Projects

Next Steps: ETC@GDPU in September

Spectators at the 2017 National Disability Sports Gala in Gulu

Highlights of the month

  • Gulu PWDs Electronic and other members of Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Team took part in a National Sport Gala for Persons with Disabilities organized by Uganda Paralympic Committee and won! See this earlier post.
  • Members taking part in ETC@GDPU report significant increase in income as a result of their training
  • An in-depth Reflection Meeting will really help us all evaluate what has worked in the pilot project, and what has not, and where to go from here.
Reflection Meeting in Gulu

Skills Training Report

The ETC@GDPU project officer followed up recent trainings in Omoro and Gulu, to ensure that the pilot business enterprises are building their capacities in areas such as:

  • Business plan development,
  • Skills training
  • Conflict management and resolution.

The youth are now actively participating in the training programme and 75% are reporting that their levels of income are increasing because:

  1. Their area of coverage has increased
  2. They can now repair more things compared to when they started project.

The training program is running up to the end of October and the GDPU project officer is following up to ensure that they are getting the required skills and that relevant knowledge is imparted

Hairdressing Training in Acet

Hairdressing at Acet

Five members of Nyeko Rac Hairdressing and Salon at Acet Centre are trained in areas they need. These are:

  • pencil plaiting
  • styling and twisting hair
  • dread locks
  • free hand.

Savings are being made among members of Nyeko Rach hairdressing,

Conflicts are being resolved among members

Challenges

  • Some materials for hairdressing are now available at Nyeko Rac Hair Beauty Salon at Acet, although lack of material for weaves, chemicals etc
Gulu PWDs Electronics and Repair, Training at GDPU, Gulu

Gulu Pwds Electronic

The ETC@GDPU project officer has reported before about difficulties with Gulu PWDs, their lack of cohesion as a group, their disinterest in saving money and in training for anything but phone repair.

Training is going on for two months from 11th September to 19th November 2017, aimed at addressing problems areas where they feel they face difficulties:

  • Discovered the use of charcoal stove for soldering gargets such as Radio, TV, phones etc
  • Changing/repair of mouth piece, charging system and screens
  • Discovered the alternative for Blower Machine by using candle when there is no electricity

Challenges

  • The training program was affected by the National Sports Gala which took place from 25th to 30th September 2017.
  • Village savings and loan association (VSLA) is not active among Gulu PWDS electronics members although they attended training for VSLA
  • Business location for PWD electronic is neither favourable or easily accessible, it is hard for them to keep customers appliances because they operate their business in a corridor.
  • Some phones are complicated to repair, spare parts are not available for most bought in the area, especially Chinese phones.
  • Unlike their business competitors they lack software to unlock phones
  • Business is not growing for electronics
  • Limited knowledge and skills on other electronic appliances such TV, Radio, DVD players, Smart Phones and Amplifiers
  • Customer demand lower prices than are viable
Akera Roberts, Individual Business Enterprise, Electronics and Repair, Gulu

Akera Roberts

Radio repair is doing well for Akera Robert, Rubanga Na Electronics business plan was successfully developed and completed by Akera Robert and GDPU project officer

Challenge

  • Security for his place of work is still an issue, Akera Robert still operates under the veranda
Akello Catherine and Florence are being trained in making V necked sweaters

Knitting and Sweater Weaving

Sweater weaving is doing well, they get contracts from schools and local community members. Support training is aimed at improving their quality of work and building customers trust, training area for knitting is:

  • joining using sewing machine
  • making V shape sweater
  • designing sweaters.
Learning to Make V Necked Sweaters, A customer checking on his newly made garment

Challenge

  • High-level absenteeism from the instructor for knitting and sweater weaving might be affecting the positive development of the programme.
  • Customers take long to pick their items
  • Customer demand lower prices than are viable

 

Reflection Meeting

Conducted by GDPU project officer and ETC and Project Coordinator GDPU to check on the impact of ETC project in Gulu and Omoro District.

What has worked?

The local community attitude towards PWDs is that they are best known for leather work. Yet as this and the YDP proved, they are able to do other income generating activities such hairdressing, motorcycle repair, electronic repair and maintenance.

