“Now we are hosting career fairs, putting our work on display”
I am Atugonza Milton Isaac. When I started school I was the only one with a disability. All the other boys called me by hurtful nicknames, but in my heart I felt, “If others can do it, why not me? Why not a person with a disability?” When the Connecting the Dots project of Sightsavers came to my village I was doing some agricultural work. I heard the news on the radio announcing that the programme was looking for young people with disabilities to take them
for training. I had previously had an introduction on how to use a computer, so I said to myself, “Let me study computers, because in the next generation everything will be computerised.”
Now my job is to go into the field and monitor the young students in the Sightsavers programme: “How’s the work environment? How are you getting along?” I even go to visit students in their homes to see whether their parents are supporting them or not. I then report back to the office – this one is doing well, this one has a challenge. My mission is to empower youth with disabilities to acquire a sense of self-worth, to see that they too can earn a living, and to lobby for them to know their rights and benefits. I also help them benefit from government programmes, like special grants.
I have seen youth with disabilities doing great, great things. Now we are hosting career fairs, putting our work on display. Now everyone knows that disability is not inability!
Nabila is a 27-year-old woman who was born blind. Despite her disability, however, she used to work as a telesales executive at a non-profit foundation in Egypt from May 2011 till November 2015. Her dream was to become a trainer, but her goal was obstructed by her employer’s misperceptions regarding persons with visual impairments. As a result, none of the vacancies she applied for gave her a chance to prove herself.
Through the recruitment efforts of the Helm Foundation, Nabila now works as a coordinator in the Human Resources Department of Vodafone Egypt, a position she has held since November 2015 – and making her the first blind candidate to hold a position in the history of the company. According to Nabila, the Helm Foundation not only supported her profession- ally but morally as well. Nabila is now a Helm “ambassador” and one of the foundation’s most dedicated volunteers.
Nabila was first introduced to Helm through joining one of its scholarship programmes, which included soft skills and English language, and after that she received technical courses in the field of human resources. At the end of her programme, the foundation helped Nabila get interviewing opportunities with multiple organizations, ultimately landing her current job with Vodafone. Over the past year she has shown her direct manager and colleagues that she can perform all the required tasks of her position just like everyone else despite her disability. Over time, and through her hard work, determination, and dedication, not only was Nabila able to gain her manager’s trust but she was able to change her fellow employees’ views towards disability as well.
Being treated as a talented staff member in designing, analysing, and coding IT systems
Nguyen Van Giap owns the OneDay company, providing IT solutions through website development, software engineering, and other IT services to support persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged people. A 2010 graduate of the USAID-funded Information Technology Training Programme (ITTP) specializing in software engineering, was working as a key programmer at Viettotal, Ltd., an IT company, until early 2016. There he demonstrated his great passion for IT and his ability to collaborate well with his non-disabled colleagues. At Viettotal he was treated as a talented staff member regardless of his being confined to a wheelchair. His daily job involved designing, analysing, and coding IT systems, as well as training clients in the use and maintenance of such systems. Each year he would run four to five major projects on the management of software, which required advance IT techniques and team-work, and which were aimed at a large number of users.
Giap’s life has changed since he joined ITTP. He is no longer dependent on his family for support, and he has more friends with and without disabilities. He has been recognized by employers and colleagues as a committed, competent, and loyal staffer. More recently, and with great support and encouragement from his employer, Giap set up OneDay – realizing his vision to expand the abilities of persons with disabilities.
„Ich bin stolz, welches Vertrau- en meine Arbeitskolleginnen in mich haben.“
Mir geht es bei der Arbeit um einiges besser als die Jahre davor. Ich berichte euch von meinen Tätigkeiten: Meine erste Tätigkeit besteht darin, die Bankauszüge und eventuelle Einzahlungen bei der Bank abzuholen, die Rechnungen in die richtigen Ordner beziehungsweise in die richtigen Betriebe abzulegen.
Bei insgesamt 14 Betrieben gar nicht so einfach, würde ein anderer sagen, aber ich habe auch super Arbeitskolleginnen, die mich bei der Arbeit unter- stützen. Es geht bei solchen Rechnungen auch teilweise um sehr hohe Geldbeträge, und wenn der Wirtschaftsprüfer kommt und solche Rechnungen nicht ndet, die er braucht, bekommt die Firma was zu hören. Das ist nie gut für das Geschäft und deshalb bin ich auch so stolz, dass mir meine Arbeitskolleginnen solches Vertrauen schenken, auch wenn ich Schlampigkeitsfehler mache. Ich helfe auch sehr gerne meinen Arbeitskolleginnen bei ihren teils sehr schweren Arbeiten. Dann gehe ich aber auch Kaffee für meine Ladies holen, wenn sie wollen.
Ich zerkleinere auch entweder jeden Freitag oder jeden Montag die Papierkisten, leere die Mistkübel aus und stecke neue Abfallbeutel in die Mistkübel, oder ich mache anderweitige Arbeiten die gerade anfallen.
Ich bin einfach stolz und glücklich zugleich eine Arbeit zu haben und freue mich schon total auf das neue Ar- beitsjahr. Auf neue Herausforderungen, alte Gesichter, neue Gesichter und vielleicht sogar etwas mehr?
“Happy that our skills and abilities are valued in our new roles.”
Leaving home and relocating to a new region in the Kingdom to find a job is not an easy decision for any person. We lived in Jazan where we looked for employment, but we could find no suitable job vacancies. So we were faced with a tough decision: We could stay in Jazan and continue our unsuccessful job search, or we could relocate somewhere with better job prospects. Motivated to find work and focused on our career goals, we decided to expand our horizons and move to another region.
