars who were part of the project, and completed it, have now been recruited in to employment or an internship.

Osman Kamara was one of the successful students and he is now working in the marketing department at the Helen Keller organisation. He commented about the support he received:
“I am extremely grateful to the Bureau for all the support they have given to me... DST is proving to the world that persons with disabilities can do more than is expected of them... I am now ready to prove to the world that "I am not just a lighthouse in a desert.” I hope other persons with disability can see this as an opportunity to be self reliant. Thanks to DST, thanks to the employment bureau and above all, thanks to the funders both at home and abroad."

When the project was fininshed it had to be "signed off" by the British High Commision Project Officer, Annup Vyas. He wrote this on the official project document:
"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, offer 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."

A great commendation! Abs and his team should rightly feel pleased with the work that they are doing to help people with disabilities in Sierra Leone. They really are changing lives in a significant way. If you would like to support this work by making a financial donation or regular monthly payments, then please go to the DST web site. Every pound makes a real and significant difference!

Rob Lea, 08/09/2016