Message from the Director

Dear Donors and Friends,

After a busy year, we would like to update you on what your gift to the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust accomplished in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.

Kim and I, along with the President of Perkins, Steven Rothstein, and Laura Matz also from Perkins, visited Nairobi to meet with the organizations whose work we support. We met many of the people who are repairing Braille writing machines, we met students who are using the Braille machines, we met visually impaired and blind university students who are the future advocates and we met the people running the programs.

The highlight was opening the Spare Parts depot in Nairobi that the Trust has funded, one of three depots supplying spare parts in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Difficulty in obtaining spare parts was a major obstacle in repairing broken machines. These facilities, as well as increased training of repair people, will help speed up Braille machine repair. More than 1000 machines have been repaired so far. We have also distributed dozens of new machines in the three countries as well. We invite you to visit to see a few photos from our visit to Kenya.

Despite this progress, there is still much to be done. For example, amongst the blind Kenyatta University students we met who are just about to finish their studies, not a single one had their own machine. What will they do after they graduate? Another example is that in two schools for the blind in Uganda, 62 students share only 15 Braillers. That means that any one student will have significant periods of time when he or she cannot take notes, nor do homework. Homework must always be done at school because no one has their own machine at home.

A recent estimate of need in the region suggested that a minimum of 2000-3000 Braillers are required to at least provide access to a Brailler to all students who are blind attending school, without even mentioning the students having their own machines for the rest of their lives, nor many children who are blind who do not attend school.

Plans for next year include providing more Braille machines, continuing to provide more spare parts, continuing to provide skilled repair people, continuing to develop a tracking system for the existing machines in the three countries, training students how to care for the machines, providing paper for the cumbersome and expensive braille books, and possibly printing presses to decrease the heavy load on the African Braille Centre that must print all the Braille text books for the entire country.

Thank you again for your commitment to the mission of the Kilimanjaro Blind Trust which is proud to support the passionate people we met. We would like to thank the dedicated people at Perkins and our partners in Africa who are helping us to fulfil our mission.

We wish you a very successful and enriching year, and thank you again from the depths of our hearts.

Paul Polman
Director, Kilimanjaro Blind Trust
CEO, Unilever