07 November 2005 More than 12,000 vulnerable young people, their teachers and trainers stand to directly benefit from a four-year ORT project in Namibia. The Skills, Opportunities, Self-Reliance project (SOS Namibia) provides vocational and job skills, as well as youth development activities, for orphaned and vulnerable children. The project also works at a community level with municipalities and non-governmental partners to address HIV/AIDS and other issues affecting orphaned and vulnerable children. USAID has been so impressed by ORTs accomplishments over the past year that it has stepped in with $2.5 million funding allowing the project to continue for another four years. This is a truly wonderful programme thats bringing untold benefits to individuals and communities that desperately need it, said ORT South Africa National Director Michael Sieff. USAIDs decision to back us is not just a big feather in our cap, it will enable us to expand our work and help many more people. Mr Sieff said that the true number of SOS Namibias beneficiaries could stretch into the tens of thousands. More than 20 per cent of Namibias adult population have HIV/AIDS, leading to an increase in the number of orphaned and vulnerable children, Mr Sieff said. The phenomenon puts added financial strain on households. By helping one young person from one of these households to obtain gainful employment, as many as 10 dependants can benefit from the additional income. There are an estimated 147,000 orphans among Namibias two million people, of whom three-quarters lost their parents to AIDS. World ORT Director General Robert Singer and ORT SA Project Manager Eva Weiss with participants in the International Youth Award programme. In the long term, Mr Sieff said it was hoped that giving young people work skills for self-sufficiency would also help to lift them out of the correlation between poverty and HIV/AIDS. The project, which is being administered by the newly-formed ORT Namibia Trust and ORT South Africa (under the supervision of the World ORT IC office in Geneva), has three main elements vocational training, youth development and capacity building for local level and community organisations and is being implemented in the capital, Windhoek, as well as the regional centres of Rehoboth and Otjiwarongo. The vocational training focuses on construction, metalwork and needlework skills as well as key life skills needed for employment such as problem solving, self presentation, CV writing and interview skills. Youth development is being achieved by implementing the International Youth Award (IYA) for young people both in and out of school. The IYA is a voluntary, non-competitive programme of practical, cultural and adventurous activities designed to support the personal and social development of the 14-25-year age group, regardless of background, gender or ability. Based on the Duke of Edinburghs Award in the United Kingdom, the IYA is widely recognised by employers and educationalists as helping participants to develop or discover self-confidence, leadership skills, experience of teamwork, problem solving and decision making, enhanced self-esteem, development of communication skills and the building of local, national and international networks. World ORT Director General Robert Singer and ORT SA Project Manager Eva Weiss with participants in the International Youth Award programme. Through SOS Namibia, ORT will help to build capacity among local organisations, such as the Community Skills Development Centre (COSDEC) in Otjiwarongo, by training the trainers. We will support COSDEC in running a pilot scheme for the vocational training of orphaned and vulnerable children in Otjiwarongo, said Mr Sieff. The best practice model identified from this can then be replicated in Rehoboth, where there is no quality vocational or job training available. Following a visit to SOS Namibias operation in Windhoek, World ORT Director General Robert Singer said he was delighted with the positive impact the project was making on the local community. Namibia has significant natural resources, such as diamonds, uranium, lead, zinc and tin, yet half the countrys population live below the poverty line, Mr Singer said. It is deeply moving to see ORTs 125 years of experience in giving people the skills to raise themselves out of poverty being used to such great effect in southern Africa. World ORT, founded in St Petersburg in 1880, is the worlds largest Jewish educational and vocational training non-government organisation with some 270,000 students Jewish and non-Jewish in 58 countries. Through its International Cooperation (IC) arm, ORT has benefited some two million people in 92 countries since 1960 with non-sectarian, humanitarian support.