Pushing on well: exciting possibilities next for ETC@GDPU?

Ocholar Stephen at his repair stall at Gulu Main Market

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.

The Boardroom at GDPU

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:

Shamwell and Jokene from Tam Anyim Motorbike Repair Group

MCR (motorcycle repair). But a mixed course including generator/ mowing machine/ small engine repair, and some training on gas welding.

Mending the sponge on a knitting machine

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,

Handmade signboards, paid by the letter

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.

Nyeko Rach Hairdressers, Acet

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

Members of Gulu PWD Electronics at their workplace in Gulu Main Market

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.

Computers?

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:

  1. Funding for a computer suite?
  2. Where to be put?
  3. What about power outages?
  4. Security?

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?

GDPU Phase Two youth groups during the Business plan training

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.

Learning to make clothing at Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop

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?

By the way, our donations page is always open.

Pushing on well: what has been learned

Cereleno Market, Gulu

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.

ETC@GDPU project Officers Musema Faruk and Ajok Emma with GDPU Co-ordinator Ojok Patrick

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.

Adult Literacy Training in Acholi

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?

Generator training in Koch Goma

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 Weavers, one knitting and one making clothes

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.

Ajok Emma ETC@GDPU Project Officer and Mama Cave Knitting Instructor

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.

Akera Robert in his new shop

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.

Jokene from Tam Anyim motorbike repair group going through final assessment forms with Ajok Emma

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.

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.

Back to Gulu part two: Annual Trustees Meeting

Camera 360
Gulu Disabled Persons Union Offices

Gulu Disabled Persons Union Meeting

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

Sample Cash Book from a Training Session
Sample Cash Book from a Training Session

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.

    Business Training 2
    Business Training
  • Low self-esteem is certainly part of the mix.

    Camera 360
    Store keeping
  • 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.

    Rwot Aye Twero discussing the future
    Members of Rwot Aye Twero Sweater weaving group discussing the future
  • 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.
Training Session at GDPU resized
Conflict Resolution Training Session at GDPU

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.
Ocholar Stephen and Okwonga Charles at their work station 2
Ocholar Stephen and Okwonga Charles at their work station outside Gulu Main Market

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.

MCRM in the country
MCRM in the country, members of Lubanga Lakica with Ongom Simon (Councillor and Chairman of GDPU Board)

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.

Jokene from Tam Anyim working on a Bajaj Boxer and Yahama 125 at the same time
Jokene from Tam Anyim working on a Bajaj Boxer and Yahama 125 at the same time

Peer to peer training/ On the Job training and training others.

It was noticeable, visiting groups in the field recently, that many of the members were training other youth. This raises a series of questions:

  • 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?
Joining a sweater using a machine, after training.
Joining a sweater using a machine, after training. Notice the two broken sweater weaving machines in the background.

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:

  1. Motor cycle repair and maintenance/ agricultural and small machinery with suitable training in diversity for students from town and country
  2. Knitting /tailoring and upcycling with a very strong focus on diversifying away from the sweater weaving machines and all their associated problems.
Sweater Weaving Machine Head Acet
Sweater Weaving Machine Head, Acet

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.

Project Officer Musema Faruk with Ocholar Stephen Ocholar Stephen
Project Officer Musema Faruk with Ocholar Stephen

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.

Camera 360
GDPU Co-Ordinator, Ojok Patrick with Akera Robert

Next Steps

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 proposal

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

MCRM in Paicho
Motorbike repair in Paicho

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.

Safeguarding

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.

GDPU Offices 2

Back to Gulu: how has the project been pushing on?

Downtown Gulu 3
Downtown Gulu

Well, we’ve been back to Gulu again, taking two of the new trustees from ETC of PWD this time. We were bringing together the strands of the project so far and thinking about where this accumulated knowledge should take everyone involved.

There were:

  1. Visits to the field with Musema Faruk the project officer from Gulu Disabled Persons Union to see business groups from both phases of the project.
  2. Meetings with local councillors from the new district of Omorro to discuss their approach to disability and whether our project might fit into it.
  3. And a very productive meeting with GDPU members themselves, to discuss the project so far and where it might lead in the future.

Many thanks to Faruk for organising the visits, for his hard work with the groups and for supporting the evident improvements that we saw.

