In April of 2016, we received an interesting submission from Cathy Cameron, the Coordinator at International Centre for Disability and Rehabilitation, which is situated within the Rehabilitation Sciences Sector, Faculty of Medicine at the University of Toronto. Founded in 2004, the ICDR is committed to advancing research and education in the rehabilitation sciences to improve the lives of people with disabilities worldwide. Cathy supports the activities of the 8 country groups for the ICDR, and Chairs the ICDR Finance group and is Vice-Chair Research for ICDR-Zambia. She has more than 15 years experience coordinating provincial, national and international research and evaluation projects. Cathy is a U of T alumni, earning her MHSc there and she is also the research coordinator for Dr. Stephanie Nixon on HIV, disability and rehabilitation.
Cathy was connecting with reBOOT Canada to support an important project in Liberia called the New Sight Eye Center, an initiative to address the prevalence of blindness in rural communities in that country.
The New Sight Eye Center had a problem. 80% of blindness in Liberia is preventable but 90% of those living with blindness are found in rural communities, creating a challenge around access and transportation to testing and treatment. Planning and executing an effective prevention and testing campaign to serve over 4 million residents required the right tools: computers!
Functioning or repairable used computers are a scarce resource, and reBOOT Canada will receive and distribute well 3,000 in the course of a year, almost exclusively within the country. That said, in the case of ICDR, and Cathy’s demonstrated long term commitment to the program, we were able to find some suitable equipment and were very happy to provide to Cathy for the purposes of supporting the Center.
Since than, Cathy has continued to work in other areas of sub-Saharan Africa in global health research space. She had recently begun work at a rural school in Zambia to strengthen access and capacity. As she described in a note last June, “the Zambian government recently introduced a requirement for all students to be tested on ICT skills as part of the qualification to graduate. Unfortunately, this school has no computers at all and therefore students will be tested having never seen, touched or turned on a computer. I recognize that the primary mandate of reBOOT is to supply the refurbished computers to bridge the gaps in access in Canada but was hoping you could make an exception for this specific purpose.”
Well, we did make that exception and Cathy was kind enough to share some pictures and audio recently to help us see the results and the impact. As the first gentleman in the audio reminds us, barriers to basic personal computer tech turn into barriers to further education, economic opportunities and engaged and active citizenry.
We’re delighted that Cathy reached out back in 2016, and we look forward to working together in the future!