Projects

The day we thought might never happen: VPlus Graduation Day

The Chairman of the GDPU Board (Geoffrey Allii) with VPlus Trainees and staff on VPlus Graduation Day

Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) re-opened, after Lockdown in Uganda, in November 2021. After a months intensive catch up on the premises in Gulu the 52 trainees on the first cohort graduated on the 10th December. Congratulations to all for succeeding despite the many challenges. The next cohort for the VPlus programme has been recruited and will start next year; a busy time for all.

The Instant Apprenticeship Scheme

The VPlus Guidance Counsellor visiting an electronic repair trainee during his apprenticeship at a Gulu workshop

The instant apprenticeship scheme kept the VPlus programme going during the second Lockdown from June till November.  A potentially disastrous shutdown became a bonus offering some interesting opportunities for the future.

Closer contact with other working people and the wider community has begun to break down prejudice against people with disability. Participating workshop owners are now becoming part of the training process.  Examples from apprenticeships were used throughout the lessons on return and trainees had a real sense of purpose now they had experienced actual work.

The next cohort will benefit from a longer apprenticeship, greater connections to workshops and a growing market awareness in all the core skills. GDPU took the opportunity to try a new model, it was very successful and full of promise for the future.

VPlus Graduation Day: Traditional Dance

In the run up to graduation Trainees practiced their Music, Dance and Drama for the big day and got ready for their skills tests and Literacy and Numeracy exams. Those tests would provide their all-important certificates, showing that they had been trained and were fully competent to work. Education is so important in this context.

Community Engagement

Vplus trainees on community engagement at Gulu Main Market

Amongst other activities on their return, trainees also took part in general cleaning at Gulu Main Market. There has been very good feedback on this community activity, partly because the VPlus trainees went out early in the morning to get the work done before the day began. They worked with many people, e.g. security and market administrators, and changed many attitudes to show that PWDs could work hard.

Graduation Day

VPlus Graduation Day: GDPU coordinator, Ojok Patrick, opens the proceedings

The graduation of the first cohort was a joyous affair, workshop owners were invited, alongside many honoured guests from the Gulu community (the Mayor, MPs, District Education Officer and other dignitaries) and of course, the families of the trainees. A busy and important day that will build for the future and change attitudes.

VPlus Graduation Day: getting the certificate

The day was a celebration of the achievements of 52 determined young people, the majority of whom had little or no education. They face stigma in the community, viewed as unable to contribute economically or socially, in a place where community matters so much.

VPlus Graduation day: getting the certificate

Move forward to the day when that very community gathers to honour your achievements, when you can truly begin to make your own way with pride and you can begin to understand the joy on receiving that certificate. The families in these photographs show how much they believe this training will change lives, and give young people with disabilities in Gulu real hope for the future.  

VPlus Graduation day: getting the certificate

The next step for the first cohort is Post Training Support. They will set up their own businesses or join others, for the next six months GDPU will continue to support them with visits, targeted extra training and support. Meanwhile, Cohort Two take the first steps on their own route to self sufficiency; exciting times.

VPlus Graduation day: getting the certificate

Donations

If you would like to make a donation, please go to the Donations page.

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

How are things pushing on at GDPU: Instant Apprenticeship Scheme Part 2

Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) shut its doors after Covid 19 Lockdowns in Uganda were announced in June and July 2021. Lockdown is still there, easing a little, but when and how it will finish is still unclear.

Covid and GDPU

At the end of the last newsletter we had the devastating news that three of the senior GDPU team were diagnosed positive for Covid 19. It has been a tense and very worrying time since then. But, we are so pleased to discover today, that all three are on the way to recovery. The virus does not appear to have spread throughout their families or the centre. We can only praise them all for their precautions and be thankful that everyone at GDPU is returning to health

Hairdressing Apprenticeship

Lockdown and the VPlus programme

The last ETC of PWD newsletter showed the impact of Lockdown on our programme. In September/ October Vplus Trainees (youth with disabilities from Gulu and surrounding districts) were due to return from short internships in external workshops. They would complete training at Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) and start their own businesses with six months of post training support. If GDPU was still shut how would trainees keep their momentum? This has been the problem in education across the world during pandemic lockdowns. Learning needs to be used, memory is a muscle that wastes away without practice and skills can fade away.

Design and Decoration trainees

How can trainees be kept ‘match ready’?

Assuming that schools would open eventually, how could GDPU make sure that trainees would be ready? Ready for the next big step they had been training for: earning their own money; making their own lives; becoming a valued part of their community at last?

