CAB-USAID First Quarter Report 2011

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FIRST QUARTER NARRATIVE REPORT ON THE

LIBERIA CHRISTIAN ASSOCIATION OF THE BLIND (CAB) USAID FUNDED PROJECT

INTRODUCTION

The Liberia Christian Association of the Blind (CAB), Inc. was founded by a group of blind and a few dedicated sighted professional Liberians on April 28, 1985, in Monrovia, to cater to the blind and people with various visual disabilities.  Yet, CAB's activities halted in 1989 due to the onset of civil war.  CAB was reactivated in 1991 and formally incorporated by an act of the National Legislature in 1993.  Currently, CAB is fully operating as a faith-based non-governmental association. CAB has been recognized by the World Blind Union (WBU); African Union of the Blind (AFUB); Danish Association of the Blind (DAB) and the World Braille Foundation. In Liberia, CAB is accredited the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs of the Republic of Liberia and  it is recognized by the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare, Ministry of Education, Liberian Council of Churches, and many other NGOs. Much of CAB's support comes from voluntary contributions from humanitarian organizations and outstanding personalities.

The primary goal of CAB is to ensure the full emancipation of all blind persons, provide technical support and advice on the needs of the larger society thereby eradicating the various forms of social discrimination currently being meted out against them.  The mission of CAB is "to humanize the treatment of all blind persons in Liberia irrespective of sex, age, or other considerations, through education and training for full social integration, empowerment and equal opportunities."

CAB's programs are centered on four major activities:

  • 1. Education, Rehabilitation and Integration- provides training for the blind and partially sighted, including running a school for the blind in Monrovia, providing literacy, typing and mobility training, and basic elementary-level academic training to prepare students for mainstream schooling;
  • 2. Income Generating Activities- operates a farm on its two-acre land in Monrovia, cultivating cassava, potatoes, eddoes, plantains, bananas, and others edibles selling about 80% of its produce to enable CAB meet other pressing needs, including poverty alleviation, among its members; while the remaining 20% goes toward nutritional supplements. There are also ongoing furniture and soap making projects at two branches outside the capitol;
  • 3. Advocacy -ensures through its annual white Cane Safety Day, that the sighted respect the white canes as a sign of protection and equality for the blind in mainstream society; advocates for equal treatment in areas of education, health, employment, etc.;
  • 4. Capacity Building and Empowerment -enhances the capacity of members through training in the areas of leadership, agriculture, soap making, ADL, etc. which are also used for income generation purposes.

CAB's programs include one major cross-cutting theme:

Women's Participation -ensures that women remain united and resourceful to CAB by encouraging them to engage in income generating activities and taking leadership roles within the organization and mainstream society.

CAB's efforts have resulted in these achievements: 1) facilitating the enrollment of blind students in normal school system; 2) securing the right of the blind to write government exams for ninth and twelve graders, 3) catering to the physical needs of over 100 persons enrolled in academic, rehabilitation and integration programs; 4) establishing 5 branches in different counties with a current membership of 1,600 blind and partially sighted persons; 6) establishing an agricultural program which provides and/or supplements the food intake and income for its members; 7) submitting a petition to the national legislature in support of education, employment opportunity, free movement facilities and easy access to medical care for the blind; which has yet to be realized; 8) acquiring a national secretariat for the blind; 9) training and assigning ten Human Rights monitors in five counties; 10) hosting leadership seminars; 11) leading the World White Cane Safety Day programs and sensitizing a large portion of the public on the significance of the White Cane; 12) carrying out 30 minute advocacy radio program on five radio stations; 13) gaining the right of the blind to serve at a high level in government; 14) achieving the release of about 167 blind persons entrapped in conflict zones during the civil conflict and providing them protection; 15) lobbing with National Parliament for the ratification of the U.N Convention on the Rights and Dignity of Persons with disabilities; 16) establishing a National Resource Center for the Blind with a current enrollment of about 100 students; 17) setting up of a Poultry Project to train blind and partially sighted students.

USAID AWARD TO CAB

In continuation of our strive to continue improving the living standard and conditions of the blind and provide them quality education and rehabilitation opportunities in Liberia for their full social inclusion, as mentioned above, the Liberia Christian Association of the Blind on Tuesday, December 21, 2010 signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States Aid Agency for International Development (USAID)- Liberia and the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), respectively to collaborate in the implementation of a one year expanded initiative project aimed at enhancing the education and rehabilitation of the blind and visually impaired.

The US $76,240,000.00 proposal funded by USAID is to sustain the Association's collaboration with WAEC to among other things ensure the provision of materials and equipment such as Braille Embossers and computers to revamp our Braille Press for the transcription of educational texts and materials in Braille that will enable blind and visually impaired persons to access and write the national exams annually administered by WAEC.

WAEC-Liberia is the independent examination body responsible to administer West African Exams to students in Liberia, which is a prerequisite to obtaining university/ tertiary education anywhere in West Africa.

