The Revolving Loan Scheme

The aim of vocational training is, of course, to get the trainee from training to lasting work; to a sustainable life. As the VPlus programme for youth with disabilities in Gulu, Northern Uganda has shown, core skills training is only a small part of that process. What happens for example, after training at the centre is equally important.

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Electronics Repair trainees in a lesson at GDPU

Post Training

‘Post Training Support’ as it is called has always suffered from one major problem: capital. Graduates are keen to get their business working, to do what they have trained to do. But they haven’t earned money when training and rarely have capital of their own; start-up costs what they haven’t got. How to solve the first problem that derails so many before they have even begun?

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Opiyo Benson in font of his new workplace in Koch Goma

Free Money?

In the past, donors gave out boxes of tools or cash to get things going. Perhaps surprisingly, free stuff didn’t help, far from it. These gifts distorted training before it even began. The first question would-be trainees asked was: what tools are you going to give me? how much money will I get? The gift became the goal, not the training or the aim of a sustainable life. That expectation ruined so many vocational training enterprises; no one values free money. And, anyway, most free tools were sold or stolen with days. Some cash also went to thieves or debts or parties, the vulnerable were preyed on by the powerful; very little went to the new business.

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Bob Gumakiriza now working at Niange Ber Motorcycle Repair in Koch Goma

The Revolving Loan Scheme

The solution Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU), who run the VPlus programme, has come up with is innovative: the Revolving Loan Scheme. It depends, as schemes in this context should if they are to last, on strong connections with family and the community. Learning from the first VPlus cohort, GDPU deliberately built good bonds with families in the second cohort.

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Apiyo Miriam’s Sweater Weaving Group

How the Scheme Works

In essence, and all participants are told this right from the beginning, they will have to contribute themselves. The trainee or more likely, parents, the community or both will part fund their graduates’ start-up costs. The rest of the start-up money comes from a ring fenced fund set up by GDPU and financed by ETC of PWD.

Akello Fiona hairdresser working on a customers hair

The Importance of the Plan

For example, a group of graduates want to buy a knitting machine for a sweater weaving business. Those graduates will have costed their needs while drawing up a business plan during training. That plan will be the basis of their loan application. The amount to be borrowed, payback terms, the parental/ community contribution and involvement will have been discussed with all concerned, at some length and formally agreed. After the loan terms are agreed and the matching fund is in, GDPU will buy the right machine at a good discount from their suppliers in Kampala (guaranteeing quality and supply etc).

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Sweater Weaving Group in Anaka

Tweaking the Scheme

At each subsequent Post Training Support visit, staff from GDPU will also look at the graduates record books (training in bookkeeping etc is of course part of the training). But, the actual financial process is now handled by the VPlus/ GDPU accountant, rather than PTS staff. It was found that graduates feared staff would demand money rather than give support, so graduates refused to be contacted. Separating out support from loans has now removed that problem. GDPU has also reformed repayment schedules, making them flexible according to income and circumstance as recorded by each graduate in their all important record books.

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The VPlus Programme Manager, Musema Faruk, discussing a Revolving Loan application

Revolving?

What is also new, is that participants know from the start that the repaid loan is not returned to ETC or GDPU. This money goes into a separate account, used for the next graduate loan. It becomes a growing capital fund for the disability community. Parents and graduates are reminded that repaid loans help their community and the next person down the line; this seems to help repayment. Second cohort parents are far more keen to support and keep their children working, after all their income goes toward paying the loan. GDPU has even started training family members in core skills, so they can keep enterprises going when graduates health and disability makes work difficult.

VPlus Guidance Counsellor, Okello Emma, on a Post Training Support visit to graduates in Odek

Is it Working?

Early reports look good, the money is being returned. Already graduates from the earlier etc@gdpu programme are setting up their own access to the scheme, others we hope will follow if the scheme can be kept running.

A revolving loan indeed.

Want to Know More?

If you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page.

If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page.

If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. 

Many Thanks.

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This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people

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Wan Weng Dano: We Are All Human Beings

This video was made by Musema Faruk, the Head Teacher at Gulu Disabled Persons Union and the VPlus Programme Manager. It features trainees from Cohort 2 of the programme and is introduced by the Head Boy, Watmond Emmanuel. The song was written by Odong Sunday, a Sweater Weaver from Odek Sub County. Many of the scenes are from the wonderful Graduation Day, described in a previous post.

Wan Weng Dano: a song by VPlus Cohort 2 trainees at GDPU

This is Faruk’s explanation of the song:

Title: Wan weng dano (English: we are all human beings) 

“This a motivational song encouraging the disability community, especially the youth, not to pity themselves. It encourages their parents, and those who still have negative attitude towards the ability of persons with disability, to change the way they look at them and to support their children in getting education.

