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.
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 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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.