Exciting Times: How Are Things Pushing On At GDPU?

How are things pushing on at GDPU (Gulu Persons Disabled Union) and for the young businesses being supported there?

Gulu versus Kampala in the Paralympic games at Mpigi

Sport and or Work?

Exciting times for the Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Club, they soundly beat the Kampala team at the National Paralympic games in Mpigi in September and, after training in Kampala will go on to the East African games in Nairobi at the end of October. The Gulu team go from strength to strength. However, for those team members who are part of the Gulu PWD electronics group it means their businesses as repairers of phones are on hold again.

Gulu PWDs Electronics: at work

After all, in the choice between sport and work, sport is always going to win isn’t it? Especially if you are young and nationally and, we hope, internationally successful.

Project Officers

In other great news, Faruk the ETC@GDPU Project officer and GDPU guidance Counsellor was accepted onto a training course with the Kanthari Institute (“Scholarships for social change makers”) in Trivandrum, India earlier this year. A wonderful opportunity for him to work on his proposals for disabled sports and schoolchildren; very exciting.

Emma Okello with GDPKW members and some of the sweaters for Layibi College

In his absence we have a new project officer Emma Okello. She has been working very hard, supporting the business groups and organising new training in financial skills, literacy and numeracy and generator and small machines repair for the motorbike groups.

Literacy Implications

Nyeko Rach with Okumu Morris and Emma Okello

Okumu Morris has continued Financial Training all the groups, record keeping; savings; micro finance; access to credit and so on. He has faced the normal challenges (the babies in the room are not that keen on finance apparently), but the biggest challenge is the trainee’s basic literacy levels. There is a strong link between low literacy and retention levels; improving literacy improves students’ ability to remember what they have leant and to apply that learning away from the classroom.

Literacy training in Luo

Many of the groups have already had basic literacy training in English and Luo the local language, more is clearly needed. Nyeko Rach, the hairdressers group in Acet, have asked for extra literacy lessons for exactly this reason.

Nyeko Rach members training at GDPU

One of the hairdressers is profoundly deaf, and getting a signing interpreter out to Acet at the same time as the literacy teacher (neither skills exist in Acet itself) has been complicated. We think we’ve solved that now, although transport out to Acet on a murrum road during the rains is tricky

Peer to peer lending and developing businesses.

GDPKW: making the sweaters for Layibi College

Developing a business is a slow process. Once you get that first big order, as Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop did, with an order to knit hundreds of sweaters for nearby Layibi College, it is still not easy. How do you buy in the materials you need to fulfil your first big order when you have no money, no bank account, no credit history and no access to credit? Emma Okello, the new ETC of PWD project officer was able to organise a short-term loan from the Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Club to the knitters. Peer to peer lending, as it is known, could be a good way to go in the future.

Training at GDPKW

GDPU was also able to help with initial negotiations between the knitters and the college, to bank payment cheques as they came in and transfer money out to buy material. Emma will now support the group as they open their first bank account, making sure that some of the money will be retained for the repair of the all–too delicate knitting machines. We have also arranged that the group will be trained in basic machine repair, so that they can be kept in working order.

What next? There are other challenges that come with success. Whilst you work flat out to bring in your first major order, you forget about future work. Emma is helping Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop think about where the next orders should come from and where diversifying might take them.

Generator training.

Generator Training at Koch Li with the Lubanga Lakija group

Our discussions with repair groups during this February’s trustees visit, emphasised that the different context of town and village means different machines to fix, and therefore different training regimes for trainees. Some, like Akera Robert the electronics repair man, have used this difference to their advantage. He works on small scale electronics from a veranda in Gulu town, often with his original teacher. Robert can rely on a steady supply of portable repairs coming in on the buses from out of town for him to mend; a clever solution.