  • Skills training has improved the ‘offer’ of all the business groups
  • Active in repair of electronic gadgets, hairdressing and sweater weaving, i.e. businesses are growing although some are slower than others.
  • Record keeping is now observed in all enterprises, learnt how to balance books of account because of financial literacy received during the ETC project.
  • Learnt to communicate effectively with customers, most of the youth enterprise members had bad communication skills that made them lose customers but the capacity building trainings offered by the ETC@GDPU project has improved this aspect.
  • Learnt how to deal with large number of customers, greatly improved customer services by use of first come first serve.
Reflection Meeting Gulu

Challenges: Solutions and the Way Forward

The reported rise in members incomes is very welcome, how can we continue this increase? Which parts of the programme are working and what do we need to do to improve them as part of the pilot programme and for future programme planning? Diversification and widening the ‘offer’ of each group, further investigation into sources of investment and increasing the self-confidence of members could all play a part. As could:

  • Linking the enterprise to other service providers available in their location
  • Having a by law on mandatory savings
  • Inclusion saving for disabled and non-disabled
  • Continuous follow-up and support from GDPU project staff
  • Further tailor-made refresher training in specific areas e.g. Repair of modern phones, TV radio etc
  • More advertising using posters
  • Enterprise members to carry out market survey to check on the prices of commodities and services to be comparable with other enterprises and avoid over pricing.

    GDPU Co-ordinator Conducting the Reflection Meeting

Apologies

Apologies for the late posting of this months news, also we (the UK founders of ETC@GDPU) had  hoped to be flying out to Gulu at the end of this month to discuss and evaluate the pilot phase and how to move on to the full project. Sadly, Mark was involved in a motorbike accident in the UK just weeks before departure. Although he will be OK his mobility is restricted for a few months. Ironically Mark clocked up 12,000 kilometres on a motorbike around Gulu and district with only a few bumps and scrapes, riding in the UK is far more dangerous. If you are a car driver, please look properly before you pull out of a side road! However we hope to carry on the project development by Skype in the next few months and return to Gulu in February.

The safer roads in Gulu District!

 

Gulu PWDs Electronic win again

The Triumphant Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Team

Wheelchair basketball has long been a feature at GDPU. From 25th to 30th September 2017 Gulu PWDs Electronic, one of the three pilot groups on the ETC@GDPU project, along with other members of Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Team took part in a National Sport Gala for Persons with Disabilities.

Spectators at the 2017 National Disability Sports Gala in Gulu

The Gala was organized by The Uganda Paralympic Committee and hosted by Gulu district. They took part in wheelchair race, wheelchair basketball and sitting volley ball.

Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Team in Action at Kaunda Ground, Gulu.

Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Club kept their national trophy by defeating arch-rivals Kampala Wheelchair Basketball Club 26-17. The exciting final of the Uganda National Paralympic Games in Wheelchair Basketball, held at Kaunda Grounds in Gulu, was witnessed by chief guest Kameda Kazuaki, the Japanese ambassador to Uganda.

The Japanese Ambassador at National Sports Gala, Gulu.

The Ugandan national paper, the Daily Monitor appears to believe that Japan might have a future role in training Ugandan Paralympic athletes, GDPU are following this up; you never know!

Awarding the medals at 2017 National Disability Sports Gala in Gulu

Gulu Pwds Electronics members of that winning team were: Ojara Charles, Ocira Richard, Okwonga Charles, Akera Robert, Oloya Kenneth and Omony Patrick, congratulations to them and everyone else who took part.

Congratulations to Gulu PWDS Electronic

 

Next Steps: ETC @ GDPU in August

Project Officer Faruk Musema working in Acet

During August, the ETC @ GDPU Project Officer and Project Leader followed up on business plan development, record keeping and conflict management making sure that they were being implemented by each business enterprise. A busy training programme continued and proposed activities for September look equally focused.

Village Savings and Loan Association pilot training session at Acet centre, Omoro District, August 2017

Training

Skills training were offered in Hairdressing, Electronic Repair and Maintenance and Knitting & Sweater Weaving in Omoro Acet Centre and Gulu Municipality targeting 4 members of NYEKO RAC HAIRDRESSING AND COSMETOLOGY, 2 members of RWOT AYE TWERO KNITTING and 6 Members of GULU PWDS ELECTRONICS REPAIR & MAINTENANCE.

Training: Village Savings and Loan Associations 

Trainings in Village Savings and Loan Associations (micro finance) were carried out. VSLA pass books were distributed to the saving groups created by each enterprise to encourage the culture of savings in their enterprise.

Training: Conflict Resolution

Training in Group Dynamics under Conflict Resolutions was carried out in Acet.