Chairman GDPU with Lubanga Lakica
Back to the field: Ongom Simon, the Chairman of the GDPU board with members of Lubanga Lakica Motorcycle repair group in Koch Li

Two key issues arose from our field trips:

  1. What makes a successful group and how best to support business groups to achieve that success, and what does success look like anyway
  2. What are the best vocational skills for students to learn and how specialised should they be?

And at our subsequent meeting at GDPU we all spent a long time thinking about their plans to make a training hub for future students with disability, what should be taught?

Members of lubanga lakica Enterprise Developing their Business plan
Members of Lubanga Lakica Enterprise developing their Business Plan

But each of these three questions could be reduced down to one word: sustainability. How can the hard work of the members of the business enterprises and of the members of GDPU be kept going? How can they make sure that what they are doing will earn enough to keep them and their families alive and better than alive; thriving.

Our last post mentioned success by two groups. This time perhaps, by concentrating on the work of two others we can tease out some of the implications for sustainability in their success.

Akera Roberts in Gulu and Lubanga Lakica in Koch Li

Akera Roberts Businesss Enterprise
Akera Roberts, individual Businesss Enterprise on the pilot programme, Gulu.

Akera Robert  

Is based in the centre of Gulu town and doing extremely well, has plans and enough money saved to move from his table on a veranda into new premises within 3 months. Has just sent his son to one of the top primary schools in Gulu, paid for by his own work. A real difference in aspirations this year compared to last, Akera Robert has become far more confident and has a vision of his own future far larger than we saw last year. Important to note that he focuses on electrical and solar appliances not mobile phones. He puts his success down to

Akera Robert mending a solar light 4
Akera Robert mending a solar light
  • Diversity of equipment repaired, unlike for example the Gulu PWDs enterprise who solely mend feature phones and therefore have a diminishing market, Akera’s range will only grow.
  • He has a very good reputation, particularly among people from the villages who bring their items on the bus for him to repair when they come into town
  • He is always there from 8 in the morning till dark, even when he has no work he will be at his desk, so customers know they can always find him
Lubanga Lakija 3
Members of Lubanga Lakica with the GDPU Chairman of the Board (also a councillor for the area)

Lubanga Lakica:

Based in Koch Li, a very small place on a mud road road between Koch Goma and Bobi. Koch Li is about 5 miles from the main road that passes through Koch Goma, a small town about 20 miles outside Gulu. There is not much at Koch Li, but isolation can bring benefits as well as challenges;

Benefits: in particular a lack of competition. Koch Goma is full of people mending motorcycles, but as the members of Lubanga Lakica have realised there is great market for them if they can learn how to work on the many different possible machines to repair in their area: slashing machines/ generators/ small agricultural machines etc. They have some of the skills needed, but need more. Some of the members already know how to carry out small welding repairs although they lack the machinery to do so.

Lubanga Lakija
Lubanga Lakija spares store

Challenges: security is a real problem in isolated areas, tools and anything portable or of any value will be stolen. Which means keeping spares for example, is a difficult. These mechanics have a tie up with a spares dealer in Koch Goma, but to run a proper service they need a secure container, which costs money. As is often the way, the group are reluctant to invest their own money in paying for a container, although they have negotiated a good price for one made by Mr Labongo from the disabled welders group in Gulu. As Faruk says, “They fear risk”.

Lubanga Likija tools
Lubanga Lakica tools and storage

The implications from discussions with these two businesses were twofold

  1. Trainees need different skills set to succeed in town and in out in the village, in essence urban trainees will need specific skills in greater depth and country trainees will need a very wide range of basic skills. Our Post-Training Support programmes have certainly been location specific and responded to the wishes of the beneficiaries. But, in future training institutions will have to establish where the future trainees intend to work before planning their skills training programme. It seems obvious doesn’t it, but I have never found a training programme that does this
  2. To build on their success members will need to understand the role of investment and have access to it; either their own money or from grants.
MCRM
Motorcycle Repair and Maintenance by the side of the road

These field trips and Faruk’s great depth of understanding and knowledge of the enterprises he supports, built up over the last few years, gave us all much to think about and take forward to our meeting at Gulu Disabled Persons Union. Where should the ETC project go next? See the next post to find out!