At the end of the project, the following amongst other things would have been achieved:

  • CAB's capacity would have been built to increase mainstreamed educational programs opportunities for blind and visually impaired persons in Liberia, and expand its participation in USAID-funded programs;
  • 5 CAB staff would have been employed full time to produce educational materials in Braille;
  • CAB staff will be able to properly communicate via phone, internet and written word, through the use of modern and appropriate technology designed for the blind;
  • CAB will be able to create and maintain partnerships aimed to advocate for and mainstream the visually impaired through targeted outreach and communications activities.

The program marking the official launch of CAB' expanded initiative project for the education and rehabilitation of blind and visually impaired in Liberia which was held at CAB' National Resource Center for the Blind on the Robertsfield Highway was graced by Madam Dinah Zeltser, Directress of Democracy and Governance/ USAID-Liberia who is also the Project Manager, Mr. Justin, Public Relations Officer of USAID-Liberia, Mr. Thomas Gai, Head of the West African Examinations Council-Liberia, Mr. Beyan G. Kota, National President, Liberia Christian Association of the Blind (CAB),  Staff and students of the National Resource Institute for the Blind, members of the Press(LBS, Truth Radio, Kings  Radio, Fabric Radio etc.) and other well wishers.

The program was comprised of selections done by students of the National Resource Institute of the Blind, Mr. Anthony Dangan, Principal of the NRIB did the welcome remarks, and Lahai Gotolo gave the brief overview of the project while Isaac Kolleh served as Master of Ceremony for the occasion.

When called to make special remarks, Mr. Thomas Gaie of WAEC Liberia said that the project was a new dawn and a golden opportunity for Liberia educational System which is about competition and inclusion as regards blind and visually impaired people. He applauded USAID Liberia for having thought it wise to award CAB the grant.  Mr. Gaie assured USAID-Liberia and CAB that WAEC Liberia wholehearted welcome the project and pledged that he will collaborate with CAB in its endeavor to ensure that the WAEC examinations is printed in Braille in 2011 and beyond.

For his part, Mr. Beyan G. Kota of the Liberia Christian Association of the Blind, commended USAID Liberia through its representative, Madam Dina Zeltser, for awarding CAB the 12 months initiative aimed at building the institutional capacity of the organization to expand education and rehabilitation for the blind and visually impaired in Liberia by increasing their participation in mainstream education and other educational programs such as making information accessible. Mr. Kota also extended commendation and gratitude on behalf of the members and officers of CAB to Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador accredited to Liberia for her interest in the wellbeing of the blind and visually impaired in Liberia. "Her closeness to this association has come a long way in enabling us to qualify for this award" Mr. Kota commented.

Madam Dinah Zeltser, USAID Governance and Democracy Directress and Project Manager for the 12 Month venture called on blind  and visually impaired students to take this opportunity as a challenge and see it as a way of empowering them to be inclusive and participatory in the Liberia' educational process. "The printing of the WAEC exams in Braille will make you do an independent work and you will not be misled and discriminated against again" She affirmed. Madam Dinah Zeltser applauded Mr. Kota for his hard work in the Country and stated that there were several assessments conducted by USAID as it relates to the activities of CAB. All of these met our approval and we had no option, but to considered awarding CAB the 12 month initiative.

After the making of remarks by the three institutions, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Christian Association of the Blind (CAB) and the West African Examinations Council Monrovia Office-Liberia. The program was covered by Members of the press representing various media institutions in the country.

The launching program was climaxed by a tour of CAB's facilities.

This proposed 12-month initiative will build the capacity of CAB to support CAB's education programs and increase mainstreamed educational opportunities for the visually impaired in Liberia, including expanded participation in USAID-funded and other educational programs.  It will cover programs in education through skill training, outreach, equipment and modern technology, and staff and logistical support.  This project supports new as well as old initiatives of CAB, and extends their collaboration with crucial educational institutions in Liberia and West Africa.

The goal of the project is to improve CAB's ability to provide quality educational services and increase access to educational opportunities for the visually impaired in Liberia.

The following are the objectives of the initiative:

  • To train CAB and West Africa Examinations Council (WAEC) staff to print the examination in Braille.
  • To print the WAEC in Braille according to WAEC standards, transitioning from verbally-read test to printed test.
  • To print educational texts and materials for use in CAB-affiliated school which will strengthen the institutional capacity of CAB to deliver high quality, professional programs and services, especially empowering CAB school to teach mathematics.
  • To print educational texts and materials, enhancing the availability of locally-produced Braille educational materials, allowing visually impaired students and educators to access non-CAB learning services and USAID-funded programs.
  • To enable CAB leadership to create and maintain partnerships with non-governmental organizations, donors, and other institutions benefiting the visually impaired and giving them access to mainstreamed services and programs.

