How are things pushing on at GDPU? The Vplus programme, a New Year 2021 update Part Two: How did we get here?

How do you know when something has worked and what do you do with the ‘something’ subsequently?

The essence of the ETC of PWD approach has always been that the people we we work with already know what they need to make their lives and the life of their community strong and sustainable. Our role is to support the skills training to fill the needs they identify. We have seen far too much generic training, imposed by others, that misses its targets, so we work with people with a track record in getting it right, who are from the very community that needs the support. These people are of course: Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU).

GDPU Offices 2020

How does this work in practice?

Here are some examples of how we all worked on the new courses for trainees on the Vplus training programme for youth with disabilities, opening at GDPU on the 20th January.

Most of the new programme was worked out during the ETC of PWD trustees visit in February 2020:

  • The courses should be market driven, the training should be as flexible as possible.
  • The numbers should low to allow as one to one contact.
  • Psycho social support and sport/ physical literacy should be heavily involved at all stages.
  • Literacy, numeracy and financial training must be more than an add on.
  • We also spent hours on the difficult issue of Post Training Support, its where many vocational training courses collapse.
Socially distanced induction training for new GDPU teachers

Market Relevance

Next week the new teaching staff will carry out Market Relevant Assessment for each of their training areas, so that each course can be structured towards each student earning their own living.

Research has already told us that, for example, there won’t be a metalwork course. Under the old VSO/YDP programme metalwork was very popular, really well run by an inspirational teacher who worked with students afterwards to set up their own welding shop. But it is so expensive to establish yourself as a metalworker and, sadly, Gulu is overrun with existing metal workers and small companies. Their welding shop has closed, the market cannot sustain any new trainees.

The old Welders Workshop

‘Danger’

However, during the subsequent ETC@GDPU programme we realised that basic welding skills are highly marketable for motorbike repairers. For instance, ‘Danger’ a young man working out of the Lubanga Lakicha workshop in nearby Koch Goma has learnt simple welding. He hires the kit at a reasonable price per hour and mends bikes, cars; anything metal. Danger makes good money supplementing his main motorbike repair income and incidentally it allows him to pursue his real interest, music; hence his name. So, inspired by this knowledge and others like him, in the new Motorcycle Repair Course, there will be a welding module.

Beyond Core Skills

‘Danger’, loading his bike with welding kit

Likewise, Sweater Weavers will learn how to use, not only sweater weaving machines, but also sewing machines, how to make simple clothes, baby clothes in particular and, crucially, how to repair and maintain their machines. Hairdressers will have a ‘Body Beautiful and Cosmetology’ module to expand their repertoire. Electronics trainees will learn how to repair more than just mobile phones. We will also be introducing the new Design and Decoration course for applied design, signboards, posters, basic computer art etc. The laptops (laptops have batteries and can ride out the constant power outages) arrived this week. The plan is to establish a working computer room so that all trainees will leave with some basic computer skills.

A member of Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop with a child’s dress made for sale

Post Training Support

The training on site lasts for six months, what happens after that is equally important. There is also a post training course of equal length with dedicated skills training, psycho social support, literacy and numeracy extensions and so on, to help each trainee set up their own business or support them working for someone else.

Psycho-Social Support

ETC@GDPU members 2020

But you can’t learn new skills if, for example, discrimination and abuse has left you with such low esteem that you don’t believe you can ever learn anything; you believe you are literally, fit for nothing. Which is why the psycho social support element of the programme (that GDPU specialise in) has been and will continue to be, so important; hence ‘Vplus’, ie vocation training plus.  As the previous ETC@GDPU programme drew to a close, it was fascinating to see that most of the participants now have the self-confidence to publicly represent their community: we hope to replicate that community engagement with these new trainees. Many of the ETC@GDPU beneficiaries will also become peer mentors on the new Vplus programme, sustainability in action!

ETC at GDPU Reflection meeting

How are things pushing on at GDPU? The Vplus programme, a New Year 2021 update. Part One

So far, very well.

