The Free Internet Cafe for the Blind & Visually Impaired, the first in the whole of Africa, which opens the World Wide Web, making The Gambia a leading light in Africa, with this technology by allowing free and total access to surf the net send and receive emails and for students to enhace their studies with the aid of this pioneering software. No more do they need to rely on a third party to read to them newspapers, magazines, books, letters and world wide information. - Article in Developer Australia

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article in Developer Australia


Simon Wezel, a Fellow of The Institution of Analysts and Programmers, set up the Kingfisher Trust more than a decade ago to provide a wide range of technical facilities and support in the Gambia. Most recently, it has set up an Internet café for the blind and visually impaired - the first in Africa.

Simon visited the Gambia on holiday and was moved by the poverty he saw. He wanted to find a way to assist those who had no way to help themselves. Starting with few resources, he encouraged organisations and friends to donate goods and distributed them to those in need. After travelling between the UK and the Gambia for 14 years, he decided to live there permanently and thus expand the organisation. Over the years, tangible results of the Trust's efforts began to emerge and more people got involved. Links were set up with donors who were willing to assist this developing nation.

Simon Wezel takes up the story, "Several years ago, Captain Seine, who lost his sight after a car accident in 1993, joined us as President. Just before visiting the UK in October 2005, I read an article about a computer program for the blind. A Symantec employee had just offered us GBP£500 from a sponsored bike ride and the company had agreed to match his donation. Having seen a demonstration of the Guide program at the RNIB, I decided to buy it from Software Express. On my return I asked Captain Saine to come and try it out. What happened was unbelievable.

Within two hours he was typing a document and even sendinn e-mail for the first time in his life. He said, "This will make my life independent. I will not need my children to read my letters and other documents. It would be marvellous if other blind people could have this opportunity." 'The Guide Program from Software Express is really marvellous - and very reasonable. However, it was designed for individuals, which made storing email addresses very difficult; as we entered one, the previous entry was cancelled. This problem has been sorted by Software Express, which is releaSing a new Internet café-friendly version. The only other problems relate to saving and retrieving documents and the difficulty for blind people in navigating a file system. We hope to overcome this problem by giving each student a personal USB flash memory stick."

"At present we have over 30 students aged between 14 and 38, the majority being 100% blind. We work very closely with the school for the blind. They have now started to teach keyboard skills at the school and we will co-ordinate a timetable with them because they have more people who would like to join. If we had the money, we could expand the Internet café and double the number of computers."

We need plenty of USB memory sticks! I expect a lot of people will have old, small capacity devices in their drawers, having upgraded in the last year or so. Please send them to: Kingfisher Trust, P.O.Box110, Banjul, the Gambia, West Africa. Please indicate on the jiffy bag that they are articles for the blind. And, of course, donations are always welcome!"

Mike Ryan. Director General of the IAP, said, "We were delighted to make a contribution to this very worthwhile cause and we have given Simon an initial quantity of 20 USB memory sticks for his students. We hope many more people will do the same." You can contact Simon at The Kingfisher Web site is at

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