Traditional Dance Performance for the community at School Open Day

Instant Apprenticeships

Musema Faruk, the VPlus programme coordinator, had a proposal: extending the short internships into a full apprenticeship programme.

It was not easy to set up, but monthly reports show that his solution is working. After placing 49 out of the original 53 students in apprenticeships, GDPU have now followed them up. 42 are still at their workshops, quite a success given the conditions; there are many challenges on the ground.

Sweater Weaving

Challenges to the Apprenticeship scheme

Some trainees have severe disabilities, making placements difficult. 3 out of 5 of the VPlus instructors have workshops in Gulu.  Instructors identified those who needed support and these trainees stayed at their workshops. This seems to have worked well.

Prejudice

There has been prejudice, particularly against Albino trainees in far flung districts. The number of trainees with Albinism on the course was initially surprising; previous programmes had included few if any. But, as Ojok Patrick, GDPU co-ordinator explained, in the past they were hidden away, against prejudice and of course against the sun.  

Mechanics Class with Sign Language Interpreter

The nature of a trainee’s disability can cause challenges, equatorial sun is life threatening without skin pigment for example. An Albino hairdressing trainee has skin cancers on her hands, the pain means she can’t work. She is desperate to carry on her apprenticeship and the workshop owner wants to help, but the family cannot afford the relevant operations. GDPU is liaising with The National Union of Women with Disabilities in Uganda and others to find a solution for her.

Distance

Some trainees live far from their placement. Travelling with a disability in any country is always difficult, in rural Uganda it is doubly so, particularly if you use a wheelchair. The usual solution is to find somewhere to stay during the week. For a young, vulnerable person with disabilities who needs support, this is not always suitable.

A hairdressing salon

Work in the garden

It is the planting season, parents are pulling their children out to ‘work in the garden’, mostly planting G nuts (groundnuts or peanuts). This is often a problem with training programmes for young people. Parents rely on their produce to eat and surplus to sell, their children’s labour is crucial.

Skills

Some workshops do not have the full range of skills. E.g. in Opit a knitter cannot make open sweaters, so GDPU is involved in training the owners as well.

Literacy Class at GDPU

But what about Life Skills/ Literacy/ Numeracy/ Business skills etc?

Workshop owners, will share their own Life Skills, the Guidance Counsellor will also provide support. Some numeracy and business skills are part of any workshop and all these areas will be covered on trainees return to the centre.

How will workshop owners communicate with deaf trainees?

Sign Language interpreters are in the follow up programme. But, Musema Faruk made an interesting point and, incidentally, it shows why ETC of PWD depends on its partners ‘in country’. Self-reliance is an essential aim of the VPlus programme and as Faruk points out, deaf trainees are already finding ways to communicate without their interpreters. Sign Language support will be there but not intrusively, interpreters will talk mainly to the owner, so that trainees can steadily learn to socialise without them.

GDPU Staff Sign Language training

By the way, he also reports that one owner of a hairdressing salon has become so fond of her deaf trainees that she has been, voluntarily, to sign language training sessions at the centre.

Conclusions

We will not really know the full results of the apprenticeship scheme until trainees return to GDPU.  But, it is fair to say that the GDPU team have helped at least 42 out of the original 53 rise above these challenges.

Guidance Counselling reports have always shown that being with other people with disability brings confidence and self-esteem. Final training at the centre, the last Life Skills, Literacy, Numeracy and Business courses, a final exam and a full public Graduation should start to meet this. It is a difficult balance in the current situation, but we all hope the instant apprenticeship scheme has met this balance. As we all know, we learn better when we learn together.

Hairdressing Apprentice, Workshop Owner and VPlus Guidance Counsellor

Next newsletter

What about the future? See the next ETC of PWD newsletter 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 project is match funded with UK aid from the British people’



How are things pushing on at GDPU: Instant Apprenticeship Scheme Part 1

The Ugandan Covid 19 Lockdowns in June and July 2021, shut all schools and many commercial activities. Recent announcements allowed some easing, but the situation is still unclear.

Vplus Design and Decoration trainees

Lockdown and GDPU

Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) had to shut its doors. Training for the the VPlus programme (for youth with disabilities in Gulu and surrounding districts), stopped at the centre itself in July. Covid had challenged the programme from the start; originally due to begin in October 2020, it eventually opened in January 21. But, the ingenuity and flexibility of GDPU staff has kept training going somehow, when similar programmes have long since halted.