Working on the new gate at GDPU

The Vplus training programme for 50 new trainees with disabilities at Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) should still open in January. It has been put back from the 15th to the 20th January to avoid the Ugandan General Election on the 14th. Travelling for persons with disability is always very difficult, around election time even more so. There has been more violence than usual during this election with a heavy loss of life, although mostly in Kampala. Covid restrictions have stopped the big and often very disruptive campaign meetings of the past. Gulu has been largely peaceful and we are told that it will probably remain so, although people are fearful of the return of the military to ‘keep order’.

How about Covid 19?

Cases are rising in Uganda, though nothing like the West. In the last two days 120 cases were reported in Kampala and 3 in Gulu. In fact, the cases in Gulu came from some way away and were brought to the hospital for treatment. The disease is certainly in the community, but without mass testing the levels of severity are unknown. Anecdotally, the virus is reported as present but not rampant, and of course everyone hopes that remains the case.

Ready to Open?

The finished new gates, fence and ramp at GDPU

Under these circumstances, GDPU staff, their Board of Governors and the trustees of ETC of PWD felt that the new Vplus programme could open this month, once certain conditions had been met. The site is now secure with a new fence and a working gate with a proper entrance ramp for wheelchairs installed! A gatekeeper appointed and trained, a hut built for him to shelter in, a temperature gun bought for him to test each entrant onto site. Toilets have been refurbished, cesspits drained, washrooms built, handbasins installed and water supplied to site.  Classrooms extended, isolation zones created, boarding facilities rearranged to make suitable social distancing spaces. All staff have been trained in Covid procedures.

Registration of new students in Anaka

Recruitment

52 trainees have been recruited, their families and communities consulted and reassured. New teaching staff for the five courses on offer have been interviewed, appointed and received full induction.

Inception Meeting

Socially distanced Induction training for new GDPU teachers

The key action for all this to work is the Inception Meeting and Inspection by the District Education Officer. He will inspect the site, assess the preparations and check that staff know what they are doing. This was to have been on Friday 8th, but not all Government and District offices have fully re-opened after the Christmas break, it will be re-arranged for next week.

So, fingers crossed all involved in the Vplus programme can look forward to the future, and not only the 52 new trainees themselves and subsequently their families and community that they will, we hope, support. But also, for  the new teaching staff who now have work and an income in challenging times. And, of course, for the staff and Board of Gulu Disabled Persons Union who have, at last some stability and activity on site. As Ojok Patrick the GDPU coordinator said in a recent email: “We are so happy that after many years of no activities, we are back on our feet again and the place is getting busier.”

Working on the toilets

Exciting Times!

For more news and details about what courses will be run, try the next blog here.

Pushing on Well: GDPU starts up again in Gulu

The lock down in Gulu is being eased slowly. Public transport started up again on June 4, shops have reopened and Government is enforcing the use of face masks in public. The World Health Authority reported 808 Corona virus cases in Uganda on 12 June, but no death has been registered so far. As Ojok Patrick Co-ordinator of Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) says: “still not as bad as we hear in your case and other countries”. 

Ojok Patrick with Food Distribution at GDPU (4) 2
During Lockdown in Gulu: Ojok Patrick organizing food distribution at GDPU

However, Gulu hospital has about 65 Corona cases, mainly truck drivers from neighbouring countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Eritrea, Somali and DRC. There are very few subsequent cases yet in people who had contact with them. The infection is certainly increasing in other parts of Africa, we can only hope that Uganda has done enough to be spared.

Schools are scheduled to open from the beginning of July. The Government plan is to organise testing machines for all schools so that students all get tested right at the start, and this testing should continue after every two weeks. Everyone hopes it works out well.

Life is getting back to normal again in Gulu, though with lots of hardship as many have lost their jobs because of the lock down. Ojok Patrick: “That is the situation here and hopefully, if infection doesn’t increase, we are sure most public places will open including schools.”

 

ETC@GDPU

Since the Ugandan President has eased some of the lockdown, like transport, GDPU can now implement the last parts of the ETC@GDPU project that we all agreed after the trustees visits in February.

Generator training in Koch Goma
First Generator training in Koch Goma

In particular, the gaps in generator repair at Koch Goma and the pre-vocational skills training in Acet for the deaf. (Please see this post for the background to the extra training).