Akera Robert at work on a veranda in Gulu Town

But others need support, so Emma has arranged for instructors to go out from Gulu to Paicho and Koch Li to train the motorbike groups in generator, small machine and different motorbike repairs. She reports that new work is now coming in

Tam Anyim in Paicho with Emma, training on a grass slasher

ETC of PWD, ETC@GDPU and GDPU

Enhancing the Capacity of Persons with Disability is the UK based charity that supports the Enhancing the Capacity at Gulu Persons Disabled Union project. It pays for the support and training of the business groups of disabled young people in Gulu and the surrounding district. It has long been the plan to expand the vocational training offer at GDPU, to return to the full programme that existed under the old Youth Development Programme overseen by Voluntary Service Overseas and sponsored by the Department for International Development. Now that ETC of PWD has trustees who know their way around bid writing we are working closely with GDPU in trying to put together suitable bids for funding a new vocational training programme for disabled youth in Gulu; exciting times indeed.

The Victorious Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Team at Mpigi

 

Back to Gulu part two: Annual Trustees Meeting

Camera 360
Gulu Disabled Persons Union Offices

Gulu Disabled Persons Union Meeting

After our visits to business enterprises in Gulu, Paicho, Acet and Koch Li, our meeting in Gulu with GDPU included the Chairman of the Board, the Treasurer the GDPU Co-ordinator and the Project Officer.

It was a genuinely productive discussion about what we have all learned so far and where the ETC@GDPU project might go next.

GDPU is keen to set up again as a training hub for Persons with Disability, this will not only provide a route to sustainability for trainees, but bring an income in for the institution itself

Sample Cash Book from a Training Session
Sample Cash Book from a Training Session

Investment: Literacy and numeracy, sustainability and habituation

As we saw in our field visits, groups and individuals need to understand how and why to invest in their own businesses (and how to search for other forms of funding) if they are to develop and to reach their sustainable aim. What holds them back?:

  • Low literacy and numeracy skills are one element. Few, despite training and support, have working record books/ records to help analyse success and aid planning; although there is far more to this issue than that. If all transactions are very small amounts of unrecorded cash, it dissapears quickly.

    Business Training 2
    Business Training
  • Low self-esteem is certainly part of the mix.

    Camera 360
    Store keeping
  • Life events; it is a vulnerable and precarious life with no safety margins. Common events like a bout of malaria for instance or a family funeral, will wipe out any savings instantly. Insecurity is rampant, if you are successful someone will prey on you, if you are unsuccessful, even more so.

    Rwot Aye Twero discussing the future
    Members of Rwot Aye Twero Sweater weaving group discussing the future
  • The familiar problem of what you could call ‘habituation’. Beneficiaries who have been through constant development cycles often expect that someone else, i.e. ‘The Whites’, will just turn up and give them the money they want to solve short term problems or give them materials that can be sold for money. After all this is what has happened in the past, and most vulnerable people in these circumstances expect the pattern to repeat, so they wait for it. For example, the constant poor electricity supply badly affects mobile phone repairers. A portable solar system would solve these problems for the Gulu PWDs enterprise, but some members refuse to pay anything towards it and all of their income has more or less collapsed.
Training Session at GDPU resized
Conflict Resolution Training Session at GDPU

Habituation and financial support for groups

The’ habituation’ challenge has been built in our programme planning. The new trustees asked whether we should we be providing capital funds for groups. It is a legitimate question but we have never done this in the past, deliberately. ETC of PWD has always believed that it is skills training, support and monitoring that make the difference, cash and materials handouts cause more short and long term problems than they solve. The GDPU board firmly agreed on this point, they stated quite strongly that it would be better to:

  • Link the groups with existing structures
  • Help them to fill in forms to access other funding; local and government grants for PWDs do exist.
  • Develop confidence in themselves.
Ocholar Stephen and Okwonga Charles at their work station 2
Ocholar Stephen and Okwonga Charles at their work station outside Gulu Main Market

If GDPU is to become a training hub again, what courses should it run?

A productive discussion about which courses would be most suitable, particularly noting the difference for urban/ rural training needs; market requirements are different between Gulu and outlying areas.

Electronics/ phone repair?

Although a popular course with students it is high risk. Changing technology means that people increasingly use smart phones, they are harder to repair than the simple feature phone on which previous students were trained; current and future PWD enterprises will be left out of this market. Lots of expensive software and hardware is needed, the expenses and demands will only get greater as technological complexity increases. Training in smart phone repair is currently beyond the potential of available trainers to offer and of any small institution to support, and will not get any easier.

