(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Orphans to benefit from IT training

More than 900 orphans will receive computer training every year thanks to a US $90,645 Japanese grant extended to the al-Ansar NGO in Damascus to establish two computer labs.

"Orphans are the most vulnerable in society and if they don't receive education, healthcare or training they are disadvantaged for the rest of their lives," Azusa Hayashi, Ambassador of Japan to Syria, told IRIN in Damascus.

Each lab contains 22 computers, scanners, laser printers, projectors and photocopying machines, in addition to the necessary infrastructure. IT and telecommunications, Hayashi explained, bring people across the world together and create new activities and a new culture.

Japan pays great attention to bridging gaps in IT, or digital differences, hoping to build an IT society whose benefits extend beyond Japan's borders to cover the world as a whole, the ambassador said.

Within the framework of Japan's Grassroots Grant Assistance Scheme, started in Syria in 1996, Hayashi signed the Japanese grant contract.

An orphan sponsored by the NGO, Ala' Bassal, 14, told IRIN: "I am very happy about the Japanese grant, because it will enable me to learn computer skills."

"The computer labs will ensure I have a healthy environment which will foster my self-reliance and self-esteem," orphan, Sara, 14, told IRIN.

Dr Salah Eddin Kuftaro, Director of the Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro Complex overseeing the NGO, told IRIN: "The NGO is planning to organise more than 40 computer training courses a year in cooperation with computer experts from Japan's International Cooperation Agency (JICA)."

The number of sponsored orphans at the NGO, founded in 1959 by former Grand Mufti of Syria, Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro, is 1,350. It offers assistance to orphans in the form of payments, clothing and in-kind assistance twice a year, along with health services.

In addition, the NGO provides financial aid for 200 poor families and ensures better paid jobs and new career opportunities for young orphans and poor people through capacity-building, Kuftaro explained.

Within the framework of the orphan sponsorship programme, al-Ansar is currently building a village in the south of Damascus. This project will accommodate 1,080 orphans where food, clothing, medicine, education and vocational training will be provided, Kuftaro explained.

The NGO also runs an Islamic Institute "Sheikh Ahmad Kuftaro Complex, he pointed out and is seeking to increase the number of foreign students for this.

Diala Haj Aref, Syria's Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, told IRIN: "The Japanese grant has removed barriers facing the poor, it has bridged the gap between orphans and other children, regarding computer skills."

The minister added that funds for social development would be set up to alleviate poverty, hold training courses and ensure job opportunities.

Since the start of its Grassroots Scheme in Syria in 1996, Japan has funded 56 projects in different fields targeting people with special needs, the health sector, vocational training and the environment. The total amount of implemented projects in Syria within this scheme has reached $2.55 million.

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