It is expected that at the end of twelve (12) months of project implementation, the following outputs/deliverables will be achieved:

  • The educational programs and school of the Association will be expanded in its ability to provide standard educational services, especially the teaching of mathematics;
  • Two (2) CAB and Two (2) WAEC staff members will be trained to produce the WAEC;
  • 40 number of visually impaired people will be able to take the WAEC in 2011; additional students will benefit from this service each year;
  • 100 visually impaired people will be able to read, write and do math in Braille, leading to improvements in their self-esteem, ability to participate in income-generation and democratic processes activities;
  • A significant number of educational texts and materials will be produced, providing access to mainstreamed educational opportunities;
  • 5 CAB staff will be employed full time to produce educational materials in Braille;
  • CAB staff and members will be able to properly communicate via phone, internet and written word, through the use of modern and appropriate technology designed for the blind;
  • CAB will be able to create and maintain partnerships aimed to advocate for and mainstream the visually impaired through targeted outreach and communications activities.

PROJECT PROGRAM ACTIVITIES

Prior to the launching ceremony, CAB and USAID Liberia recruited potential staff to implement the 12 months project based on the development of an annual work plan which explained the time line and deliverables to be achieved in the four quarters as mentioned in the project.

The individuals employed with CAB already have the technical know how and experience of what the project entails. Due to the extensive experience of Mr. Kota when it comes to Braille production, it was recommended by the Staff that he serve as Braille Embossed Editor to ensure that the production of Braille be characterized by quality and standards.

Mr. Adolphus B. Teah is currently the Braille Embossed Coordinator;    

Mr. Robert D. Benda occupied a dual capacity as Assistant Braille Embossed Coordinator and communications and Outreach Officer, and Mr. Isaac Kolleh, Braille Embossed Proof Reader. Mr. Lionel R. Jallah was later recruited in January of 2011 as the Assistant Braille Embossed Proof Reader and Binder. Amongst the five applications received for the vacancy which was advertised in the print and electronic media, Mr. Jallah' application was review and given serious consideration for employment having met the criteria set forth for the post.

Having completed the general recruitment of Staff for the project, publicity was created on local radio stations and in the local dailies in a bid to inform the public about the broad-spectrum of the 12 months USAID funded project.

Since then, interviews have been conducted and publicity carried on to create and maintain contact with the public and WAEC Monrovia Office in an effort to ensure that the project remained on course.

On Wednesday, February 2, 2011 a one day orientation workshop was organized by CAB to gave 2 of WAEC' staff in persons of Ms. Wynna A. George and Mrs., Christine J. Wollie of the Test and Administration Department, the opportunity to know how the Braille Press functions as it is in line with the Memorandum of Understanding entered into between WAEC and CAB.

The workshop began when representatives from WAEC Monrovia Office and Reporters from the Inprofile Daily and Liberia Women Democracy Radio arrived at the Resource Center for the Blind, the venue for the workshop. They were received by CAB's Staff and taken to the cafeteria for breakfast.

Thereafter, the participants gathered in the Braille Press where self-introduction was formalized. It was Mr. Beyan Kota, President of the Liberia Christian Association of the Blind who took the stand to conduct the welcome remarks.

Mr. Kota informed the WAEC staff and reporters at the workshop that  the grant awarded to CAB by USAID Liberia will not only impact  CAB's students, but blind and visually impaired students through out Liberia. He called on the staff to see this new development as a plus for Liberia educational System.

"Despite the awarding of the grant, challenges like financial constrain, the task to produce at least four books a month amongst other things are serious commitment to tackle during the time frame of the project" Kota noted.

The overview of the Project was done by Mr. Robert D. Benda, Communications & Outreach Officer of the USAID-funded project who presided over the first section. 

Mr. Adolphus B. Teah, the Braille Press Coordinator facilitated the second section of the workshop which had to do with the orientation on the functions and operations of the Braille Press.

In his presentation as it relates to the general orientation (demonstration) on the processing of information at the Braille Press, Mr. Adolphus B. Teah pointed out that the processes involved in the production of Braille include the selection of print materials, scanning process, word editing, wind Braille editing or dot Braille editing, prove reading, general and final editing, Braille printing, binding, store and distribute Braille materials to blind and visually impaired students.

After the presentation, reporters Josiah Kpadeh of the In profile Daily and Berttee Forkpabio of the Liberia Women Democracy Radio raised several concerns which had to do with what was responsible for the delay in the procurement of the equipment by USAID, the impact of the project on other disabled people organizations other than CAB, the total amount of the grant awarded to CAB by USAID and so forth. These matters of concern were addressed by Mr. Kota, Mr. Teah and Mr. Benda as earlier mentioned or provided for above.

At some point during the workshop, we were joined by Representative by USAID who proxy for Dinah as she could not make it at the workshop due to other work related engagements.

Those representing CAB at the Workshop were Mr. Beyan G. Kota, Adolphus B. Teah, Robert D. Benda, Isaac Kolleh and Lionel R. Jallah, while Wynna A. George and Christine J. Wollie represented WAEC Monrovia Office.

Additionally, the Braille Press has identified the first set of texts books to be transcribed in the second quarter of the project in a given time line.