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© Sightsavers/ Martin Kharumwa

SIGHTSAVERS: Meet the business owner training youth with disabilities

Sightsavers’ Connecting the Dots initiative in Uganda offers young people with disabilities the opportunity to learn a new trade and gain valuable work experience.
We speak to Isaac Bolingo, an employer who has welcomed five interns at his business and is now championing the scheme to other employers.

Over 500 young people in the Masindi area of Western Uganda have taken part in Connecting the Dots, a scheme that links them up with training and employment opportunities. After completing a three-month course learning a trade of their choice – including construction work, welding, tailoring or hairdressing – they are connected with local employers where they spend three to six months working on the job.

Isaac is a local businessman who owns a thriving mechanics shop in Masindi town called Isaac’s Motorcycle Spares and Garage. He has taken on five young people with disabilities as part of our programme to become trainee mechanics and is training graduates from the scheme for the second year running. One of his first trainees was Sharif, a 24-year-old who is deaf. After completing his course at a local technical college, he took part in the employment programme’s careers fair in town, where he joined other young people from the scheme to celebrate their hard work and connect with potential employers. At the careers fair, the graduates were each given a toolkit for their trade, so they would be fully equipped to begin their career.

A young woman working at a sewing machine.
Connecting the Dots
Our training and employment programme has transformed the lives of young people with disabilities in western Uganda.

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Sharif excelled at his new job and is now a paid member of staff at Isaac’s garage. He’s now working without needing any instruction (as Isaac proudly tells us) and is supporting himself financially. Sharif says that if he hadn’t enrolled on the scheme, he would still be at home. “I’d be in the village doing nothing! Maybe only digging [farming work] – that would be the only work… it is difficult to find a job.”

Joel and Ronald, recent graduates from the scheme, have joined Sharif as trainee mechanics at Isaac’s garage and the three have become close friends. “I thought there were only a few people with disabilities when I was young,” says Ronald, “but when I came here [to Masindi], I found a lot and I said, ‘Ah, there are many people who have disabilities…’ We are all friends, all of us taking courses.”

As a person with a visual impairment, Ronald has found that people’s attitudes towards him can often be negative and he is treated differently to everyone else. But Isaac has been supportive, encouraging and friendly: “He’s a good person,” says Ronald. “He told me that if I work hard, I will stay with him.” Ronald’s excited about staying on at the garage after completing the internship, or using his new skills to work at another big garage in the town.

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