Working through, and looking beyond COVID
Even though COVID still poses many challenges, Vision-Aid is already looking to brighter times are on their way. During this festive season, Vision-Aid would like to share with you some updates about programs in India. Several online programs are thriving, and in-person programs are gradually resuming across India, helping to bring light into the lives of the visually impaired we serve.
Over the past 3 months several new programs have commenced adapting them to the unprecedented COVID environment. Several existing programs are gradually reopening from earlier COVID lockdown.
Scholarship Training Program Batch 2. (STP2)
This is the second in a series of 6-month intensive training to train visually impaired students, in a range of skills to prepare them for the job market. This program also called the Maskati Scholarship Training Program, to honor the donor who enabled it. It includes Certificate Courses in Computer Applications, Spoken English for Beginners, Coaching in Government and Banking sector examinations, Mobile technologies and soft skills. COVID has changed how these programs are conducted and Vision-Aid is unable to offer residential Scholarship Training program as was the case with STP1, which was a classroom model. However, several of the programs are conducted online. 8 scholars are currently enrolled in this program and are working diligently towards completing the it. Currently the focus is on Spoken English and Mobile Technologies with other skills training to follow during later phases of this program.
Spoken English Program – Beginners (South India)
13 visually impaired youth are actively participating in a 6-month online learning under this program They are making excellent progress and are in the 10th week of the program. This program will likely end by 31st December 2020.
Certificate in Computer Applications (North India):
8 students are currently enrolled in the program, in two batches of 4 each. This is a classroom model on the premises of Dr Shroff’s Charitable Eye Hospital, (SCEH) New Delhi and is expected to be completed by June 2021.
Mobile Technology Training program (North India)
6 students are currently enrolled in this program. This is a new online model, through Zoom. It is expected to be completed in mid of December 2020.
The Vision-Aid Resource Centre in Agra
The new Resource Centre in Agra became active after the relaxations announced by the Uttar Pradesh Government. 12 students of Radhaswamy Institute for Visually Handicapped (RIVH), will begin undergoing classroom training in CCA and SEP-B. Two part time trainers for this program have been identified and hired along with a Center manager for the new Center. Another batch of 12 students from Lui Braille Blind School, Agra, will also go through the similar Training in CCA and Mobile technologies.
A new Resource Centre in Chennai is set to begin in January 2021. This is a partnership with a 62-year-old multi-speciality hospital named Voluntary Health Services (VHS).
Advanced Technical mentoring: A group of 12 visually impaired students who completed our Python training program have started advanced mentoring with a group of 5 mentors. Students are working to build complex team projects with a plan to participate in a hackathon in January. The goal of this program is to impart advanced skills to get the students ready for IT sector jobs which are very competitive and demanding.
Existing programs Reopen
In addition to the new programs listed above, the following existing programs are also coming out of lockdown mode and picking up pace. During the past few months, they have moved from a fully virtual model to a hybrid model seeing some patients/students on site, while continuing virtual programs:
- Vision-Aid resource centre at Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai
- Vision-Aid resource centre at Aravind Eye Hospital Madurai.
- Vision-Aid resource centre at Shroff Charity Hospital in Delhi
- Vision-Aid resource centre at Nethra Blind School in Hyderabad and Vizag
- Vision-Aid resource centre at MILTON foundation for visually handicapped in Berhampur
Programs in pipeline
The DATTC Testing Centre: Our DATTC team has successfully tested and delivered their first project to a client in Boston, USA and is currently in talks with a new clients inCalifornia and Chicago, to try and secure a new paid contract for DAT projects.
DATTC Training: Another batch of students for the DATTC program is planned in January 2021.
Python training: A new 6-month training program in Python language programming will be enrolled in December 2020. We have received a flood of applicants from all over India and are shortlisting the final pool of candidates. This program is taught by volunteers only and at this time, we are running a little bit short of volunteer teachers but are working to address the issues by recruitment of volunteers
VOA: Phase 1 of Vision-Aid Online Academy (VOA) has been completed. Early planning for VOA phase 2 will start in January 2021.
Pune Centre: Early planning has started to launch the Pune Centre in January 2021.
New training "Workplace Etiquettes" is under development. This course is being led by two former Vision-Aid start students and aims to teach students skills to help them succeed in the workplace. This course will be developed as a full-fledged MOOC course and be placed on VOA.
New Course: Spoken English Intermediate program is being developed by a team of volunteers in the US in collaboration with some of our India staff. We are expecting to launch a pilot with around 5-8 students in Dec/January time frame as soon as this course is ready
New Centre in Hyderabad: Discussions are ongoing with LVPEI Hyderabad, to open a new centre focused on Research and Development into Visual Impairment, and development of low, cost technology solutions.
Innovation Centre: In addition to the programs listed above, a new “Innovation Centre” is being created in Vision-Aid India during December 2021. This centre will handle a range of more advanced and innovative programs and include programs like Braille Technology, Advanced technologies, Placement Assistance Programs, etc. The innovation Center will help us stay on the leading edge of fact paced technology and tools which align with our mission
Overall, despite the challenges imposed by COVID, it has been a busy and productive time as the team gears up to look into a much brighter 2021.