The song also talks about the impact of education on youth with disabilities, especially the skills training they are undergoing through the Vplus programme. They stress through the song that a skill will help them become self-employed or even employed. They encourage other youth with disabilities at home not to look at their disability as a disadvantage, but as an opportunity for diversity and development.” 

Running to get the Skills Training graduation certificate

Want to Know More?

If you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page. If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page. If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. 

Many Thanks.

This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people’

VPlus Cohort 2 Graduation

Running to get the graduation certificate

This graduation was the second joyous celebration of the achievements of youth with disability in Gulu and surrounding districts of Northern Uganda.

Waiting for the rain at GDPU

The rains had begun earlier in the week, but luckily, they held off for most of the occasion. Allowing the speeches, traditional dance and display of goods and skills to take place. Gulu Disabled Persons Union, our delivery partner, organised the day very well and many important local people were there.

Motorcycle repair graduate explaining his new skills. Note the Gulu City District Education Officer behind and the Sign Language Interpreter in front

Ability in Disability

The attendance by dignitaries, and the subsequent affirmation of people with disabilities, matters a great deal in this context. The theme for the day was ‘ability in disability’ and it was interesting to note how many of the speeches described the speakers own involvement with disability, through perhaps a child, a sibling or training. It was a day that highlighted the inclusivity that will be crucial for the future lives of those graduating.

Vplus trainees march out to present themselves to visitors, honoured guests, friends and families. The Deputy Mayor is clapping along

GDPU Success

It was also the first time in over two and a half years that the ETC of PWD trustees could get to Gulu, it was wonderful to be back, and in time for such an important occasion. It was also important to have the chance to publicly applaud the success of GDPU, in particular the work of Ojok Patrick GDPU Centre Co Ordinator and Musema Faruk, VPlus programme manager (and now Head Teacher at GDPU). Their efforts have been boosted been by Ajok Emma, Guidance Counsellor and Mary Paul Lakot, Accounts Manager. It is their integrity, dedication and endless hours of work throughout Pandemics, Lockdowns and every other sort of challenge that has delivered the change to the disabled community in Gulu. Not forgetting of course the crucial role of the highly committed team of instructors and support staff.

Running to get the graduation certificate, with family and instructors

Parental Involvement

The first cohort of the VPlus programme was older than the second and parental/ community involvement had not been so strong. This gap was identified in Reflection Meetings and for the second cohort Faruk and the team tried hard to get greater involvement. Parental attendance at their graduation was much higher this time and support for trainees more noticeable. It is a pre-condition of the course that trainees come with at least some tools for their training, supplied by parents. To qualify for the VPlus Revolving Loan Scheme, that helps start up new businesses post training, parents also have to contribute. Faruk reports that parents have been far more willing to give something and much more involved in the training programme this time around; a big step forward.

Tradiitional Dance: the Acero

Joy

The usual bandwidth problems prevented us livestreaming the graduation, but I hope these images and video give some flavour of the joy with which parents, family and friends greeted the public recognition of the graduates (or graduands as they are called here).

Buying from the Design and Decoration graduates

Setting out their stall

The stalls with goods made by trainees were busy, selling clothes from the new tailoring course, jumpers, scarves from the sweater weavers, bags, jewelry and more from the new Design and Decoration course. The motorcycle repair graduates talked everyone through their new skills and the electronics graduates offered to mend everyone’s phones; there were many takers for that.

Tradiitional Dance: the Acero

Continued Support

The genuine interest and buying of goods was a great start to their new careers, but we know that continued support is vital to any long term success and sustainability. The next phase of the VPlus programme for Cohort 2 is six months post training support for all these new businesses. But, as the training part of this programme draws to an end, and as our field trips to Cohort 1 graduates showed, there are many questions to ask and answer about the future for ETC and GDPU. For those questions and some possible answers please see the next blog.

Want to Know More?

If you would like to know more about the ETC of PWD charity please go to our Home page. If you would like to give something, please go to our Donate page. If you would like to know more about Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) please go to their website or Facebook page. 

Many Thanks.

This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people’

Big Steps Forward for VPlus

Further big steps forward on the VPlus vocational training programme for youth with disabilities in Gulu, Northern Uganda.

Mid Term Exams on the VPlus Programme: Hairdressing

Covid 19

To date it seems that Covid 19, although present in the community, is not having the devastating effect that it might in a country with such poor health facilities and little public infrastructure. There are currently 2 cases registered in Gulu. those cases have come from Amoro, bordering Sudan. In the country as a whole, there are 2,384 cases registered with 346 deaths in total, out of a population of about 45 million people. The Indian variant has reached Uganda, an Indian school in Kampala has 37 positive cases, but the situation is currently stable. Of course, these figures probably do not reflect the actual situation, but it is nothing like India or the West. The Lockdown is easing, people are relaxing, although masks still worn in banks, hospitals and supposed to be worn in markets.  