GDPU sign by a Design and Decoration trainee

The last Lockdown was the biggest challenge yet. The Delta variant significantly increased infection and trainees were at a tipping point; to stop now meant losing all they had learnt. Trainees were due to return from internship placements in external workshops. The last steps were to complete training at GDPU and start up businesses for six months of post training support. How could GDPU continue their upward curve? Their trainees had gained so much, but that all important self-esteem would be lost if the only option was ‘go home and sit’ as the local phrase has it. What to do?

Instant Apprenticeship

Musema Faruk, the VPlus programme coordinator, had a proposal: extending the short internships into a full apprenticeship programme. Payments to workshop owners would ensure full participation, with goals and expectations set, learning recorded and regular support visits from GDPU staff, either virtual or actual.

Electronics Repair Trainee at at his apprenticeship workshop

It was not easy to set up, but monthly reports show that his solution is working. Much praise should go to the GDPU team for getting it going under such circumstances. After placing 49 out of the original 53 students in apprenticeships, GDPU have now followed them up. 42 are still at their workshops, quite a success given the conditions; there are many challenges on the ground.

Not only that, 2 trainees have already set up on their own and are doing well, GDPU has given them aprons and overalls, they are very smart and customers appreciate that. GDPU are very proud of them and they will be good for other learners to see.

Hairdressing apprentices with a customer

Covid 19 and GDPU

We have just had the bad news that three senior GDPU staff have tested positive for Covid 19. So far they report that, apart from loss of sense of taste and smell, they are OK. But this is extremely worrying for them and of course for their families. Although the infection has been found in Gulu, trainees and staff had managed to avoid it in the past, but the Delta variant is making that impossible. The public health service barely exists and there is little in the private sector, even if anyone could afford it. Vaccines are few in Africa, the promised rollout of vaccines from the West to Africa has, of course, hardly begun. We can only send our best wishes and hopes for their safe and full recovery.

GDPU sign by a Design and Decoration trainee

Our best wishes too, to another senior member of the GDPU staff who also recently caught Covid. She was she says, very ill and feared for her life, but managed to stay out of hospital and is now recovered. We send her and her family all our very best wishes for a full recovery as well.

The Next Newsletter

There will be more on the challenges to Instant Apprenticeship Scheme in the next ETC of PWD newsletter.

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 Gulu Disabled Persons Union under the current Uganda Lockdown?

In response to the Delta variant raging through the country, on the 6th of June the Ugandan President announced severe restrictions for 42 days: markets and businesses closed; most travel prohibited; schools closed; heavy curfew. This had profound implications for the country, for those on the margins and for our Vplus programme, as reported in the last blog. But, Lockdown is really the only weapon against Covid in a country with few vaccines and little public health infrastructure. Has it been working?

A Design and Decoration trainee on the Vplus programme receives training materials during Lockdown

Lockdown Easing

On July 30th, the President subsequently announced some easing: greater freedom to travel; some forms of businesses to open; schools and colleges to stay closed. In Gulu, Northern Uganda our partners, GDPU are delivering VPlus@GPDU our current vocational training programme for young people with disabilities; the picture is mixed. The Lockdown has worked to some extent, case numbers are dropping apparently, although without much testing it is difficult to know. The Lockdown has been observed, but the effects on those who have so little and depend on small day to day earnings, restrictions are devasting. That in fact, explains any success the Lockdown might have. As Musema Faruk, the Vplus project coordinator explained: “they fear the Lockdown more than the disease, so they do what they are told to make sure the Lockdown can end”.

Internship Training: Hairdressing Workshop

Internships

When the July Lockdown was announced, after careful discussion, it was agreed that instructors on the VPlus programme should support trainees, by phone and by visit where possible. Trainees would be encouraged to return to their internship workshops. To begin with this was successful, some 21 out of the total of 52 trainees returned to internship. Sadly, as the restrictions began to bite that number has gone down to 12, as workshop owners lose work and opportunities to provide for an intern. Workshop owners are now asking for payment before they will host a trainee.

Internship Training: Electronics Workshop

Training Materials

Plans for providing training materials are developing. Initial thoughts had been to support instructors in making short training videos, distributed by phone, through Whats App, You Tube etc. But, under 40% of our trainees have a smart phone and with signal and electricity hard to come by in many areas, this not the complete solution. Paper based training materials have always suffered from the usual problems based around literacy. Diagrams, drawings and notes made during the course help, but more solutions are needed and will be worked on.    

