ORT IC wins USAID grant to help disabled in Montenegro


22 December 2009 ORT IC wins USAID grant to help disabled in Montenegro As its eight-year programme supporting the development of civil society organisations in Montenegro draws to a close, World ORTs International Cooperation department (ORT IC) is starting work on a new 12-month project helping the Balkan states disabled people. Thanks to a $300,000 grant from the US Agency for International Development (USAID), ORT IC is to focus the local expertise it has accumulated through its Montenegro Advocacy Programme (MAP) on helping two organisations: the Association of Paraplegics of Montenegro (APM) and Koraci (Steps). Disabled children at a school event organized by the Association of Paraplegics of Montenegro. USAID had set aside $2 million in grants specifically for projects to help people with disabilities. ORT IC applied for the maximum individual grant of $300,000 and got it. Its far and away the largest budget awarded by USAID out of this grant round, amounting to 15 per cent of the total. This is testament to the effectiveness of ORT ICs MAP programme, which was also implemented in partnership with USAID, as well as to the worth of the new project fostering a greater inclusion of people with disabilities in the economic and social life of Montenegro, said the Director of ORT ICs Washington bureau, Celeste Angus. There are two distinct parts to the new project: the first is to help the APM set up a labour exchange matching disabled people with employers; the second is the construction of a 25-bed lodge at Koracis remote recreation centre where it has seven horses specially trained to provide therapeutic riding for people with 25 types of disability including cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and multiple sclerosis. ORT IC has worked with the APM before, providing it with the training and financial assistance necessary to help it grow from a small, civic action group into a powerful organisation which represents more than 2,500 members directly and, through its advocacy and watchdog efforts, the 26,000 disabled people living in Montenegro. The new project aims at the practical application of legislation, passed last year, which requires businesses with more than 50 employees to have disabled people make up a percentage of the total workforce or else pay money to the government. The problem is that businesses are completely ignorant of what the law means and the government also doesnt know how to enforce it, said Claire ORiordan, ORT ICs Chief of Party in Montenegro for eight years. With our support, the Association will assess the needs of employers and job seekers with disabilities, employ a lawyer to provide legal advice for people with disabilities, and set up a database which will act as a matchmaker between its client group and employers. The APM will also prepare an advocacy campaign to promote the new law. Ms ORiordan said she was particularly excited by the project with Koraci. Koraci wants to make the lodge suitable to cater for people with disabilities so that it can hold week-long horse riding camps as its centre is too remote for day-long activities, she said. It will be very satisfying to see the results of our work so quickly. Most of the work we have done in Montenegro over the past eight years has a cumulative effect so you are not necessarily aware of the progress you are making. However, looking back over the span of MAP, Ms ORiordan was happy to say that the achievements had been substantial. Its been a cumulative process so its been hard at times to see what the results are. But now I can see that the NGO sector has come forward in leaps and bounds and there have been improvements in society, she said. When I started here the NGO sector was very scattered and disorganised. In general, NGOs had very little training and when ORT came in we provided systematic training and provided them with management skills. We built up the NGO sector to on with more developed advocacy functions then we developed its watchdog functions which was completely new for Montenegro Among the programmes many successes are an HIV/AIDS organisation which worked with health authorities to shorten the waiting time for supplying retroviral drugs from three months to five days and an organisation which persuaded the government to abide by laws requiring disabled access to public buildings. ORT IC has also helped nurture local NGOs committed to fair, responsible media and public bodies implementation of freedom of information legislation. One group which ORT IC has helped to develop its watchdog ability is the AHA Coalition of Herceg Novi. Founded by ORT MAP in 2006, it works to ensure that legislation protecting employees is enforced in the private sector. Thanks to this organisation, construction workers have gained the protection of health and safety rules, pregnant women can feel increasingly secure against losing their jobs, and hotel staff members are being paid for overtime. The net effect is that the rule of law is stronger in Montenegro because the strong NGO sector makes the government more accountable, Ms ORiordan. NGOs are also very good at uncovering corruption, conflicts of interest, and publicising them. It makes those in power more aware of how they are perceived by citizens. Its indisputable that the NGO sector has made government stronger through greater accountability. She said she was confident that the new project for disabled people would make a similarly productive contribution to Montenegrin society. Theres a snowball effect so its important to start these things even if we cant see progress immediately. The change is real but it can take a long time to see it. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of ORT IC during which time it has implemented more than 350 projects in nearly 100 countries at the request of international agencies, national governments, local communities and private companies. ORT IC has earned a reputation for excellence in providing technical assistance, training and capacity building services in a wide variety of sectors including technical and vocational education and training, health and nutrition, mother and child care, agriculture and rural development, good governance, and transportation.