Group Dynamics under Conflict Resolution Training in Acet, August 2017

Challenges

But as the initial stages are completed, challenges were registered by the project officer during his visits. These were: poor attendance; high expectation for money (Especially refusal to attend meetings without payment see Sitting Fees below)); difficult attitudes; skills gaps; luck of trust from customers etc.

Challenges: Gulu

These challenges were particularly noticeable in Gulu, with high levels of absenteeism, lack of commitment to customers and work, lack of skills in: radio; TV; video decks; speakers; computer repairs. Members only specialise in phone repair which does not bring in enough income. Finding a qualified instructor to train Gulu PWDs in electronic repair and maintenance has not yet been resolved.

Akera Roberts, Individual Business Enterprise on the pilot programme, Gulu.

Although the Project Officer suggested their fellow disabled electrician (Akera Robert), who has all the skills they want, members were not interested. The P O believes that there is no unity and love among PWDs in Gulu municipality, that is the reason why most of them are not successful, because of the differences amongst them.

Gulu PWDs, Electronics and Repair: repairing a phone.

Challenges: Sitting Fees

Sitting Fees (or payment for attending trainings or meetings) are a great example of the unintended consequences of well intended actions. I believe that sitting fees were originally paid during the conflict, as a means of quickly getting money directly to those who badly needed it and bypassing those who would take a substantial cut. But now, demand for sitting fees and refusal to attend without payment is a constant problem. Most NGOs refused to pay sitting fees because the payments eat up small budgets and badly distort training sessions. The people you really need to reach either refuse to turn up or invitations are issued in turn to those who have not yet been paid a fee or to those who are powerful enough to demand that they always get one. Sessions are either taken up with endless arguments as to why participants should be paid substantial sums, or on the odd occasion where fees are paid, participants leave, in body or mind, once they have been paid because they feel their work had been done; either way nothing is achieved.

Gulu PWDs Electronics and Repair, Training at GDPU, Gulu

Challenges: Solutions?

The only surprise is that the challenges for ECT @ GDPU had not begun earlier, these are all difficulties that are common on any project of this type in this sort of context.

There is no simple solution, this culture (Sitting Fees especially) is deeply embedded and will take years to change. But we intend to try some of the approaches listed below and begin that process

Thinking about the simplest non-financial reward systems is an important part of the pilot programme. Actually, faced with this problem during the earlier Youth Development Programme we found that:

  • educational games
  • sport or other competitions
  • Cultural activities, eg dance and drama
  • and of course, food.

Were all good ways of bringing people to meetings and making them engage without concentrating solely on the money.

  • Regular VSLA meetings can also be a useful time to carry out training.
VSLA Training, GDPU August 2017

Challenges:  Solutions/ Communications and Mentors

Group dynamics, and communication could be the key that unlocks this door.

During the VSLA sessions it was noted that members will not take leadership roles, even just for the workshop; leadership training as part of a drive to improve self-esteem might be worth following up too.

Relationship between the groups, their customers and skills trainers (especially the Gulu PWDS) are a challenge that could be met by finding the right mentors/ role models to show members where their hard work might lead to in the future. Groups need to see why they are doing what they are doing, how the rewards are not immediate but are worth waiting for; could mentors help in that aim?

Village Savings and loan Association Training at Acet center Omoro District August 2017

Conclusion

None of the challenges noted above are unusual, they are to be expected in this context and in a project of this type. There is no need to feel downhearted, it is important to remember that this is still the pilot phase, there are still opportunities to work on many different approaches and be experimental; many exciting possibilities ahead. We must keep pushing on well!

Next Steps: ETC @ GDPU in July

The ECT @ GDPU team have been very busy in Gulu and Acet this month carrying out the first training sessions on areas of weakness identified by the pilot groups themselves. These groups included Nyeko Rac Hairdressing and Cosmetology and 6 Members of Gulu Pwds Electronics Repair & Maintenance, Rwot Aye-Twero and Kica Pa Rwot Knitting group and some of the students studying at GDPU  also attended the trainings in business plan development and conflict resolution in group dynamics.

July Training in Acet 3
Prayers before training begins

It is great to see that the training given directly reflects the needs identified in earlier months. Although this is a pilot, it is reassuring to see that the activities reported for July are all focused on building the participants abilities to sustain their own future.

