Camara Belfast shipped off their first consignment of computers this Wednesday from their newly opened workshop, in Townsend Enterprise Park, with the help of Tom Hartley, Lord Mayor of Belfast.

Tom Hartley Lord Mayor said,

“I am delighted to endorse the commendable work being done through Camara and wish it continued success. It is truly inspirational to see how communities from this part of the world can help those less fortunate in Africa. Empowerment through education is such a powerful force and will make a real difference to so many lives as a result of this scheme.”

John Cooley, Chairperson of Springvale Learning and board member of Camara added that, “The Camara project is about promoting education in Africa but it is also about creating a culture of reusing and recycling. Earth Day on Saturday 28th March has helped the public to focus on the need to change the way we use our resources in order to develop a more sustainable lifestyle. Each year businesses, schools and households throw out thousands of computers that still have many years of life in them. Camara offers a very positive alternative to land-fill. We need public and private companies and individual donors to bring in their used computers which are suitable for our needs with a small cash donation to help with the refurbishment and shipment of the computer to the African child in the recipient village school. It costs fifty pounds to refurbish and ship each computer to Africa; therefore a contribution of twenty pounds would be most welcome to sustain Camara’s work.”

We are very pleased that the Lord Mayor could be with us for this send off of our first shipment from our new premises. These 230 computers are going to Lesotho and will make a contribution to the education of children in 10 schools there. A computer lab is typically made up of 25 computers. To date Camara have sent computers to 50 of the 250 secondary schools in Lesotho.

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Lesotho is a small, landlocked, mountainous kingdom, surrounded by South Africa. It has a population of 2 million people and is quite sparsely populated. The economy is based on agriculture, light manufacturing and textiles. It has been heavily dependant on remittances from mine workers in South Africa but this is a declining income source. The country has fallen down the Human Development Index (HDI) ladder from 137th in 2003 to 149th in 2005. This decline is in part due to the rise of HIV/Aids in the country.

In response to the growing number of people living with HIV and Aids in Lesotho, Camara developed an education programme called Respect. This is a computer software programme. It is targeted at young people in Lesotho through schools and other educational structures. Respect looks at healthy relationships, equality, sexual health and what it might be like to live with HIV and Aids.

Michaela Rafferty from Belfast who promoted this programme as part of Africa ‘08 said,

“I spent the month of July in Lesotho demonstrating this programme to relevant groups which included teachers, Health Professionals, Government Bodies and many local people. I obtained as much constructive feedback as possible and brought this back to Camara. The feedback was generally very positive. Many people recognised the HIV and Aids issue and agreed that educating young people on these issues was an important step in tackling the growing problem.”

Lesotho is one of four hub countries where Camara are working in partnership with local groups and individuals who are engaging volunteers and developing sustainable systems to assist technology as an aid to education. Sekota Mokhathali (Simon) is the coordinator in Lesotho and the hub which is situated in Teyateyaneng, 19 miles (31 km) northeast of the capital Maseru. This market centre has a reputation for the production of finely woven mohair rugs and other textiles and for stoneware pottery.