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'Fas scheme took me from carwash job to Afghanistan'


Stephen Daly. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Stephen Daly. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Stephen Daly. Photo: Colin O'Riordan

SEVEN years ago Stephen Daly was washing cars in the rain for a living.

Now he has just returned from a two-week working visit to Afghanistan for his employer Concern, following the successful completion of a Fas programme.

For 11 days last month, the 30-year-old Dubliner trained Concern volunteers in the war-ravaged country in the use of Digital Data Gathering (DDG) devices.

Based in the city of Faizabad in Badakhshan province, north-east Afghanistan, the work involved will revolutionise the carrying out of surveys by voluntary organisations in such countries.

"In times past pencil-and-paper surveys could take a matter of months," Daly says.

"Now with these Samsung Galaxy tablets the material can be downloaded immediately and is then available to all Concern staff. This means we can respond to situations much more quickly than we could have done previously.

"We trained 22 people in how to use these devices. We tested them in a small village called Itarchi, about a 20-minute drive from Faizabad.

"As we were leaving, the newly trained team were heading out to a remote area called Yawan to carry out a survey using the tablets."

Stephen joined Concern in 2006 on a Fas six-month placement scheme.

Following the scheme's completion, the aid agency offered him a full-time role in their IT department.

"Before doing the Fas course I was washing cars in Donnybrook most days. I needed to get out of that," says the North Strand native.

"I enrolled with Fas and started a Network Plus IT course, then came the placement in Concern and now here I am."

It was Stephen's first time to visit a Concern programme abroad and he was greatly impressed with what he saw.

"The Concern people I met were so positive and they all seemed really involved with their work.

"They were really lovely people, and all local volunteer staff.

"It was a culture shock for sure, and the country is definitely still struggling, but it was a very positive experience."

The former Mount Temple pupil is also an accomplished banjo and fiddle player.