Projects

Field trips and the future: ETC of PWD trustees visit to Gulu and beyond

Buying from the Design and Decoration graduates at Graduation Day

Cohort 1 of the VPlus programme graduated in December 2021, they have been at work ever since. So, August 22 was a good time to visit past graduates, learn how they were getting on, what extra training and support they needed and how future programmes should be adapted.

Out To The Field

Developments

The growing quality of the training at Gulu Disabled Persons Union, (GDPU) and greater ambition amongst graduates, has expanded the range of Post Training Support. Extra training demands have moved far beyond the usual literacy, numeracy and record keeping. IT, getting involved with social media as part of the selling process or access to new information, featured heavily in our Post Training Support visits.

But, context matters. Contrast the ways in which three graduates work and sell their goods.

Apiyo Miriam

Apiyo Miriam and the Knitting group with Musema Faruk, outside their shop in Gulu

Apiyo Miriam works with Sweater Weaving groups in Gulu town: ‘Disabled Youth Living Enterprise Group Sweater Knitting’ and ‘Waneno Anyim Sweater Knitting’. They have a smart shop and a growing selection of knitting and sewing machines. Miriam’s record keeping and leadership, in this or any other context, is extraordinarily good.

Miriam with her book keeping records and graduation photo

She is very proactive, seeking out knitting contracts from local schools and individuals; the group is busy. But, as she says the future of selling is on the internet, and that was the training she needed. How to access and use, probably Facebook, to sell their goods across Uganda, certainly. But Miriam’s ambition is much wider, she realises that the West will pay much more for goods made by groups like hers and she wants to know how to do it.

Akello Brenda with Musema Faruk

Akello Brenda

Akello Brenda has sickle cell, and lives with her parents out beyond Unyama traiding centre, five kilometres north east of Gulu. Brenda trained on the Design and Decoration course and makes baskets and jewellery. Every month she takes her baskets etc on a boda (motorbike taxi) out to an auction, one of the large markets that visit outlying trading centres. She will set a blanket on the ground and sell what she can. Last months auction was disturbed by the rain and she sold nothing.

There is nowhere to set up shop around her family compound, although she sometimes sell to people who use the path leading to the centre. It was noticeable how proud her mother was of her child, and how much she wanted to help, buying materials for example. A shop in Unyama might be one possibility, although it is doubtful that returns would cover the rent. But, during Cohort 2, the GDPU Design and Decoration instructor dropped out and Brenda took over, successfully. Most instructors balance making and selling with teaching, it could be a model for her too. Past graduates have already become good instructors at GDPU, eg Aciro Brenda who helped set up the new tailoring course.

A range of Design and Decoration Goods on show at Graduation

Akello Brenda also asked for training in making more complex, and fashionable jewellery, which she knows will sell well. This is where the internet could help her; You Tube videos perhaps? Access to them is tricky without a smartphone, she would probably have to come into GDPU for that. Diversity will be the key for her, she is also a very good traditional dancer

Odong Haron Bob

Haroon Bob at work in Lira

We travelled to Lira, a town similar to Gulu, some 130 or so kilometres to the south east. Odong Haron Bob, an albino, trained in electronics and has a good placement with an extremely entrepreneurial man near the centre. Bob was being trained thoroughly, on more IT kit than I have seen outside Kampala.

Musema Faruk with a member of Gulu PWD Electronics in Gulu Main Market recently

The contrast between this set up and the Gulu PWD electronics group we have been visiting in Gulu Main Market since 2017 was significant. Gulu PWDs have not moved beyond basic feature phones, have little IT experience and after many years have still not put up a sign advertising their business. But, they are significant sportsmen, up to Olympic standard, have genuine political ambitions, likely to be realised and are great company.

Haroon Bob and other Cohort 1 trainees at GDPU

Meanwhile in Lira, all the relevant software was there: several laptops; basic coding; everything you need for modern IT work and Bob was learning it all. There is a well known saying here, “Lira is for business and Gulu is for party”, but there is more to it than that. Gulu PWDs trained in 2014-5 when aspirations were lower, less kit was available and community involvement less significant. For example, Bob’s family helped to place him with this business. The serious development of the ‘Plus’ element in the training that GDPU provides must be part of the solution too.

Back to GDPU

It was with thoughts like these that we returned to our meetings at GDPU. we would consider where the VPlus training programme had led and what should be the future path for training young people with disabilities in Gulu and surrounding districts. See the next blog for more.