VPlus

Mid Term Exams on the VPlus Programme: Tailoring and Sweater Weaving

It seems hard to believe, but trainees have taken their mid-term exams and started their three-week internship placements. They have come such a long way since training began in January. The exam results are looking good, skills levels have improved significantly. For their internships, many of the VPlus trainees have been placed with former trainees from the ETC@GDPU programme that ran from 2017 to 2020. VPlus incorporates much that was learnt from that earlier project.

Life Skills

Conflict Management classes

In this context, to make your life sustainable, you need so much more than basic vocational skills. Life Skills; Psycho-Social Support; Literacy and Numeracy; Health Advice; Conflict Resolution; all part of the ‘plus’ of VPlus.

In the last blog I wrote about traditional dancing and how learning the dances and taking part for the first time helps people with disabilities join their local culture. Trainees from the VPlus programme have also been taking part in a weekly radio programme in Gulu, discussing their training and taking questions; advocacy really, becoming part of the community. All this and more, they all matter in the route to sustainability.

Youth to Youth Engagement

For example, before trainees went out to their internships, they spent a day with former trainees in what is called: Youth to Youth Engagement. What these established businesses had to say was extremely useful; real life experiences.

Youth to Youth Engagement: past trainees explain how to run a business.

James

James is a motorcycle mechanic with hearing impairment. He started at a workshop as an internship student, was promoted as a volunteer and now works full time. It has not been easy and this was an important point that all the attendees made, you will have to work hard, be respectful to people even if they are not being respectful to you.

James’ major problem was communication, most people didn’t understand him and communicating to customers was a big problem. As people got to know and like him, they also learned how to talk with him in the local sign language.

Mid Term Exams: working on a motorbike

He is now doing well and wants to take in internees to train them up. This is a noticeable feature of the Disability community in Gulu, the wish to work together, to help each other if at all possible.

Youth to Youth Engagement: past trainees explain how to run a business.

Lillian

Lillian is the hairdresser from Acet who runs Nyeko Rach, a hairdressing group that dates back to the early days of the Youth Development Programme. She said that her business is really supporting her family, she can now afford reasonable clothing, feed the family, pay to put children through school and get to the hospital.

Members of Nyeko Rach at their salon in Acet

Like many, Lillian stressed the importance of customer relations, for example when someone comes with less money but wants you to work on her, you should know how to handle such things. In a salon, the girls should not gossip about customers because when they get to know, the customers will never come back.

You need to plan for the cycle of the year. Hair dressing work, like Sweater Weaving, is seasonal; what will you do when work is not there? And, you need to think about supply, if you live away from Gulu, how will you get products so that you can keep open? And, how will you keep those products secure so that no one can steal them?

It was interesting to see how technology is starting to affect traditional practices like hairdressing. Lillian advised the trainees to go to You Tube and learn hair styles that are trending, they will learn new things from the internet she said.

Mid Term Exams: Electronics

Bernard

Bernard works in electronic repair and maintenance in Amuru district. He explained that the community around Amuru now know him for his good work. But in the beginning people used to discriminate against him, saying: “Where did this disabled man get his skills and the knowledge from?” He was even discriminated against at home.  His parents did not send him to school, although they sent brothers and sisters.

But now, with his phone repair he is the one who supports the family. Like Lillian, Bernard stressed the importance of keeping up to date. He comes into Gulu to learn how to fix new things, smartphones for instance.

Record Keeping

Youth to Youth Engagement: the importance of record keeping

All of the attendees instructed the trainees to do record keeping, do daily savings, or open a bank account. Bernard also encouraged new businesses to apply for loans, as he did, to support his business; it helps a lot. GDPU will be working with trainees to open accounts and take out suitable loans

Family Involvement

As Bernard and James’s stories show, to be a successful young business person with disabilities, you need your community behind you. Sadly, family support is often not strong. One of the GDPU innovations is finding ways to get the family involved in the training. To this end, and to solve problems with Post Training Support, they have asked trainees to supply their own tools. Usually, the family has to cover that cost, which means the family becomes part of the process; they ‘own’ it in the jargon and want a return on their investment. In our recent monthly Zoom meeting with GDPU, Project Manager Musema Faruk, reported that he is seeing real involvement from parents this time. The parents want to know how their child is doing and what they can do to help, a great step forward. Many more to come we hope.

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School Open Day, a group photo of some of the participants, friends and families
This project is match funded with UK aid from the British people’