 

July Training in Gulu
Record Keeping Training in Gulu

As a pilot phase the July report raises questions, but these concern methods of delivery rather than direction of travel; in particular:

  • Group and personal dynamics are going to be the crucial element for these participants as they establish their sustainable future (low self-esteem is an important factor to work on) .
  • Core Skills: Building up core vocational skills alongside developing knowledge about basic business procedures is a slow process with constant reappraisal

    Sweater Weaving Training 2
    Sweater Weaving Training; updating core skills
  • Memory: during the pilot, facilitators and the project team will working on the best ways for students to develop what they already know, to learn new things and most importantly, to remember what they have learnt and apply it as part of a long term process. Classes are conducted in Acholi (the local language) and texts are translated, using local knowledge; stories and culture will help ground what is learnt.
  • Absenteeism: a major difficulty with frequent refreshers is frequent absenteeism, so the Gulu team will be concentrating on follow up support in the workplace rather than in the classroom.

    July Training in Gulu 3
    July Training in Gulu at GDPU
  • Mentors: The team in Gulu are looking to find role models who can talk about their enterprises to motivate members. These role models will also become part of the network that students can use on their own for further learning through mentorship, and of course students will become mentors in their own right as the project develops.
  • Numeracy/ Literacy: low skills in this crucial area are already holding students back, work on record keeping/ planning will demand more work on numeracy and literacy as the project develops.

    Record Keeping Training in Gulu
    Record Keeping Training in Gulu

Lastly, some other routes to sustainability, identified in the project proposals and initial audit, will be further emphasized as time goes on:

  • Diversification as a survival mechanism, so that if one aspect of the enterprise temporarily fails there are others that will keep it afloat;
  • The role of Village Savings and Loans Associations as a ‘pull factor’: keeping group members together and the single activity around which other group activities revolve. However the group numbers in our pilots are small, eg Gulu PWD electronics 6 members, and Nyeko Rac group in Odek are 5 members. As they have suggested that they need training on VSLA to increase their savings, ECT @ GDPU will support the groups in this area, perhaps joining with other interested colleagues to make a total of 10 members at minimum. VSLA groups usually meet on weekly basis to deposit savings and we think this could be a motivating factor to work harder, so that you have some saving each week.

    July Training in Acet
    July Training in Acet

The Future

The project team in Gulu have obviously realised these difficulties and factored in a series of follow up sessions across the range of areas identified. It will be exciting to see how these develop. Activities for August include: training in conflict resolution and group dynamics at Acet Centre; skills training in Hairdressing covering areas of Styling, Pencil, dreadlocks etc; training in electronic repair and maintenance in areas of radio, TV, phones and DVD players etc in Gulu Municipality. A busy and productive month to come: pushing on well indeed!

July Training in Gulu 4
July Training in Gulu at GDPU

Next Steps: June Report for ETC @ GDPU

Project officer training and sharing knowledge
ETC @ GDPU Project officer training and sharing knowledge with Gulu PWDs and Akera Robert

The ETC @ GDPU project officer (Musema Faruk) has come back with his June report detailing the very first pilot group Knowledge Sharing meetings, an exciting step forward. In summary, there were two meetings, one in Acet about 30 miles out of Gulu town, with Hairdressers and Sweater Weavers,. The other was in town at GDPU itself, with one electronics group and one electronics individual enterprise.

The purpose of both meetings was to begin to find out what each group thinks they need to sustain and develop their businesses.

NYEKO RAC ENTERPRISE AND RWOT AYE TWERO KNITTING ENTERPRISE
The ETC @ GDPU project officer at the Knowledge Sharing and Planning Meeting with Nyeko Rac enterprise and Rwot Aye Twero knitting enterprise in Omoro

Training needs:

In essence what the groups want to do is:

Upgrade their core vocational skills,

Develop their offer to customers

Learn how to plan effectively for that development

Learn better record keeping

Train for better group dynamics

Find out how to work with money/ learn a ‘Savings Culture’

Find out how to pay for the above

Diversify, especially into agriculture, to cover lean times

Akera Roberts Businesss Enterprise
Akera Roberts, individual Businesss Enterprise

Implications:

These training needs imply greater investment, helping each group find the money for that investment is one of the next steps for this project. In his initial audit reports, Faruk noted that group members find it almost impossible to access bank accounts, loans or possible grants, although some have started to use Village Savings and Loan Associations (micro savings and finance). He thinks this is down to a combination of poor self-esteem, lack of knowledge and barriers (physical and cultural) erected by the institutions themselves.

All groups want to acquire new equipment (sweater weaving machines/ sewing machines/ portable generators/ carry wider stock etc) but apart from learning how to use, maintain and repair them well, owning such equipment brings inevitable security problems. Theft by others, by group members or by domineering relatives is a common problem and solutions will need to be found.

