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.
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
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.
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.”
ETC@GDPU was a support project for youth with disability who have already had some vocational training. So, the obvious next question is: what about the young people with similar needs in Gulu and surrounding area who have not been trained? The aim of the annual ETCof PWD trustees trip to Gulu and Gulu Disabled Persons Union was to pull together the last threads of that project and see what might come next.
ETCof PWD applied to DFID last year under their Small Charities Grant, although we do not have high hopes. But, as we all sat together in the GDPU board room looking at that bid, we began to put together a Plan B, a no-grant bare bones vocational training programme financed by ETCof PWD on what might raise in the UK.
GDPU ran vocational training for people with disability before, they are very keen to do so again. They have the expertise and the space. We finalised on five vocational training courses that are flexible enough to allow trainees to set up a wide range of possible sources of income:
MCR (motorcycle repair). But a mixed course including generator/ mowing machine/ small engine repair, and some training on gas welding.
Knitting (ie Sweater Weaving) handicrafts/ tailoring. The knitting machines are the problem here. If Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop can become a centre for mending them then the problem might be solved; after extra training a number of them can now repair machines if they have the parts. Sweater weaving is seasonal, GDPKW have shown that making clothes from strips of cloth for sale ready-made can work well. Ocira Brenda from the group has recently been trained in Mpigi on handicraft skills, another a possible income stream,
Design and Decoration. making posters and signboards in Gulu is a good business and often carried out by the deaf. A DaD course could include design for banners/ posters/ signposts, taught by different instructors. This DaD course could be a really exciting innovation for GDPU and PWDs (persons with disabilities), but see below re. computers.
Hairdressing and Salon. The DFID bid had some expensive requirements for this course, but GDPU have some equipment in stock that might bring down the price a little. And it always a good business as we have seen in Acet
Electronics. Phone repair of course, but also all small electronic machine repair. As Akera Robert has demonstrated there is a good market for this sort of business. The growing use of smartphones means that trainees will need to be able to mend broken screens and sockets (which are apparently the major repairs). But, this raises problems.
With a computer element the DaD course could move into desktop publishing, the electronics group into smart phone repair, other trainees into basic PC use and for the long held plan for a business hub/ association for past GDPU trainees/ now business people? But that begs some important questions:
Funding for a computer suite?
Where to be put?
What about power outages?
Post Training Support and computers
Post Training, what access would these young businesses have to a PC? Would training on a PC only set them up to fail at the first step. Would the business hub solve this problem?
Post Training Support
As ETC@GDPU proved, it is the Post Training support that is the key to sustainable success, including Life Skills/ Literacy and Numeracy/ Health and Sanitation/ Guidance Counselling/ Sport. These elements are probably more important than core skills training for subsequent personal development and business success. The work on extra literacy for ex-Youth Development Programme trainees in Acet for example has made a real difference.
Musema Faruk talked about running a physical literacy programme: ‘which game can you play best?’ as a way of extending the physical and therefore mental confidence of PWDs; to be included in the future programme.
As well as the usual elements of Dance/Music/ Drama and Debate. Given that many of the ETC@GDPU trainees are now looking to politics to improve their lot and that of their fellows, some teaching about governance etc would be useful. All of these inclusions have cost and timing implications for any course structure.
Exciting possibilities and some very big questions to answer, mostly solved with finance which begs the most important question of all: how will we pay for all this?
The ETC@GDPU project is drawing to a close. It was set up to give support to young people with disability who had already received some vocational training and had started their own business. As we all know, in any context, those first years of running your own business, earning your own living are hard, you need support, be it extra core skills training, maybe literacy or numeracy training or even just advice. That’s what this project gave, via project officers from Gulu Disabled Persons Union, where all the trainees gained their initial vocational training under the DFID sponsored Youth Development Programme some years ago.
The final evaluations and assessments are just getting going, but visiting the groups and individuals on the annual trustees visit to Gulu made certain things clear. Three headings: Consultation; Flexibility; Sustainability.
Consultation: different people in different situations have different needs to get their business going. Asking people what they need rather than telling them what they’re going to get, well that’s always a good idea isn’t it?
Flexibility: from the consultation you find out things like, motorbike repairers outside the town could have a range of options for other small machines to mend, adding significantly to income. We subsequently organised training in repairing generators/ strimmers/ etc. Talking to groups in Cwero and Koch Goma this year, we found that they were now building up a good business repairing small machines.
Sweater weaving work is seasonal, based around the start of the school year, learning other forms of making, ready made dresses for children for example brings income at other times.
The machines break easily, we have paid for Mama Cave, an instructor, to train up sweater weavers in basic machine repair so that their production does not stop at key times.
Hairdressers out of town need to know what the new styles will be, and how to make them. All small steps, but important ones.
Sustainability: once you establish that free cash and materials are out of the question, trainees know that their efforts must keep them afloat. In the jargon, they become ‘empowered’ and the ETC@GDPU project officers will support and train that ‘empowerment’. So many previous development programmes in Gulu have not lasted because people, based on past experience, become serial beneficiaries. Waiting for the next programme to give you money and more materials, which you can sell as you wait for the next, and so on. “Our people must not be beggars” we are told often by other PWDs.
What has been noticeable this year, is that many of the people in this programme have built on their own self confidence to become politically active, getting elected and involved in improving their own lot and that of their fellows; true empowerment.
We still haven’t got trainees to keep record books, or planning on paper. But look at the success of someone like Akera Robert. Last year he told us that he would move away from working on a veranda on the street, and yes, he has; so many congratulations to him. He has a shop, a house, his child is at one of the best schools – all through his own efforts – and he helps other trainees when they get stuck with technical issues; a star.
