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International development cooperation

FOAL - Solidarity with Latin America

Over the past decades ONCE has developed a decidedly international cooperation work; one of its main driving force is its Foundation for Solidarity with the Blind in Latin America (FOAL in Spanish), set up in 1998.  FOAL continued the commitment of solidarity work towards blind people in the region, which ONCE was already doing since the early 80s.

This way, the values and principles driving the inclusion of people with disabilities, and pursued by ONCE and its Foundation, have been implemented in the 19 Latin American countries where FOAL carries out programmes and projects related with basic aspects for the development of people with visual disabilities and their organisations.  FOAL focuses its efforts in the areas of education, employment and empowerment of representative organisations of blind and partially sighted people.

In the field of education, FOAL works with public administrations in the different countries, together with the Spanish Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport and the Organization of Ibero-American States for Education, Science and Culture (OEI in Spanish) for the inclusive education of blind and severely visually impaired children.  FOAL supports quality educational care, which contributes to ensuring their right to education with equal opportunities, in educational centres and social communities, through the provision of adapted material and training of professionals who meet the specific needs stemming from visual disability.

Thanks to the support of FOAL, a total of 10 reference centres of educational resources are currently operating in Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru, in addition to education related projects being developed in other countries.

In the field of professional training and employment, FOAL has a specific programme, AGORA (Aulas of Occupational Management of the Latin American Region), which aims at incorporating blind and severely visually impaired people into the Latin American productive network through consulting units, training and labour mediation for their access to employment.

The AGORA programme is currently present in 14 countries, where it works in cooperation with local, public and private organisations, provides beneficiaries with professional and vocational guidance, training courses and workshops, professional internships, and supports basic adaptation needs of the different work placements, to enable beneficiaries to enter the productive market.

Furthermore, there is a continued interlocution work with public and private institutions offering employment, creating thus a job exchange, which operates according to the beneficiaries’ needs and skills.  Additionally, AGORA grants special importance to entrepreneurship as a way to achieve self-employment, by offering support to beneficiaries from design stage to search for financing stage or follow-up of the business implementation.

Throughout its existence, AGORA has allowed a great number of blind and severely visually impaired people to achieve employment and move from being hidden, isolated and ignored by society to becoming the centre of the family and, on many occasions, its only support.

FOAL supports also the associative network and the organised civil society, which represents people with visual disabilities in the Latin American region, contributing to their empowerment so they can increasingly play a determining role in their future, be more representative and work in the appropriate bodies in each case to achieve the requested improvements.

This is how ONCE and its Foundation, with the support of other national and international, public and private bodies, contribute progressively to people with disabilities in Latin America playing a more active role in society, being taken into account and increasingly involved in it.

www.foal.es