Diversity and Music

Odong Sunday plays his music at Cohort 2 Graduation Day

Thinking of the diversity many VPlus graduates use to become self supporting This video, taken during the Cohort 2 graduation at GDPU, shows Odong Sunday and his group playing one of his songs. He has already recorded a more contemporary song that is getting attention, he has many more and appealed for funds to pay for more recording. The Deputy Mayor no less, put forward a significant sum, she knew real talent when she heard it. The role of music and music technology (performed, recorded and sold) in skills training became a significant talking point in our subsequent meeting at GDPU, see the next blog for more.

Want to Know More?

If you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page. If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page. If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. 

Many Thanks.

This programme is funded by aid from the British people

Wan Weng Dano: We Are All Human Beings

This video was made by Musema Faruk, the Head Teacher at Gulu Disabled Persons Union and the VPlus Programme Manager. It features trainees from Cohort 2 of the programme and is introduced by the Head Boy, Watmond Emmanuel. The song was written by Odong Sunday, a Sweater Weaver from Odek Sub County. Many of the scenes are from the wonderful Graduation Day, described in a previous post.

Wan Weng Dano: a song by VPlus Cohort 2 trainees at GDPU

This is Faruk’s explanation of the song:

Title: Wan weng dano (English: we are all human beings) 

“This a motivational song encouraging the disability community, especially the youth, not to pity themselves. It encourages their parents, and those who still have negative attitude towards the ability of persons with disability, to change the way they look at them and to support their children in getting education.

The song also talks about the impact of education on youth with disabilities, especially the skills training they are undergoing through the Vplus programme. They stress through the song that a skill will help them become self-employed or even employed. They encourage other youth with disabilities at home not to look at their disability as a disadvantage, but as an opportunity for diversity and development.” 

Running to get the Skills Training graduation certificate

Want to Know More?

If you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page. If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page. If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. 

Many Thanks.

This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people’

VPlus Cohort 2 Graduation

Running to get the graduation certificate

This graduation was the second joyous celebration of the achievements of youth with disability in Gulu and surrounding districts of Northern Uganda.

Waiting for the rain at GDPU

The rains had begun earlier in the week, but luckily, they held off for most of the occasion. Allowing the speeches, traditional dance and display of goods and skills to take place. Gulu Disabled Persons Union, our delivery partner, organised the day very well and many important local people were there.

Motorcycle repair graduate explaining his new skills. Note the Gulu City District Education Officer behind and the Sign Language Interpreter in front

Ability in Disability

The attendance by dignitaries, and the subsequent affirmation of people with disabilities, matters a great deal in this context. The theme for the day was ‘ability in disability’ and it was interesting to note how many of the speeches described the speakers own involvement with disability, through perhaps a child, a sibling or training. It was a day that highlighted the inclusivity that will be crucial for the future lives of those graduating.

Vplus trainees march out to present themselves to visitors, honoured guests, friends and families. The Deputy Mayor is clapping along

GDPU Success

It was also the first time in over two and a half years that the ETC of PWD trustees could get to Gulu, it was wonderful to be back, and in time for such an important occasion. It was also important to have the chance to publicly applaud the success of GDPU, in particular the work of Ojok Patrick GDPU Centre Co Ordinator and Musema Faruk, VPlus programme manager (and now Head Teacher at GDPU). Their efforts have been boosted been by Ajok Emma, Guidance Counsellor and Mary Paul Lakot, Accounts Manager. It is their integrity, dedication and endless hours of work throughout Pandemics, Lockdowns and every other sort of challenge that has delivered the change to the disabled community in Gulu. Not forgetting of course the crucial role of the highly committed team of instructors and support staff.

Running to get the graduation certificate, with family and instructors

Parental Involvement

The first cohort of the VPlus programme was older than the second and parental/ community involvement had not been so strong. This gap was identified in Reflection Meetings and for the second cohort Faruk and the team tried hard to get greater involvement. Parental attendance at their graduation was much higher this time and support for trainees more noticeable. It is a pre-condition of the course that trainees come with at least some tools for their training, supplied by parents. To qualify for the VPlus Revolving Loan Scheme, that helps start up new businesses post training, parents also have to contribute. Faruk reports that parents have been far more willing to give something and much more involved in the training programme this time around; a big step forward.

Tradiitional Dance: the Acero

Joy

The usual bandwidth problems prevented us livestreaming the graduation, but I hope these images and video give some flavour of the joy with which parents, family and friends greeted the public recognition of the graduates (or graduands as they are called here).