MCRM in the country
MCRM in the country, members of Lubanga Lakica with Ongom Simon (Councillor and Chairman of GDPU Board)

Courses with different modules offering students the ability to diversify

For example, future skills training for motor cycle repair and maintenance (MCRM) workers going out to the villages should include: training in small motors eg: slashing machines; generators; milling machines etc. Whereas urban MCRM trainees will need to know how to mend a range of bikes (eg Yamaha) that are increasingly common in town but which never get out into the country.

Jokene from Tam Anyim working on a Bajaj Boxer and Yahama 125 at the same time
Jokene from Tam Anyim working on a Bajaj Boxer and Yahama 125 at the same time

Peer to peer training/ On the Job training and training others.

It was noticeable, visiting groups in the field recently, that many of the members were training other youth. This raises a series of questions:

  • What is the quality of the training that these peer trained trainees receive?
  • In the future should GDPU give training modules on training the trainer?
  • Should the project officer be monitoring the quality of peer to peer training?
Joining a sweater using a machine, after training.
Joining a sweater using a machine, after training. Notice the two broken sweater weaving machines in the background.

Conclusion: pilot training courses –

It was agreed that it would be a good idea to develop and run a pilot in 2 areas, which could also make for relatively even gender coverage. It was agreed that GDPU should focus on developing training programmes for:

  1. Motor cycle repair and maintenance/ agricultural and small machinery with suitable training in diversity for students from town and country
  2. Knitting /tailoring and upcycling with a very strong focus on diversifying away from the sweater weaving machines and all their associated problems.
Sweater Weaving Machine Head Acet
Sweater Weaving Machine Head, Acet

Knitting machine technician

GDPU should also try to train up a knitting machine technician for the whole area.

Peer to peer training

Modules should be developed within each core skill training programme that can begin to help trainees to deliver meaningful training to other PWDs in the future.

Project Officer Musema Faruk with Ocholar Stephen Ocholar Stephen
Project Officer Musema Faruk with Ocholar Stephen

How long should post training support last?

GDPU groups have succeeded and have lasted longer than other Youth Development Programme business groups because GDPU still has contact with them, they are family and still looked after. Six month post training support on the earlier YDP programme was too short; ECT has supported post YDP business groups for over two years and it is only now starting to bear fruit. So any future training programmes must involve long post training support proposals.

Camera 360
GDPU Co-Ordinator, Ojok Patrick with Akera Robert

Next Steps

Ongoing support for existing groups

ETC @GDPU agreed to continue low level support to all existing groups (Phase 1 and 2), support tailored to each group. Faruk is still the person who is in contact and has the guidance experience. ETC can just about fund this from existing resources.

GDPU proposal

GDPU to provide a proposal and further discussion on the resources required to start the training pilot. GDPU to amend current proposals to develop programme and costings

MCRM in Paicho
Motorbike repair in Paicho

Loans and grants

ETC trustees will try to carry out fundraising for these new courses and will research possible future funding streams and how to apply for them.

Safeguarding

The meeting finished with further reminders of the importance of safeguarding beneficiaries, staff and all those who might be vulnerable and that come into contact with GDPU.

GDPU Offices 2

Back to Gulu: how has the project been pushing on?

Downtown Gulu 3
Downtown Gulu

Well, we’ve been back to Gulu again, taking two of the new trustees from ETC of PWD this time. We were bringing together the strands of the project so far and thinking about where this accumulated knowledge should take everyone involved.

There were:

  1. Visits to the field with Musema Faruk the project officer from Gulu Disabled Persons Union to see business groups from both phases of the project.
  2. Meetings with local councillors from the new district of Omorro to discuss their approach to disability and whether our project might fit into it.
  3. And a very productive meeting with GDPU members themselves, to discuss the project so far and where it might lead in the future.

Many thanks to Faruk for organising the visits, for his hard work with the groups and for supporting the evident improvements that we saw.

Chairman GDPU with Lubanga Lakica
Back to the field: Ongom Simon, the Chairman of the GDPU board with members of Lubanga Lakica Motorcycle repair group in Koch Li

Two key issues arose from our field trips:

  1. What makes a successful group and how best to support business groups to achieve that success, and what does success look like anyway
  2. What are the best vocational skills for students to learn and how specialised should they be?

