January 2014 to December 2014.

Objectives.

To train and empower visually impaired adults and youths on computer literacy as a preparation for higher education and employment.

Philosophy

Start Now is committed to a strong, positive, constructive philosophy concerning blindness. The Organization believes that given proper training and opportunity, blind people can compete effectively and on terms of equality with their sighted counterparts in higher learning, employment, in their communities, in their families, and society in general.

Introduction.

18012014258In a bid to promote higher education and employment for adults and youths with visually impairment, Start Now Organization was established in 2012 to enhance and promote inclusive higher education and employment opportunities for person with visually impairment in the Gambia. As a training base organization we are committed to train and assist legally blind adults and youths seeking for higher learning and job placement.

Start Now Organization has a training center named Start Now Computer Training Institute for the Visually Impaired located in Brikama New Town. The Training Institute provides orientation and adjustment training to legally blind adults and adolescence.  Students remain in training generally from six to nine months depending upon individual needs.  The full training includes computer literacy/keyboarding, Braille, cane travel, independent living skills, career guidance and counselling, , job development and college preparation. All classes emphasize the development of self-confidence and a positive attitude toward blindness.

Achievements for 2014.

January to March 2014 had a mobility volunteer from Germany by the name Christine Schmidt. The partnership was facilitated by kanthari in India (www.kanthari.org).

During her period of work with Start Now, she helped to train students on orientation and mobility using the white cane to walk independently. More than ten (ten) visually impaired youths benefited from the mobility training support.

8th March 2014, inaugurated the new computer training center for the visually impaired in Brikama New Town in the West Coast Region. The center was officially open by the Govonor of West Coast Region deputized by the Youth Chairman of the Region Mr. Fabakary Dembo Kambeh. More than 30 (thirty) invitees including the media took part in the inauguration ceremony.

alieu and two studentsStart Now Computer Training Institute (SNCTI) in the West Coast Region was possible thanks to the support from Visually Impaired people in Germany facilitated by our German mobility Volunteer Christine Schmidt.

Made a survey and Identified 10 (ten) students both adults and youths within West Coast Region to be train on computer and other techniques for the blind to developed their confident and independent.

Our computer training program for the visually impaired is ongoing. Students residing in the Greater Banjul and West Coast Region continue to be supported.

 The Brikama Area Council through their generosity and kind support to the vision of Start Now continue to sustained the center monthly rental bill including utility amounting to D2000 (two thousand Dalasis only) per month. Out of the monthly D2000 received from the Brikama Area Council, D1500 is used for center rent monthly while the remaining D500 is used for electricity and water bill. The Area Council began rental payment support in April 2014 and since then continued to make our vision alive.

Three Gambian youths namely Ida Gai, Cicilia Mendy, and Charles Degold Gomez joined Start Now in January 2014 as volunteers. The three received training from Start Now to become future employers of the institution both in administrative and computer trainers for our visually impaired students. The three are found passionate and hardworking in contributing to the realization of the organization objectives.

In April 2014, one of the volunteers Charles Degold Gomez benefited from a seven months leadership scholarship from kanthari recommended by Start Now. The course is to enable Charles to initiate a social project under Start Now Organization in the areas of employability and job placement for visually impaired in the Gambia.

In April 2014, network and built up partnership with FMB Community Radio in Brikama. A monthly one hour talk show was allocated for Start Now by FMB. This has increase publicity and create awareness about the existence of Start Now operation within West Coast Region.

Silia and MorroIn May 2014, revitalised the Start Now Board. New executive were elected to serve as decision makers for the Organization. Five people were elected. Also a committee was set up known as the Center Committee comprising of six people. This looks into the affairs of the operation of the Start Now Computer Training Institute (SNCTI). The Board met bi-monthly while the Center Committee met once in a month or may choose any day when sudden matters arise which needs immediate action.

during the year 2014, both the Board and the Center Committee work together to achieve expectation of set plans for the development of Start Now.

Start Now embark on networking both within the Gambia and outside.

In 22-23 May 2014, Start Now participated in the Global Education Week organized by Education for All Campaign Network (EFANET). The team for the celebration was inclusive education for children with disability.

In June 2014, Partnered with Gambia Federation of the Disables (GFD). GFD facilitated and invited Start Now on talk shows on West Coast Radio. Several shows were held to sensitized the public about accessibility for the visually impaired through technology.

GFD provided a Guidance Officer to Start Now who is an Indian National working as a livelihood Volunteer for GFD. The volunteer help to mentor and build network between Start Now and other institutions such as National Training Authority, Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, The Association of Non Governmental Organization (TANGO).

Alieu Jaiteh (founder) had a meeting with the above mention institutions for future possible partnership. GFD has facilitated Alieu Jaiteh (founder) to participate in a two days pre National Youth Conference held from 26th-27th November at the Friendship Hostel in Bakau organized by National Youth Council. The pre conference was in preparation for the main National youth conference 2014 to be held in Lower River Region of the Gambia. During the two days pre conference delegates from different youths organizations including person with disabilities came up with resolutions geared towards addressing the needs of all youths in the Gambia by Government and stakeholders in national development.

Start Now was invited by GFD to participate in the World Disability Day held in Lower River Region. The celebration mark internationally every 3rd December. This year the team for the celebration was Sustainability Development, The Promising of Technology. As Start Now is an organization born to promote technology for the visually impaired, Alieu Jaiteh (Founder of Start Now) was invited on this occasion to give presentation and exhibition on how technology has enable blind people to work confidently and independently.

 Challenges

Despite the successes registered in 2014, the challenges were encountered which are highlighted below.

Lack of enough trainers to support in the training center.

Materials are limited such as computers, furniture, white canes, braillers, braille papers, office stationery, and lack of Internet connection.

More letters were send to institutions within the country for support, but however the response were not positive to our wish.

Lack of finance to meet salaries of future employers and trainers.

Mobility problem has enable some of our visually impaired students to withdraw from classes due to transport and to find an assistance to guide them to the center.

Problem of hiring a web designer to design the Start Now page.

As an organization born in transforming the life of visually impaired people in the Gambia, we will continue keeping the vision and mission of Start Now a success.

We will continue networking with partners such as the Government of the Gambia, private sectors, individuals, and philanthropies for the realization of the set objectives of Start Now.

Our special thanks and appreciation goes to the following Institutions and individuals for their valuable support for 2014.

Brikama Area Council.

Kanthari in India

Gambia Federation of the Disables (GFD)

Brikama Community Radio (FMB)

Christine Schmidt (Mobility volunteer Germany)

Amar Fora Indian National (Livelihood Advisor volunteer GFD).