Buying from the Design and Decoration graduates

Setting out their stall

The stalls with goods made by trainees were busy, selling clothes from the new tailoring course, jumpers, scarves from the sweater weavers, bags, jewelry and more from the new Design and Decoration course. The motorcycle repair graduates talked everyone through their new skills and the electronics graduates offered to mend everyone’s phones; there were many takers for that.

Tradiitional Dance: the Acero

Continued Support

The genuine interest and buying of goods was a great start to their new careers, but we know that continued support is vital to any long term success and sustainability. The next phase of the VPlus programme for Cohort 2 is six months post training support for all these new businesses. But, as the training part of this programme draws to an end, and as our field trips to Cohort 1 graduates showed, there are many questions to ask and answer about the future for ETC and GDPU. For those questions and some possible answers please see the next blog.

Want to Know More?

If you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page. If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page. If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. 

Many Thanks.

This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people’

How are things pushing on at GDPU: Cohort 2 reach a crucial stage

Three busy months have gone by very quickly and the second cohort of the Vplus programme for youth with disabilities in Gulu, Northern Uganda, have just completed the first part of their six month vocational training. They are now out for industrial placement; an apprenticeship process that builds on the first cohort ‘instant apprenticeships’. Instant apprenticeships were a quick solution to the Uganda wide Covid lockdowns that closed Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU), but they have proved to be a great success and are now integral to the programme.

Design and Decoration Training

Disability, and behaviour towards people with disability, is a complex subject in any society. One of the fundamental aims of GDPU and subsequently, the Vplus programme is to “change the mindset of the community” as Musema Faruk, the Vplus programme manager puts it.

Training April 2022: Design and Decoration

Perhaps this change is best shown by a story he told us about the recent School Open Day, which marked the end of the first part of Cohort 2 training. GDPU opens up to parents, elders and VIPs from the District. Trainees show off their vocational skills, take part in sports, cultural activities and dance the traditional dances (Many trainees are from communities that do not allow them to participate in cultural life).

Motorcycle Repair and Maintenance Training

The programme gives them training so that they can participate with confidence. One father’s motorbike broke down on the way to the Open Day, the father pushed it into the centre expecting to phone for a mechanic. His Motorcycle Repair and Maintenance trainee son took the bike, gave it both a full service and a full repair. Musema reported that the parent was astonished and really proud, he said: “I didn’t know that he could learn so much in three months, I never believed that he could do such things”.

School Open Day: Traditional Dance, the Bwola

Equal pride was shown as parents queued for trainees to mend their phones or plait their hair, while stalls sold trainee design and decoration products and more. But apparently, the biggest source of enjoyment came from watching trainees dance two traditional Acholi Dances: the Ajero and the Bwola. Few members of the community expected young people with disabilities to be able to dance at all, let alone dance so well – they have been practising very hard.  As Musema Faruk said in his recent monthly report:

School Open Day: Design and Decoration and Hairdressing stalls

“All youth were encouraged to participate regardless of their disabilities, deaf learners for example were concentrating on the traditional dances. Many people wondered how the deaf could dance so perfectly to the tune of the drum, it was a mindset shift to many among their colleagues at school and in the community.”

School Open Day: Traditional Dance, the Ajero

“Nelson and Sunday are students with visual impairment, they were so perfect in the drumming that impressed many during practice and the School Open Day. Nelson specialized in drumming and Sunday concentrated in playing local guitar. Everyone was so impressed with what the two can do to beat the odds around visual impairment; many had thought blind people are not good in playing instruments.” Musema Faruk: VPlus programme manager.

School Open Day: Wheelchair Basketball match with past etc@gdpu graduates (PWD Electronics)

When the trainees return from internships next week, they will spend time discussing what they have learnt. Instructors will organise lessons to fill the gaps identified in trainee knowledge. Business plans are put together ,and applications are made to the ‘Revolving Loan’ scheme. This innovative scheme (more on the Revolving Loan in the next blog) helps finance the future businesses that trainees are planning to begin

Training April 2022: Hairdressing

As their training at the centre ends, trainees enter six months Post Training Support, when instructors and managers from GDPU go out into the field to work with workshop owners or trainees in their new businesses. Everything is aimed at making these determined young people fully self sufficient and active members of their community.

Things are pushing on well.

School Open Day: Traditional Dance, the Ajero

Want to Know More?