And at our subsequent meeting at GDPU we all spent a long time thinking about their plans to make a training hub for future students with disability, what should be taught?

Members of lubanga lakica Enterprise Developing their Business plan
Members of Lubanga Lakica Enterprise developing their Business Plan

But each of these three questions could be reduced down to one word: sustainability. How can the hard work of the members of the business enterprises and of the members of GDPU be kept going? How can they make sure that what they are doing will earn enough to keep them and their families alive and better than alive; thriving.

Our last post mentioned success by two groups. This time perhaps, by concentrating on the work of two others we can tease out some of the implications for sustainability in their success.

Akera Roberts in Gulu and Lubanga Lakica in Koch Li

Akera Roberts Businesss Enterprise
Akera Roberts, individual Businesss Enterprise on the pilot programme, Gulu.

Akera Robert  

Is based in the centre of Gulu town and doing extremely well, has plans and enough money saved to move from his table on a veranda into new premises within 3 months. Has just sent his son to one of the top primary schools in Gulu, paid for by his own work. A real difference in aspirations this year compared to last, Akera Robert has become far more confident and has a vision of his own future far larger than we saw last year. Important to note that he focuses on electrical and solar appliances not mobile phones. He puts his success down to

Akera Robert mending a solar light 4
Akera Robert mending a solar light
  • Diversity of equipment repaired, unlike for example the Gulu PWDs enterprise who solely mend feature phones and therefore have a diminishing market, Akera’s range will only grow.
  • He has a very good reputation, particularly among people from the villages who bring their items on the bus for him to repair when they come into town
  • He is always there from 8 in the morning till dark, even when he has no work he will be at his desk, so customers know they can always find him
Lubanga Lakija 3
Members of Lubanga Lakica with the GDPU Chairman of the Board (also a councillor for the area)

Lubanga Lakica:

Based in Koch Li, a very small place on a mud road road between Koch Goma and Bobi. Koch Li is about 5 miles from the main road that passes through Koch Goma, a small town about 20 miles outside Gulu. There is not much at Koch Li, but isolation can bring benefits as well as challenges;

Benefits: in particular a lack of competition. Koch Goma is full of people mending motorcycles, but as the members of Lubanga Lakica have realised there is great market for them if they can learn how to work on the many different possible machines to repair in their area: slashing machines/ generators/ small agricultural machines etc. They have some of the skills needed, but need more. Some of the members already know how to carry out small welding repairs although they lack the machinery to do so.

Lubanga Lakija
Lubanga Lakija spares store

Challenges: security is a real problem in isolated areas, tools and anything portable or of any value will be stolen. Which means keeping spares for example, is a difficult. These mechanics have a tie up with a spares dealer in Koch Goma, but to run a proper service they need a secure container, which costs money. As is often the way, the group are reluctant to invest their own money in paying for a container, although they have negotiated a good price for one made by Mr Labongo from the disabled welders group in Gulu. As Faruk says, “They fear risk”.

Lubanga Likija tools
Lubanga Lakica tools and storage

The implications from discussions with these two businesses were twofold

  1. Trainees need different skills set to succeed in town and in out in the village, in essence urban trainees will need specific skills in greater depth and country trainees will need a very wide range of basic skills. Our Post-Training Support programmes have certainly been location specific and responded to the wishes of the beneficiaries. But, in future training institutions will have to establish where the future trainees intend to work before planning their skills training programme. It seems obvious doesn’t it, but I have never found a training programme that does this
  2. To build on their success members will need to understand the role of investment and have access to it; either their own money or from grants.
MCRM
Motorcycle Repair and Maintenance by the side of the road

These field trips and Faruk’s great depth of understanding and knowledge of the enterprises he supports, built up over the last few years, gave us all much to think about and take forward to our meeting at Gulu Disabled Persons Union. Where should the ETC project go next? See the next post to find out!

How Are They Pushing on at GDPU?

What does progress look like in this type of (very) small scale development context?

Where does long lasting improvement come from and how can you recognise it?

We are now coming to the end of Phase Two of our project, ETC@GDPU (Enhancing the Capacity of Persons with Disability) it provides skills training and business support for young people with disabilities in Gulu and surrounding region. Faruk the project officer from Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) has been out and about assessing the development of each group in Phase Two and of course checking on the progress of the pilot groups.

