WORLD BRAILLE FOUNDATION INVITED TO OPEN TORONTO STOCK MARKET - Euclid Herie, president of the World Braille Foundation and Robert Peterman, director, Global Business Development, TMX Group, opened the market on January 3, 2014, to mark World Braille Day. The World Braille Foundation empowers blind children and young adults in the developing world by funding education and micro-employment projects. World Braille Day commemorates the January 4, 1809 birthday of Louis Braille whose ingenious system of raised dots has brought literacy to people who are blind and visually impaired for almost two centuries.
2014 has been an exceptional and historic year for the World Braille Foundation. As we plan for 2015, I want to share important information with family, friends and donors. I do so with appreciation to our Board Members for their support, diligence and strong oversight.
First, my thanks to our donors who have made generous gifts during the past year. This amazing year got off to a roaring start on January 3 with the opening of the TSX that made headlines and resounded around the world. It was truly a red letter day for the WBF and Braille literacy.
By October of this year, the Government of Canada required all registered charities to comply with a new statute and regulations governing the charity's activities including the privilege of issuing charitable tax receipts with CRA. This involved a rather lengthy and costly process to obtain the Certificate of Continuance (our new mandate to carry on business as usual). With assistance of several colleagues and directed by Gary Homer, WBF VP, you will be pleased to know that we are in full compliance with both the new mandate and CRA registration complete with revised Bylaws essential to this process. We thank Gary, Barbara and Penny Hartin, together with Pro Bono assistance from a Calgary law firm. This avoided an expenditure of some $6,000 which allowed us greater flexibility in the use of our limited funds.
In May, I attended the World Blind Union Executive meeting in Oslo with a presentation on options for the long-term future of the WBF. The WBU has a Constitutional world organization The World Braille Council with the mandate to address all Braille and Literacy matters at the global level. After careful reflection, our Board voted to move our scholarship and other programs to the WBU at some date in the future at the discretion of our Board. On November 8, the WBU President, Arnt Holte, was in Toronto and we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). This MOU, when it comes into force, will secure and preserve the WBF in status, name, our programs, and present and future assets indefinitely.
At a dinner in conjunction with the Annual Meeting in Calgary this June we honoured the memory and contribution of Mary Hochhausen with the establishment of the prize in her name for literacy, music and employment for young blind women and men in Africa. In June you would have received a brochure describing the Prize. Ben Hochhausen and his family presented a gift of $50,000 to endow this prize. In an unexpected gesture of generosity and surprise, Jeanie and Jim Brown (Ben's daughter and son-in-law) whispered in my ear, or at least Jeanie did, that they would match the gift.
As a result we now have an account open with RBC Dominion Securities in Toronto that makes it possible to accept all donations including stocks and other securities. In addition to the $100,000 gift from the Hochhausen family, we have placed the Gerald Dirks and Barbara Marjeram scholarship funds to the same designated account for a total of just over $150,000. Revenue and funds will be drawn upon as needed for each award as approved by the Board and recommended by the individual award groups.
It is my profound hope that this new permanent World Braille Foundation Fund will grow even larger creating a legacy to braille, music and employment supported by other generous gifts.
With additional donations to the Gerald Dirks Fund this year, we were able to award three scholarships without touching the initial donations. The following recipients have each receive a $1000 US scholarship:
Frances in Uganda for teaching of Braille by acquiring a Masters degree in Institutional Management and Leadership Skills;
Martin in Kenya for a post graduate degree in Special Needs Education; and Florence in Uganda for a second year toward a Bachelors degree in Special Needs Education.
To date we have awarded five scholarships to blind students in Africa, four of whom are women.
We have two applications for the Mary Hochhausen Prize under review. Meanwhile we funded a project in Liberia for $2,000 US through our partners there, which was in direct and urgent response to the Ebola crises in West Africa. This included the development of a communications program through the use of music and a jingle delivering the message through 18 radio stations. Soon this jingle will be available to listen to the WEB site. It also included braille material outlining symptom, prevention and good diet instructions to the blind population.
As the Liberian Christian Association of the Blind stated in their documentation: "Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks of the Ebola virus. Effective Ebola control requires applying a package of interventions, namely: case management, surveillance and community tracing as well as good laboratory services safe burial and social mobilization.
Early supportive care with rehydration symptomatic treatment improves survival. Additional information regarding the impact of Ebola and its toll have given detail revelation of the presence of a lot of negative difficulties for the blind and partially sighted in Liberia as stopping its transmission demands adapting to a new culture of life." WBF was noted as a leader in providing financial support to assist blind people faced with this additional stress on their day to day lives.
The Barbara Marjeram Award received three applications this year. A micro employment award was provided to Grace for a second year. As you may recall Grace has established a soap making industry and is saving for University.
This summary along with our June photo album provides an update of an exciting year. Our goal for 2015 will be to continue with the present awards while exploring opportunities for new projects to be reflected on our WEB site and Facebook. The WEB site will be going through a redesign with a new Manager – meanwhile it is operating for Paypal donations.
While we have enjoyed this unusual and generous support in 2014, we cannot rest on the past but rather plan and work for the future. With that comment may I wish one and all the very best over the holiday Season and the New Year ahead - And oh yes, Happy 206th Birthday to Louis Braille on January 4.
With warm regards
Euclid Herie CM President
Why is Braille Important?
For someone who is blind, braille means independence. Without literacy it is difficult for a person who is blind to be an engaged member of society.
Braille = Equality and is a building block to literacy and independence. Literacy is the key to opportunity, economic security and freedom. Yet in most developing countries blind children receive little or no education. The lack of skilled teachers and limited access to braille materials or equipment means that in many countries that at least 95 per cent of blind children do not attend school.
For adults, braille skills dramatically increase opportunities for employment but basics such as braille paper or instruction are often not available.
Today we are on the ground in Kenya, Burkina Faso, Mali, Liberia and Lesotho. This is two(2) year six(6) month project in partnership with the Canadian government, will be completed early in 2014.
The focus of this project is the same as our previous project in Swaziland and Niger “Inclusive Education for Blind and Visually Impaired girls and boys in rural Africa”. Our local work is designed to assimilate with the current government and community infrastructure to create a sustainable learning environment.
In its 14 years of operation the World Braille Foundation has successfully implemented and directly financed more than 42 projects in 22 countries throughout the developing world to a total of over $1 million.
In 2008 the Foundation established the Barbara Marjeram Scholarship for Braille literacy which provides up to $1,000 a year as an award to blind girls and women.
What we do The project aims to establish resource centres in rural primary schools in Burkina Faso, Mali, Liberia, and Lesotho to support the teaching of blind and visually impaired girls and boys. The children enrolled in the schools learn Braille, are prepared for integration to primary school, and gain skills for independent living, such as orientation and mobility using a white cane. The African Union of the Blind (AFUB) Situated in Narobi, Kenya, is the lead partner.
Expected Results The expected intermediate outcomes for this project include: (1) Increased readiness of blind and visually impaired girls and boys to integrate inclusive primary level education in rural areas of the target countries; (2) Improved learning environment created by skilled educators for blind and visually impaired boys and girls in rural areas of the target countries; (3) Enhanced commitment of government to promote the inclusion of blind and visually impaired boys and girls in mainstream education of targeted countries.