We considered that a move to the eastern province might give us greater opportunities. To this end, the Human Resources Development Fund worked with and supported us to find suitable and sustainable positions. After our initial training, we quickly settled into our new jobs as a receptionist and an accounting assistant. Today, we are happy that our skills and abilities are valued in our new roles, and that our five-day work week allows us to visit our family in Jazan at the weekend.
On the path to economic security and a strong voice in the community
Maya, 36, is a single mother of four children and the family’s bread winner. Poliomyelitis infection at the age of five affected her with neuromuscular paralysis, taking away her ability to stand or walk independently. Maya also lost her husband to tuberculosis, and the responsibility of four children then fell solely upon her.
With no marketable skills, finances, or assets, and with only a fifth-standard education, Maya appeared to have no income-generating opportunities. But today Maya is part of a disability-inclusive organic agro-enterprise project, supported by CBM, the international Christian development organization. Maya is also a budding shop-owner, processing locally grown organic produce. Specifically, she has been trained in the marketing and packaging of organic spices that are grown by her and other farmers.
One of the main features of the project is that of bringing individuals and the community together so that they can access government schemes designed for the poor and for people with disabilities. The livelihood project has not only set Maya on the path to economic and food security but it has also established her as a strong voice in the community.
“Recently, it was I who taught a new fellow how to do the job!”
In 2014, Diego Villagra signed his first employment contract – a milestone in his adult life. This is certainly thanks to his perseverance and persistent family support, but also thanks to the SKBergé company’s commitment to the integration of persons with cognitive disabilities into the workplace.
Diego has made good progress in carrying out his daily activities, including traveling a long distance each day to work via public
transportation. Once at work he performs the duties of a warehouse assistant; and after nine months of internship, during which time he received a living wage, he became a member of the permanent SKBergé staff.
This initiative of labour integration is bringing slow results, yet for Diego it has become an enriching experience that has allowed him to exhibit all his abilities. As he noted, “I like working and it is easy getting along with my companions, working in teams. Even more, recently I taught a new fellow how to do the job!”
“I tell them that they must persist in their job interviews.”
I’m Yolanda Viera Zalazar, now 54 years old. When I was just six my mother took me to a nursery because she had to travel to visit her sick mother in another town. In this nursery a man came to make some pyrotechnical games, but he forgot some of his equipment in a room. My friends and I entered into the room and started to play with the equipment when it exploded in my hands.
Today I work for Ecuador’s Labour Integration Service, where I help persons with disabilities to find a job. This is the most important part of my life – to help persons with disabilities, to tell them that we can be useful to society and that we mustn’t allow ourselves to be discounted. I tell them that they must persist in their job interviews – not only to help themselves but to help their families a well.
Currently I am studying English, and my dream is to obtain a college degree, even at my advanced age. If I couldn’t do it when I was young, I will do it today – and I will do it, because it is useful to have a degree. I want to continue to work and to help people, and I thank my colleagues and friends for supporting me. The only things that persons with disabilities need are love and understanding, and I think it is beautiful to work towards those goals.
A blind shepherd boy, now with full employment at a high school
Lukas Zida was born and raised at Boditi Woreda, a short distance outside of Wolaita town. As a young shepherd boy, Lukas was attacked by an angry cow, which resulted in his total blindness. Although his father lost hope for the boy’s future, by studying hard Lukas managed to graduate from secondary school, and then from Hawassa University with a degree in sociology in 2014. After graduation, however, Lukas was frustrated by lack of employment. He found it difficult to cover the cost of transportation and a personal assistant to apply for announced job vacancies. Worse, even when he did apply he was always turned down by recruiters because of his disability.
Fortunately, it was at this moment that Lukas was recruited by the Ethiopian Centre for Disability and Development to be a beneficiary of its Inclusive Skills Training and Employment Programme, funded by the US Agency for International Development. The programme offered Lukas three days of job search training before placing him in an internship in a government bureau for six months. During the internship, Lukas was provided with an allowance to meet the cost of transport and a personal assistant. The training and internship helped Lukas develop his work capacity by equipping him with both theoretical knowledge and on-the-job training in a formal working environment.
After successfully completing his internship and passing an exam, Lukas is currently employed at Otana High School as a student counsellor. As he reports, when he returned to his village for the first time after being employed, the residents were amazed at his success.
“I never gave up my passion or my abilities regardless of what I was told by others!”
For 24 years I was employed in childcare, where I was known as trustworthy and loving by parents and kids alike. Sadly, I was forced to leave this job due to Vermont’s credentialing of child-care staff. With no certification, I was unable to keep my job as a primary care provider, a huge loss to my employer and to me. Determined to save my career, I explored accreditation classes, but the faculty assumed my disability would prevent my successful completion. Again, I was distraught and I felt disrespected. I lost a career where I excelled!
I moved to a janitorial job, but never stopped believing in myself and my love of children. I babysat on the side and could often be seen around town with my small charges. What came next is due to my resolve to hold onto my dreams. Hearing of my child-care skills, Middlebury’s Parks and Recreation Department hired me for their ‘Tot Time’ programme. I quickly advanced to the summer camp programme, where I was re-united with a child I had cared for years earlier but who was now to be my co-worker! I advanced in my position, and was key in helping create the Special Olympics Young Athletes programme, in which I am a mentor.
My dedication to childcare rings clear in the words of my director: “Mary is very reliable, she never says no, is always early for work, and often stays late. Dustin and Mary are two peas in a pod, always laughing and joking with each other. Everyone loves Mary and we are never going to let her go!” Although forced to leave a job in which I expected to retire, I re-shaped my career with a team where I am respected and loved. I never gave up my passion or my abilities regardless of what I was told by others!