Discussing training with the Design and Decoration Instructor

Apprenticeships

During our meeting this week, Musema Faruk explained that, far from the July 19th date originally proposed by the Government, it was unlikely that schools would reopen before September, possibly even October. The current plan he is putting together is for a full apprenticeship scheme. Our trainees, i.e. the VPlus programme, will pay a small amount to work and train in those workshops that can open now. Many of the instructors have their own workshops that can function in this way. Instructors will continue to support all their trainees, and the final certificated exam will be in the workshop under supervision. And, of course when circumstances allow, there will be a full graduation ceremony at GDPU. Local leaders, elders, families and member of the community will come together to celebrate the success of these determined young people.

Mr Onyango Patrick, Design and Decoration Instructor, handing over training materials

Case Study

However, there is more to learning and becoming self-sufficient than core content. Okello Emma, the VPlus Guidance Counsellor has been working on a fascinating case study with a young Design and Decoration trainee. Time spent at GDPU with the PWD (People with Disability) community made this trainee realise she was not alone, and this has radically changed her approach to life. With the support of her Guidance Counsellor, her brother and her instructor (who has been supplying her with training and materials), she is now making baskets to sell. She has a purpose and a place, is feeling more positive, constructive and rebuilding relations with her family and community.

Okello Emma, Guidance Counsellor supporting a trainee.

The Plus in Vplus

This case study reinforces the basis of the ETC programme; hence the Plus in Vplus. The Life Skills element is vital, it cannot be neglected despite current conditions. To an extent this can be remedied by a final ‘Reflections’ week before graduation, whenever that might be. But it is a difficult balance that all involved must try to keep and will work towards in the future. It is a simple, almost cliched lesson but nonetheless true: we learn better when we learn together.

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’



New Lockdown in Uganda

Design and Decoration Course: computer training

There has been a significant and frightening increase in cases of COVID-19 in Uganda and Gulu. Gulu and Kampala have suddenly, been hard hit by the virus. In Kampala, at least I in 3 have it, Gulu has been registering over 100 cases per day which is worrying everyone. This is a country with no real testing, no comprehensive health care and no mass vaccination programme, so the true situation is and will be, much worse.  On Sunday 6th the President announced, among other measures, the closure of all learning institutions/schools by Monday 7th June for 42 days, and that all teachers must be vaccinated before they get back to school.

Sweater Weavers and Tailors at the School Open Day

VPlus closure

How will this affect the Vplus vocational training programme for youth with disabilities in Gulu? Based on these directives, Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) who actually run the programme,  has closed the VPlus school for 42 days. They have encouraged trainees either to go back to their internship placements if possible and COVID-19 safe to do so, or to try to begin their businesses at home. No one knows about anything about possible teacher vaccinations, sadly it seems unlikely in the context.

How to keep going?

Subsequent meetings between ETC of PWD (the UK based charity who match fund the Vplus programme with UK Aid) and GDPU agreed, that the fundamental aim was to combine safety with the underlying aim of keeping the programme going. There is of course no Government furlough system in Uganda and, traditionally, if you don’t work for whatever reason, you don’t get paid; there are no retainers.  Primary school teachers for example will not be paid. But we do want to keep and look after the staff on the Vplus programme. Apart from the unfairness and basic obligations, if you don’t pay people they will find something else and not return.

Sign Language Training for VPlus staff

Decisions made

In a meeting on the 8th June at GDPU, the programme managers asked the instructors and support staff how they could keep in touch safely with trainees and GDPU. The brainstorming session on how they could be useful to the students and justify continued payments, agreed on the following resolutions: 

1- Each Instructor, Sign Language Interpreter, Literacy Facilitator and Guidance Councillor will have 6 students to follow up and support them remotely. 

2- They will be facilitated with airtime of UGX 5000 each, to pay for phone contacts.

3- There will be a meeting every two weeks to give feedback, learnings, challenges and best practices on the follow up. 

4- Sign language training to continue for the instructors and support staff every Wednesday to Friday morning 9:00-11:00am. 

5 – Payment for June will be full and July will be half for the instructors. 

6 – Matron will not get payment for July but her payment will come from her cleaning services. 

7- GDPU has created a Vplus WhatsApp group page for easy communication and feedback sessions.

8 – Project coordinator will do the physical random follow up to check on the safety and well-being of students back on internship. 

9 – All staff must take precautions and stay safe during these hard times. 

10 – Security/watchmen will continue with full payments and are encouraged to be more vigilant.  

Traditional Dance at the School Open Day

The Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports has released the new time table for reopening of schools: 19-July 2021 All learners are expected to start school then. So, fingers crossed hoping for the best.

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’