Innovation and resilience are at the core of the Association of the Deaf (ASSOD), a 2,000-member organization run by people with disabilities in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. And ASSOD is using these qualities — with the support of U.S. grants through the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) — to help its members improve their lives.
To combat overt employment discrimination against the deaf and hard of hearing, ASSOD established a welding business to provide competitive job opportunities for its members. Local schools and businesses buy products that ASSOD members construct, including school chairs, tables, gates, windows and fireplace stoves, USADF reported August 27. Above, ASSOD members display their finished products in Bulawayo.
USADF first awarded ASSOD a capacity-building grant of $97,000 in 2012 to strengthen operations and management and financial controls, explore potential markets and produce a five-year business plan. Exceeding expectations, ASSOD reached 115 percent of its target sales in the capacity-building phase, which convinced USADF to increase funding in March 2013.
With the $250,000 USADF expansion grant, ASSOD plans to implement a revolving loan program that will make it possible for deaf and hard of hearing members to start their own businesses. The organization also plans to continue expanding the welding business by marketing to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and consumers from manufacturing, construction, disability, health, mining and education sectors across Zimbabwe.
USADF is a U.S. government–funded corporation that supports African-designed and African-driven solutions to grass-roots economic problems on the continent. Its support for ASSOD reflects its commitment to improving economic development for Africa’s most marginalized communities, including people with disabilities. Since 2008, USADF has awarded nearly $5 million to a portfolio of 39 grants benefiting people with disabilities.