Or look at the team at Tam Anyim. the combination of motorbike and small machine repair and taking in students of their own means that Jokene (one of the two that runs the group) can now send his own child to school – a very important measure of success here. They also think they can put up a new building behind their existing workshop to expand the business; equally impressive and all plans kept in his head of course.
Through the ETC@GDPU project everyone has learnt a great deal about how to develop post training support that works and will last. Now that this project is ending, how can we use all this knowledge? See the next newsletter to find out. We welcome individual donations, please visit our donations page.
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
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.
Low self-esteem is certainly part of the mix.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Peer to peer training/ On the Job training and training others.
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?
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:
Motor cycle repair and maintenance/ agricultural and small machinery with suitable training in diversity for students from town and country
Knitting /tailoring and upcycling with a very strong focus on diversifying away from the sweater weaving machines and all their associated problems.
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.
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.
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 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
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.
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.
We are also very happy to see that Musema Faruk’s (the ETC@GDPU Project Officer) work coaching children in inclusive disability sports has been recognized. He has been shortlisted for Arsenal, WorldRemit Coaching Programme launched last month to offer local coaches from across Africa a place on a training camp with Arsenal’s Schools coaches in London; all the very best for that too Faruk!
In other news, Enhancing the Capacity of Persons with Disability (ETC of PWD), the umbrella group that includes the ETC@GDPU project, has now been fully registered as a charity in the UK. Which means of course, that once HMRC have finally approved our financial status as a charity we can start looking for funding; expect all sorts of demands soon. The Charities Commission have asked that we make each part of the programme clearly separate, so a new ETC of PWD website will be appearing in the near future.
GDPU should look to the past Youth Development Programme groups to find more young persons with disability in Gulu and district who would benefit from support in their businesses.
We are now properly into Phase 2 of the ETC@GDPU Programme, Musema Faruk, the ETC@GDPU project Officer has found four groups:
Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting workshop
Hope for Disabled Girls (hairdressing)
Lubanga Lakija (Motor cycle repair and maintenance)
Tam Anyim (Motor cycle repair and maintenance)
And two individual enterprises:
Ocholar Stephen (Electronics)
Oloya Kenneth (Electronics)
Faruk has now worked with each one to find out what they want to do to improve their businesses and what skills they would like to improve, found new trainers where appropriate and assessed the level of support each enterprise will need.
As Phase 2 begins, he has worked with them on their financial structures, Ojok Patrick (Project Leader and GDPU co-ordinator) has worked with them all on group structures and conflict resolution. Courses have been delivered on literacy, numeracy and sanitation. As before, this support will continue for the next eight months.
Business Plan Training
The usual conversations about facilitation (money for attending a session) with participants, we realise that members find difficulties with transport and time training is not time spent earning: “I spend my day here how will I survive in the evening?”
As Faruk says: “With facilitation, members are active, without they are dormant”. But we also know that if people are given money to attend then they do not take up the skills on offer, they feel that by merely attending they have earned their money. So, the current process is to give money for transport and lunch and then it all depends on the quality of the training to inspire the activity of the participants. As an experiment, each member is given 5 thousand shillings by Faruk for facilitation but of that, 1 thousand must go into the group account to get into the idea that each must contribute from their own funds.
The members coped with the business template. They brainstormed in their groups. It is better for them to do the plan as part of their training and so now they have a working business plan for their group.
They have already carried out record keeping workshops and been given a book, a calendar and a calculator and they had drawn up their record books themselves to their own specifications.
Carrying out Financial Literacy training one week later allowed Faruk to find out their knowledge and he now knows the gaps and what kind of training each group needs and so can put together a training plan for each group.
So far, Faruk feels that the group needing the most support will be Hope for Disabled Girls: “this youth enterprise consisted of 7 females, their plans for a kiosk in a strategic location were denied by Pece Division Authorities which left the enterprise members stranded. The enterprise still lacks many of qualities and skills needed to operate successfully in the community. ETC@GDPU will try to mentor them to a level that they can become sustainable and strong.”
The strongest enterprise is probably Aloya Kenneth who is an ambitious, hardworking and skilful young man with thriving business in a good location, support will mostly be for extra skills training and how to find sources of investment.
They are in Acet Trading Centre, a hard to reach area in Omoro District. This enterprise has two members who are actively knitting sweaters, although they still have gaps that need to be filled. In particular, joining the sweaters they have knitted and also making open sweaters as they are a design which is more marketable in their area.
The group has identified an instructor they trust and she has started training them in gaps they have. The ETC@GDPU project supported 50% of the training, ETC project supported 50% because of the cost sharing policy of the project, which is aimed at involvement of the teams to register a sustainable development for the enterprise.
Hairdressers group, also in Acet. They are doing well, they call every week for transporting chemicals as there is no shop there. They are very active and every week a car is sent with materials for them.
Charles from PWD electronics is still getting training from former PWD Electronics member Akira Robert, in fact whoever wants more knowledge can attend open training with him on Monday and Thursday. Akira Robert is eager to support his fellows and always keeps to time.
People have confidence with all of them, they don’t see their disability just people who can repair. Ocira Richard has not got his software yet, he is very active in his sport
They participated in a marathon that was organized by Omoro District local government in celebrating the world population day. The winner of the marathon was Ocira Denis who received a Blanket and a Tailoring Machine and the second runner up was Ojara Denis who also received a blanket. Although they still haven’t sorted out their book keeping yet.