Mama Cave at work (2) 2
Mama Cave demonstrating how to make a mask

Emma and Faruk (the project officers) are doing the groundwork to make it successful and safe. They shall provide the members taking part with face masks and hand sanitizers. The masks are made by Mama Cave and the Gulu Disabled Person Knitting Workshop based at GDPU. For the great work under the new ‘Mama Masks’ name and other initiatives please see this post: Pushing on well: new initiatives after Lockdown at GDPU

Outside the Nyeko Rac Salon.
Outside the Nyeko Rac Salon, this February.

In Acet, they will use the same sign language interpreter, a teacher at Laroo primary school, that we used before. She will be riding her personal motorbike to reach Acet twice a week, so that she doesn’t have to use public transport. Emma consulted with Lillan, the leader of Nyeko Rach hairdressing group in Acet, who agreed that the number of members is small enough for the training to take place.

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

The steps made by this group of deaf students have really begun to change their lives for the better. This last round of training is to prepare them for vocational training, so that they can learn new skills and earn a proper living for themselves; good luck to all involved.

The teacher showing this years ETC calendar
February 2020, the teacher showing this years ETC calendar

Pushing on well: new initiatives after lockdown at GDPU

The level of Corona Virus infection in Gulu is, so far, low compared for example to the UK. The World Health Authority reported a total of 808 Corona virus cases in Uganda on 12 June,and 60-70 in Gulu itself and apparently no deaths. But, the lockdown has caused severe hardship for those who had no safety net to begin with: total loss of income; serious food shortages and high price rises.

Food Distribution at GDPU (3) 2
Waiting for food distribution at GDPU

Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) is working very hard to ensure that their beneficiaries are not badly hit by the related effects of COVID-19.

Advocacy Project and ‘Mama Mask’

Mama Cave fits a mask 2
Mama Cave fits a mask for the Mama Mask Project

GDPU together with The Advocacy Project have started an initiative called MAMA MASK. As Faruk the GDPU Guidance Counsellor and ETC@GDPU Project Officer says: “It is a contribution from the disability family, more especially from our women, as a way to respond to COVID-19”.

Florence cutting materials for masks 2
Florence cutting materials for masks

The Advocacy Project donated $800 towards production of 4500 face masks to be sold at a cost of 2000 Ugandan Shillings between June and September. The profit from the masks sold will support GDPU activities and utility bills, and pay the women for the work done. Mama Cave, the Sweater Weaving Instructor for the ETC@GDPU project, is working with the team at Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop to produce the masks:

  • They have so far produced 800 face masks, and all are marked with the GDPU logo.
  • They have sold 100+ face mask at the moment.

 

Mama Cave 2
Mama Cave

 

Food Distribution

Food Distribution at GDPU (1) 2
Food Distribution at GDPU

Two organisations of students from Gulu who are studying abroad, Gulu Development and Friends of Gulu, came together to support people with disabilities in the Acholi Sub-region, Gulu and Kitgum District. They have so far supported 200 people with disabilities in Gulu Municipality alone. They distributed 5kg of beans, bars of soap, 10kg of Maize flour and salt.

Food Distribution at GDPU (5) 2
Food Distribution at GDPU

GDPU mobilized the most vulnerable people with disabilities in the community, the food relief was channelled through Gulu District task force. And of course, they ensured that everyone maintained a social distance of 2-4 metres and everyone was able to wash their hands with soap.

Food Distribution at GDPU (2) 2
Food Distribution at GDPU

GDPU’s NEXT PLAN: Soap

Over 500 women with disabilities in Gulu and the surrounding districts, working in the informal sector, have been affected by the lockdown. In such crises you rely on your family, but commonly, women with disabilities are not supported by their relatives, parents and friends because of attitudes, discrimination and stigma. The government and well-wishers are giving some food relief, and they are very grateful but it is not sustainable and these women want to work for themselves.

Soap Training 1
Soap Training

GDPU have developed a concept to increase income to vulnerable women with disabilities who are badly affected by COVID-19 government lockdown measures. GDPU are fundraising from friends, well-wishers and development agencies to train 40 women with disabilities in the production of soap and liquid soap to boost their income; there is a high demand for these products now and in the future.

