Announcing Vplus@GDPU

The old toilet block at GDPU: blocked

As the old ETC@GDPU project draws to a close we have good news to announce: the first steps on our new vocational training programme at Gulu Disabled Persons Union have been taken. It will be called Vplus@GDPU, – V is for Vocational Training and ‘plus’ showing the extra elements that make training successful.

Old classrooms, waiting for a new programme

Vplus@GDPU: The New Programme

50 disabled young people will be trained at GDPU on a six months training programme, followed by six months post training support. ETC of PWD (Enhancing the Capacity of People with Disability, our UK based charity that has worked with GDPU for some time) is funding the start of the programme, and we are searching hard for other funding to expand it. There is a possibility of a major grant, but in the international development world nothing is certain so we are keen to find new ways to make this exciting programme work.

Old classrooms waiting to be refurbished

Covid 19 in Uganda and Gulu

Of course, nothing is certain in any part of the world at the moment. Africa, apart from South Africa, has been hit relatively lightly by the Coronavirus. To date there have been 14,403 cases in Uganda, 132 deaths across the whole country and 10 in Gulu with seven possible new contacts in in the district notified today. The Lockdown in March affected everyone, but was hardest on those who have the least.

Covid 19 security at GDPU

Working on the toilet block at GDPU

For the new training programme to go ahead in Gulu, the GDPU site has to be made Covid 19 secure. That means proper access to sanitation: new handwashing sinks and toilet blocks for example. Every person allowed on site must be Covid 19 free, so access must be controlled by repairing the old fence, making a proper gateway, installing a new gatekeeper, buying temperature guns for the gatekeeper to use on each entrant. We are keeping the numbers of new trainees down, partly to make sure that every trainee gets proper attention but also to keep to social distancing rules. That will demand new classrooms, extending and refurbishing existing ones and making specialist isolation zones. And lots more and lots of extra training for everyone. A busy time!

Working on the toilet block at GDPU
Working on the toilet block

Vplus@ GDPU from now until January 2021

All being well, the actual training will start in the second week of January 2021. Recruitment, including discussions with parents and communities should start shortly. There are many ifs and buts that might stall the process, but everyone working on the programme in Gulu is feeling positive, and we join them in looking forward to an exciting new start.

The gates at GDPU

Vplus @GDPU: what next and how did we get here?

There is much more to come: how we all arrived at choosing the new training courses for instance; what was learned from the old ETC@GDPU programme? What has happened to people on that programme and what role will they play in the new one? How have the sportsmen at Gulu PWDs electronics been getting on? Will sport play any role in Vplus (spoiler alert: yes). But for now, in these challenging times it is just wonderful to be able to spread some good news.

Wheelchair basketball at GDPU

Donations?

Just to remind you, our donations page is always open; every little helps.

‘When Duty Calls’: a Facebook post from Musema Faruk

The etc@gdpu project officer and GDPU Guidance Counsellor, Musema Faruk, has also been working on a liquid soap making project for people with disabilities in Gulu and the surrounding area. So that they can not only access soap themselves and provide it at cost price to others, but also earn something in these very difficult times. I thought it easier to post it here, but there is a link to the etc@gdpu on facebook page at the bottom of this page.
“WHEN DUTY CALLS, WE RESPOND!
============================
It started as a good day as we headed to Acet in Omoro district to train 5 women with disabilities on liquid soap production skills. Half way the journey, our car got a mechanical damage caused by the ball joint coming out which made our Tyres to burst. This almost made us over turn – Thanks to God’s saving grace we didn’t. This did not stop us from mission however we jumped on a motorcycle and continued to accomplish what had taken us. I’m thankful that the women were impacted with skills that can help boost their financial status.
Thanks to Etc@GDPU team and PESA, with funding support from Mary Bennell and the entire Trustees of ETC@PWDs for making this possible.”

Pushing on well: exciting times and our return to Acet

If it’s February it must the annual ETCof PWD trustee trip to Gulu and District. Visiting Northern Uganda to see the ETC@GDPU project, the business groups and individuals we have been supporting in their search for independence, a sustainable business, respect and dignity.

