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

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 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’



Big Steps Forward for VPlus

Further big steps forward on the VPlus vocational training programme for youth with disabilities in Gulu, Northern Uganda.

Mid Term Exams on the VPlus Programme: Hairdressing

Covid 19

To date it seems that Covid 19, although present in the community, is not having the devastating effect that it might in a country with such poor health facilities and little public infrastructure. There are currently 2 cases registered in Gulu. those cases have come from Amoro, bordering Sudan. In the country as a whole, there are 2,384 cases registered with 346 deaths in total, out of a population of about 45 million people. The Indian variant has reached Uganda, an Indian school in Kampala has 37 positive cases, but the situation is currently stable. Of course, these figures probably do not reflect the actual situation, but it is nothing like India or the West. The Lockdown is easing, people are relaxing, although masks still worn in banks, hospitals and supposed to be worn in markets.  

VPlus

Mid Term Exams on the VPlus Programme: Tailoring and Sweater Weaving

It seems hard to believe, but trainees have taken their mid-term exams and started their three-week internship placements. They have come such a long way since training began in January. The exam results are looking good, skills levels have improved significantly. For their internships, many of the VPlus trainees have been placed with former trainees from the ETC@GDPU programme that ran from 2017 to 2020. VPlus incorporates much that was learnt from that earlier project.

Life Skills

Conflict Management classes

In this context, to make your life sustainable, you need so much more than basic vocational skills. Life Skills; Psycho-Social Support; Literacy and Numeracy; Health Advice; Conflict Resolution; all part of the ‘plus’ of VPlus.

In the last blog I wrote about traditional dancing and how learning the dances and taking part for the first time helps people with disabilities join their local culture. Trainees from the VPlus programme have also been taking part in a weekly radio programme in Gulu, discussing their training and taking questions; advocacy really, becoming part of the community. All this and more, they all matter in the route to sustainability.

Youth to Youth Engagement

For example, before trainees went out to their internships, they spent a day with former trainees in what is called: Youth to Youth Engagement. What these established businesses had to say was extremely useful; real life experiences.

Youth to Youth Engagement: past trainees explain how to run a business.

James

James is a motorcycle mechanic with hearing impairment. He started at a workshop as an internship student, was promoted as a volunteer and now works full time. It has not been easy and this was an important point that all the attendees made, you will have to work hard, be respectful to people even if they are not being respectful to you.

James’ major problem was communication, most people didn’t understand him and communicating to customers was a big problem. As people got to know and like him, they also learned how to talk with him in the local sign language.

Mid Term Exams: working on a motorbike

He is now doing well and wants to take in internees to train them up. This is a noticeable feature of the Disability community in Gulu, the wish to work together, to help each other if at all possible.

Youth to Youth Engagement: past trainees explain how to run a business.

Lillian

Lillian is the hairdresser from Acet who runs Nyeko Rach, a hairdressing group that dates back to the early days of the Youth Development Programme. She said that her business is really supporting her family, she can now afford reasonable clothing, feed the family, pay to put children through school and get to the hospital.

Members of Nyeko Rach at their salon in Acet

Like many, Lillian stressed the importance of customer relations, for example when someone comes with less money but wants you to work on her, you should know how to handle such things. In a salon, the girls should not gossip about customers because when they get to know, the customers will never come back.

You need to plan for the cycle of the year. Hair dressing work, like Sweater Weaving, is seasonal; what will you do when work is not there? And, you need to think about supply, if you live away from Gulu, how will you get products so that you can keep open? And, how will you keep those products secure so that no one can steal them?

It was interesting to see how technology is starting to affect traditional practices like hairdressing. Lillian advised the trainees to go to You Tube and learn hair styles that are trending, they will learn new things from the internet she said.

Mid Term Exams: Electronics

Bernard

Bernard works in electronic repair and maintenance in Amuru district. He explained that the community around Amuru now know him for his good work. But in the beginning people used to discriminate against him, saying: “Where did this disabled man get his skills and the knowledge from?” He was even discriminated against at home.  His parents did not send him to school, although they sent brothers and sisters.

But now, with his phone repair he is the one who supports the family. Like Lillian, Bernard stressed the importance of keeping up to date. He comes into Gulu to learn how to fix new things, smartphones for instance.

Record Keeping

Youth to Youth Engagement: the importance of record keeping

All of the attendees instructed the trainees to do record keeping, do daily savings, or open a bank account. Bernard also encouraged new businesses to apply for loans, as he did, to support his business; it helps a lot. GDPU will be working with trainees to open accounts and take out suitable loans

Family Involvement

As Bernard and James’s stories show, to be a successful young business person with disabilities, you need your community behind you. Sadly, family support is often not strong. One of the GDPU innovations is finding ways to get the family involved in the training. To this end, and to solve problems with Post Training Support, they have asked trainees to supply their own tools. Usually, the family has to cover that cost, which means the family becomes part of the process; they ‘own’ it in the jargon and want a return on their investment. In our recent monthly Zoom meeting with GDPU, Project Manager Musema Faruk, reported that he is seeing real involvement from parents this time. The parents want to know how their child is doing and what they can do to help, a great step forward. Many more to come we hope.

Donate

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School Open Day, a group photo of some of the participants, friends and families
This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people’