Soap Training 2 540
Soap Training

Musema Faruk, GDPU Guidance Counsellor: “There is a saying in our community, when you empower a woman you empower a whole community. A productive woman will help feed a family of 5-10 people; strong and healthy families make strong and healthy communities and all will contribute to social well-being.”

GDPU want to target women and girls with disabilities whose businesses were affected by COVID- 19 lock down measures. Their proposed project seeks to create self-employment to tackle the unemployment which is so deeply rooted in our communities.

Gulu Districts
Gulu Districts

They plan to train 40 girls and women with disabilities from four districts of Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro,  because they are the most vulnerable and deeply affected by the lock down. The 40 women will be trained as trainers of trainers in soap making; liquid soap production so that they can go back to their respective districts and villages to train others to start producing soap, liquid soap or face masks.

They will sell those items at lowest cost to their community, compared to existing products on the market. The profit they get will help them with the basic needs such food and medical treatments etc

Summary of GDPU Soap Making Project proposal:

  • 40 women with disabilities trained in making soaps, liquid soap and protective face masks.
  • The 40 women are trained to train other women with disabilities in the skills they have received. GDPU anticipate that each trainer will be in position to train at least 5 other women; the approach is a snow ball method.
  • Certificate of completion awarded to 40 women with disabilities.
  • Increased income level for our women with disabilities with their households.

 Outcomes

  • Improved level of living for our women with disabilities
  • Reduced level of domestic violence.
  • Reduced stigma and discrimination
  • Strengthen the community

If you want to help GDPU in this proposal or want to find out more, here are the contact details:

Contact Person:           Faruk Musema

Designation:                Project Officer

Email:                         musemafaruk256@gmail.com

Contact:                      +256771487566

Address:                       Jomo Kenyatta Road Gulu Uganda

ETC of PWD can also pass on any donations you might want to make through our Donations Page, just make the cause clear in the comment section in the donation process. Or you can contact ETC of PWD via our contacts page if you prefer.

 

If you want to find out how the ETC@GDPU project is getting on now that GDPU is starting to open up after the lockdown, please have a look at this recent post: Pushing on well: GDPU starts up after Lockdown

 

Corona must go

Covid 19: how are they pushing on at GDPU?

Corona must go

We have been in contact with Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) during the lockdown. Although GDPU has been closed for most of the time, it is now starting to reopen. What follows is from the emails and messages we have had from them so far.

PESA distributing liquid soap 2
Persons With Special Abilities (PESA) supported deaf basketball and football players with liquid soap to help prevent the spread of Corona virus

As Ojok Patrick GDPU co-ordinator said at the start: “The time is extremely strange as we wake up everyday and you see news of people dying in large number because of the strange diseases that has attacked the world. We are all indeed trying to keep ourselves safe by staying home and not allowing neighbours and relatives to visit. Our experience with Ebola, which affected Gulu more than any part of Uganda, makes us more alert than any part of Uganda.

Some effects of the lockdown for them:

Prices of essential commodities are extremely high, partly due to supply problems and partly due to the usual profiteering.

In Gulu the government distributed food to those who only earn from hand to mouth and the most vulnerable, once. Well-wishers are also supporting people. The government advised people to go back to their villages because giving food stuffs is not the solution but farming can also help

Florence at her work place making a mask 2
Florence at her work place making a mask

The Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Group have been making masks, taught by their teacher Mama Cave, and selling them in town. It is from such entrepreneurship that people survive.

Cut pieces of mask 2
Cut pieces of mask

We hope to have more news of how the other ETC@GDPU business groups are doing as soon as it comes in.

As Faruk, the GDPU Guidance Counsellor and ETC @GDPU Project Officer said recently: “The government of Uganda is planning to ease the lock down starting on the 26th of this month, businesses will open, transport will be allowed with half of the capacity, school will open on the 4th of June with only finalist or candidates are expected to resume. But we are all fairing with no salaries, it’s not easy for now, hopefully if business comes back to normal then will be fine.”

Ability Sports Africa give food to Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Group 2
20 Gulu Wheelchair basketball players received food items( beans, maize flour, liquid soap, 2 bars of soap) from Music for Reform a Youth led project