The road into Acet

Nyeko Rac, the hairdressers group way out of Gulu in Acet, on the road to Moroto, has always been lively. When we saw them last year Lillian, their self-declared leader, (who said firmly that the key to business success was having a strong leader) asked for further literacy and numeracy lessons. We agreed, but were worried about Lakot Nancy, a profoundly deaf member of the group who wouldn’t get much from spoken lessons. Last year Nancy was withdrawn and had little communication with her fellow hairdressers, there was obvious tension.

Outside the Nyeko Rac Salon. Nancy is on the left

After some discussion about Nancy with Gulu Disabled Persons Union who deliver the programme, we paid for a sign language interpreter, also asking that other local young deaf people be included. Isolation is an obvious side effect of profound deafness, particularly if you only have a little ‘local’ sign language. We were concerned that Nancy might find lessons with people who were not in her business or at her level, difficult.

On the contrary, Ajok Emma, the ETC@GDPU project officer, reported that Nancy was really enjoying it, helping out with the teaching, making new friends; company and interaction. Musema Faruk the other ETC@GDPU project officer, also told us that her sign language had significantly improved too. Nancy just repeated phrases before he said: “often it was not a conversation, she just signed the same thing over and over. Now she is ‘talking’ well.”

At Nyeko Rac 2020 with Nancy and Lilian (the teacher is on the left)

That improvement was clear when we met the hairdressers and new deaf students in Acet last week. Nancy was the liveliest we have seen her, sparkling someone said. She has a new business place with another hairdresser and was continuing her mobile work, travelling to clients. Her relationship with Lilian seemed good and Lilian was using some sign language with her too, which she hadn’t before; confidence all round.

As we have learnt to expect in development work, every step forward leads to a new issue. In the small hairdressing salon room at Acet were, along with their signing literacy teacher, two profoundly deaf young lads from the classes, obvious candidates for vocational training. Bright and lively but with no skills training and not much schooling. Their new teacher was very proud of them, they could now write and read their own name and were progressing well. But they need so many more lessons, who would pay for them? They were desperate to work, to learn more, but how?

The two young men who want vocational training

Not only that, we were introduced to a primary aged school girl, also profoundly deaf and awkward and shy with so many strangers, especially white people, although very smart in her uniform. Her father had brought her, there is no provision in this district for the deaf and he didn’t know what to do. She goes to a local school, yet there was no support there and the teacher could not help, we saw the girls school book, it was just scribbles. During our time in the salon, the girl slowly opened up, started to enjoy the company. Although her signing was rudimentary, she began to use it well, lots of ‘chatter’ with the others, lovely to see but her overall situation was heartbreaking.

The teacher showing this years ETC calendar

ETCof PWD is not set up to deal with disability as such, what we know about is vocational education and project management, we rely on delivery partners like GDPU for specific expertise. To date we have been working with those who have already had some basic training. So, what to do about the young lads and the small girl and probably many more like her? Apparently Acet is a notable cluster for profound deaf cases.

Because the father was there, Faruk and Emma the two project officers from GDPU could tell him that there were possible primary schools in Gulu for his daughter, although she would have to board and there would be extra costs. They would continue to advise him.

Faruk in conversation with one of the young men

And the two young men? They are very keen to become motorbike repairers: “Otherwise we just sit” they signed to Faruk.  Currently there is nowhere for them to train, and no fund to pay for the literacy, numeracy and signing lessons to get them to the level they need.  Can ETCof PWD help? Will there be a new vocational training programme for them? Well, interesting you should mention that. Why not see the next installments of this newsletter to find out?

PS We have just had an email from Ojok Patrick (GDPU Co-ordinator) to say that he has arranged an interview for the girl and her father with Laroo Primary School in Gulu. It has good provision for the deaf. He hopes they can also find a sponsor to pay for her boarding. We keep our fingers crossed.

Outside the Nyeko Rac Salon.

By the way, our donations page is always open.