Faruk reports that fear of taking risk, poor group dynamics and low self-esteem might well hold all the groups back in taking the next steps, so careful psycho-social support will need to be part of the pilot and subsequent programme.

NYEKO RAC ENTERPRISE AND RWOT AYE TWERO KNITTING ENTERPRISE 3
The Knowledge Sharing and Planning Meeting with Nyeko Rac enterprise and Rwot Aye Twero knitting enterprise in Omoro

All in all though, some great steps forward; really pushing on well!

Still Pushing On: three key questions for ETC @ GDPU

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The Nyeko Rac Business group signboard at Acet (note that they are registered with the local authority, very important)

Still Pushing On: three key questions for ECT @ GDPU

  1. What do you need to set up a small business and keep it going?
  2. What do you need to run a sustainable small business in Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa?
  3. What do you need succeed in a small business in that district if you are a person with disabilities?

These are some of the questions that the ‘Enhancing the Capacity at Gulu Disabled Persons Union; (ETC @ GDPU) project is starting to look at.

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Bicycle Repair: Tam Anyim Youth Enterprise

Where are we up to?

GDPU have come back with the first assessment of the nine existing business groups that were set up by students with disabilities under the Youth Development Programme in 2015. There are 4 x electronics repairs groups. 2 x hairdressers. 2 x Sweater weavers. 1 x motorcycle and bicycle repairs. The electronics groups seem to be the most financially successful, partly because they are based in the centre of town, although that has significant mobility and security issues.

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Diversification: a knife sharpener fashioned out of a bicycle

Group Strengths

Their businesses have been running for about two years, it seems that (most of) the groups share certain strengths:

  1. Good customer relations
  2. Viable businesses, in that there is a demand for their services in the area that they are working
  3. Many are able to diversify. So, for example many are able to carry out some small-scale farming alongside hairdressing.
  4. About half of the groups are able to make small savings from their earnings, typically about 200, 000 shillings a month per group (about £40). Having a financial cushion, however small, is vital to protect against ‘life events’. Average individual income is not easy to determine, given the lack of records (see below) but is somewhere around 66, 000 shillings a week or £14.50.
Camera 360
Store keeping

Group Challenges

But, from the GDPU report it seems that all the groups share similar weaknesses:

  • Keeping records is not built into their way of thinking, partly through poor literacy/ numeracy and self-confidence which…
  • Makes it difficult for members to plan ahead and to find out where they are at the moment
  • The planning methods they were taught under YDP are not suitable: too complex and text based for people who still struggle with reading and writing.
  • Core skills need updating to satisfy the needs of customers
  • Lack of suitable tools is holding back development, but there is no point members investing in tools until …
  • Security is much better
  • Group dynamics are stronger (in most cases these are poor), with theft and lack of trust between members holding back development.
  • Groups need considerable support (in literacy/ numeracy and self-confidence) to apply for grants/ loans to help them invest in their future.
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Lubanga Aye Twero Business Group: Sweater Weaving

What next?

Now that we know how these nine groups are getting on and what their challenges are, the next step for the steering committee at GDPU is to choose three groups for the pilot phase of the project. These pilot groups, together with the project team, will then put together their own tailored programme for skills training, literacy/ numeracy, pyscho-social support and so on; exciting days.

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The Nyeko Rac business group

Pushing on well: Piloting ETC @ GDPU

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Carrying out the pilot assessment, May 2017

2 June 2017

The ETC @ GDPU Project Leader and Project Officer have been out and about in Gulu Town and district, visiting the nine functioning business groups set up by the students with disabilities who were trained at Gulu Disabled Persons Union.

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Phone mending kit in the Electronics Shop, May 2017

ETC @ GDPU are choosing three groups to best suit the pilot phase of the project.

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Ex YDP GDPU Sweater Weaving student at work 2017

As the Project Officer said:

“Greetings from GDPU we are all doing fine, only just busy working on the findings and report for the first assessment done so far. It was really great to find these beneficiaries still working, compared to other youth enterprises set up by other VTIs [ie the other Vocational Training Institutes that trained students without disabilities under the same scheme]. The report will tell more on what they’re doing, their level of diversification, challenges and needs of support to improve the capacity and build their businesses and then we agree on whom we can work with, as almost all of them are vulnerable.”

‘All pushing on well’, as they say in Gulu.

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Ex YDP/ GDPU students outside their electronics shop in Gulu, 2017