09 May 2008 ORT IC helps young disabled people in Senegal ICT training provided by World ORTs International Cooperation Department in the Senegalese capital Dakar is giving young disabled people perhaps their best chance to live independent, financially secure lives. A pilot project funded by the City of Geneva has seen more than 50 men and women aged between 17 and 25 receive top quality training in the use and maintenance of computers in this mainly Muslim former French colony. The successful impact made on dozens of lives in a huge incentive for the project to continue, said Judith Fiss, a staff member at ORT ICs Geneva office. A lot of work has been put into this project by us and our partners with some very good results and that has generated tremendous hope for the future, Ms Fiss said after visiting Dakar to see the project in action. There is concern that, despite the positive outcome of the past six months work, the project may have to conclude next month unless further funding is found. It would be a tragedy if this were to end, Ms Fiss said. This is an innovative project for Senegal: there are other organisations working with handicapped people in Senegal, but none of them do the kind of work that weve been doing. In addition to IT training students have been able to take advantage of a course in entrepreneurship and project management. Careers advisors are also on site to give on-going support to graduates. We dont train people and say good-bye, we follow the students and help them find ways to use their new skills, Ms Fiss said. The value of ORT ICs work in conjunction with its local partners CACSUP and the Serigne Bamba Ndiaye Foundation may be appreciated when one considers that, despite being a relatively stable democracy that has enjoyed significant economic growth in recent years, about half the population is unemployed and most people can not read and write. Not surprisingly handicapped people, despite their strong desire to work, are often among the poorest of the population, are socio-economically marginalised and often dependent on their families for survival. Yet, until the ORT IC project, there was no specially tailored assistance to help them develop their capabilities and no access to training centres. As part of the project, a specialist from the Centre for Professional Insertion in Geneva spent time in Dakar to introduce trainers to the CAM pedagogical method which allows users to determine objectively a handicapped persons working capacity and so facilitates the establishment of an educational programme to suit each individual. Efforts are also made by staff to match graduates with companies that can use their skills or to encourage and assist them to create their own small enterprises such as working in, or setting up, a cyber-cafe. Should the funding be secured, the aim is to expand the project by increasing the number of students and trainers in the Dakar centre and provide a wider variety of training. There are also hopes to set up a similar project in the southern region of Casamance, where a long-running, low level insurgency has resulted in many people being left handicapped because of land mine injuries.The students told me how happy they were and how much they were learning, said Ms Fiss. Their motivation is also shown in the course figures a 98 per cent attendance rate and a 90 per cent success rate. The Director of the training centre, Abdon Pambou, concluded: Its very important to have continuity of this project. We dont want a situation where these students suddenly find themselves abandoned. ORT ICs non-sectarian technical assistance and training projects, which are financed by multilateral development institutions, bilateral donor agencies, private companies and foundations, have benefited people in 98 countries since 1960.