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.

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

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.