If you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page. If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page. If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. 

Many Thanks.

This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people’

Cohort 2: New Beginnings and Old Routines.

Cohort 1

In December 2021, the first cohort of VPlus trainees at Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU), Northern Uganda graduated. Those graduates have moved into their own businesses, or they are working in other workshops. The programme will now give them six months of Post Training Support.

Cohort 2

Cohort 2: Hairdressing Trainees

The next cohort of 65 trainees has also begun at the centre; a very busy time indeed for the team at GDPU. Immediately the ‘Plus’ aspects of the training programme have started too: training on hygiene and sanitation for example. Or, the Friday debates, building self-confidence and the ability to speak in public for the many who have never been listened to before. And, the crucial elections of student leaders who will work with, guide and set the tone for their peers.

Cohort 2: Hygiene and Sanitation talk

Age Range

There is a considerable age difference between trainees in this cohort, from 16-35. Therefore, a range of life experiences which the older trainees can use to support the younger. The oldest trainee is visually impaired, this is the first time in his life he has had any opportunities at all.

Cohort 2: Hairdressing

Staff Meetings and, Yes, the Dress Code!

Evaluation at the end of the last cohort identified poor communication between staff and programme managers. New weekly staff meetings have begun. Issues in the first minutes are familiar for any teacher anywhere: Schemes of Work and Lesson Plans; weak discipline; late arrivals; trainees not wearing the right uniform, girls showing too much of themselves, (many, many years as a sixth form girls tutor in the UK made this topic very familiar indeed).

A training visit for instructors, to Gulu Community College.

The fact that staff in a town in Northern Uganda, working with 65 disadvantaged trainees coping with a wide range of disabilities and experiences are struggling, like teachers across the world, with the mundane problems like the dress code; well, it’s reassuring somehow. It shows that GDPU has got the balance about right.

Student Leader Elections

Cohort 2: Leader Elections

The school has an electoral commission chaired by the school accountant. Leadership development for youth with disabilities is a significant part of the programme, so these elections are, deliberately, a formal process, The commission advertised the vacant leadership positions, trainees were given a week to campaign, some students even printed their election posters.

Twenty-one positions in all, in hard fought contests rigorously carried out in proper democratic process to give trainees their first sense of political involvement. It is noticeable how many past trainees from previous projects have subsequently become politically involved in their local community. And, of course Ojok Patrick, GDPU coordinator is now LC5 for Disability in Gulu and district; a very senior position indeed.

Cohort 2 leaders elections

Tailoring

Recruits for this second VPlus cohort made a clear distinction between wanting to learn Sweater Weaving and, mostly the visually impaired, wanting to learn Tailoring. Mama Cave who runs the Sweater Weaving is not a specialist tailor and has too many trainees to run another course. Rather than recruit outside the team, Musema Faruk the VPlus coordinator, suggested developing the skills of an existing member of the community.

Cohort 2: Tailoring with Mama Cave and Brenda

 It was always the intention of the Vplus programme to develop the capacity of GDPU; to support it in creating a self-sustaining disabled community. Brenda has been a mainstay of the Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop, set up after the VSO YDP programme back in 2015 and then supported by the subsequent etc@gdpu project funded by ETC of PWD. She is an innovative tailor, able to make styles that the market wants rather than just copy the templates she was taught.

Madam Brenda’s Tailoring Class

Brenda has all the core skills needed to teach new tailors, she was willing but lacked confidence. With suitable support, Faruk’s recent reports show that Brenda is doing well as the new Tailoring Instructor, her pupils are learning and she is finding the right ways to communicate with them. A successful development and a route to follow in future.

Covid Restrictions

Despite the Ugandan President relaxing all Covid restrictions recently, GDPU is very aware of the vulnerability of its staff and trainees. So, the Standard Operating Procedures are still in place there; which is good to hear, they have kept the centre largely Covid free so far. And, the Guidance Counsellor is pursuing ways in which to get all the trainees fully vaccinated.

Cohort 2: Youth Leaders Electioneering

Pushing on Well

It was so exciting to see the first cohort begin the next phase of their working lives and now the second cohort start that process. But it’s also great to know that the team at GDPU takes nothing for granted, they continue to innovate and explore ways to benefit the disabled community in Gulu and surrounding districts: pushing on well indeed.

Cohort 1 Graduation

Want to Know More?

If you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page. If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page. If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. Many Thanks.

This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people