Recent Activities:

Financial and Literacy Training 3
Recent Financial and Marketing Training

Financial training/ Marketing training:

  • GDPU hired Mr Okumu Moris, a lecturer in entrepreneurship and commerce, to train youth in marketing skills; a gap identified among the enterprises.
  • The other support offered by the ETC project for the past 8 months also included: Life skills; Financial literacy and record keeping; Business management skills, Group dynamic training and training in specific vocational skills, eg knitting and joining of sweaters using a sewing machine, or electronics or repairing different types of motorbike.
  • Follow ups to the training given and Reflection Meetings were also held.

A look at a couple of the ETC @ GDPU Phase Two Groups might show the effects of this support and training:

Working with the sewing machine at GDPKW

Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop:

Along with the general training, members of GDPKW have attended Skills Training for two months, training in open sweater weaving, joining sweaters, and using the sewing machine. As Faruk, the project officer has said: “their capacity was successfully built and they are all able to do work without any problems.”

Sample Cash Book from a Training Session

Training outcomes:

    • After the marketing training the enterprise was advised to look for contracts, not only from schools which are the usual outlets for sweater weavers, but also from the community in order to increase their sales. The group should also try to display their products so that others will know them.
  • There is sign of increase in their income, for example, the enterprise was able to get contracts of 206000 Ugandan shillings (about £45.00) for one month, awarded to the enterprise as a result of increased skills and knowledge of marketing and sourcing of contracts from the community.
  • The group has an updated record book which is a very good sign of financial literacy and good practise within the enterprise.
  • The enterprise members have managed to work very hard to improve on the performance of their enterprise.
New Clothes from Old at GDPKW

Good signs for the future

Members of GDPKW have started making individual sweaters of different designs, rather than just school uniforms, and are now getting small individual contracts. GDPU have linked the enterprise to friends who wanted sweaters, and they already been awarded the contract to knit two sweaters at a total cost of 60,000 Ugandan Shillings (about £13.00).

Upcycling at GDPKW

Also, they now sew dresses from small pieces of cloth, recycling different pieces of cheap cloth and offcuts to make one beautiful one. These are particularly suitable for children’s clothing and are therefore very saleable.

School Uniform Sweaters

Small Steps?

Both of these outcomes might seem very small steps but in fact they mark significant progress. Previously, members have felt bound by the forms and types that they had been taught and appeared fearful of anything new, of investing their own time, money or resources in risk. School uniform sweater contracts are seasonal, only available in January/ February at the start of the school year as a bulk order, one-off contract with a low rate of financial return. If you miss the order, through a broken machine or illness perhaps, then you make nothing for the rest of the year. These new ventures not only show people with enough self-confidence to ‘own’ their own business, but also a means for individual makers of new clothes to make a serious future income that is sustainable throughout the year; there is considerable potential for developing ‘upcycling’ and new designs in the local markets.

Other routes to boosting confidence and self esteem:

Sport: Participation in: one of the GDPKW members of the group (Aciro Brenda, a physically disabled girl) participated in the disability Paralympics, winning gold medals in 100m, 200m and Javelin.

Acet Market

Nyeko Rach

A pilot phase hairdressing group based in Acet, a small isolated town some 25 miles out of Gulu on a very poor road.

Description of activities carried out by the group this period:

targeting your market and plaiting of hair: the enterprise performed very well recently, especially during the period of Uganda independence and market days. The enterprise had a lot of customers, all members were engaged and able to earn good money.

Going to see Nyeko Rach Hairdressers in Acet

Increase in commercial confidence and business planning after training: the isolation of Acet, which has no retail shop for salon products, makes using the right materials difficult. The enterprise has realised that if they plan properly, they are able to source and buy the salon products requested by their customers, in Gulu and transport them out to Acet by bus; as Faruk says: “This is a good sign for customer relations and ownership of the enterprise. The enterprise has shown a lot of progress compared to other enterprises as they do buy their materials on a weekly basis.”

Again, small steps but important ones for future sustainability, this is what progress in small scale development looks like.

New Clothes from Old at GDPKW

Coming in the next update:

news about the recent ETC of PWD trustee visit to Gulu and news about the next steps for this project.