How are things pushing on at GDPU (Gulu Persons Disabled Union) and for the young businesses being supported there?
Sport and or Work?
Exciting times for the Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Club, they soundly beat the Kampala team at the National Paralympic games in Mpigi in September and, after training in Kampala will go on to the East African games in Nairobi at the end of October. The Gulu team go from strength to strength. However, for those team members who are part of the Gulu PWD electronics group it means their businesses as repairers of phones are on hold again.
After all, in the choice between sport and work, sport is always going to win isn’t it? Especially if you are young and nationally and, we hope, internationally successful.
In other great news, Faruk the ETC@GDPU Project officer and GDPU guidance Counsellor was accepted onto a training course with the Kanthari Institute (“Scholarships for social change makers”) in Trivandrum, India earlier this year. A wonderful opportunity for him to work on his proposals for disabled sports and schoolchildren; very exciting.
In his absence we have a new project officer Emma Okello. She has been working very hard, supporting the business groups and organising new training in financial skills, literacy and numeracy and generator and small machines repair for the motorbike groups.
Okumu Morris has continued Financial Training all the groups, record keeping; savings; micro finance; access to credit and so on. He has faced the normal challenges (the babies in the room are not that keen on finance apparently), but the biggest challenge is the trainee’s basic literacy levels. There is a strong link between low literacy and retention levels; improving literacy improves students’ ability to remember what they have leant and to apply that learning away from the classroom.
Many of the groups have already had basic literacy training in English and Luo the local language, more is clearly needed. Nyeko Rach, the hairdressers group in Acet, have asked for extra literacy lessons for exactly this reason.
One of the hairdressers is profoundly deaf, and getting a signing interpreter out to Acet at the same time as the literacy teacher (neither skills exist in Acet itself) has been complicated. We think we’ve solved that now, although transport out to Acet on a murrum road during the rains is tricky
Peer to peer lending and developing businesses.
Developing a business is a slow process. Once you get that first big order, as Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop did, with an order to knit hundreds of sweaters for nearby Layibi College, it is still not easy. How do you buy in the materials you need to fulfil your first big order when you have no money, no bank account, no credit history and no access to credit? Emma Okello, the new ETC of PWD project officer was able to organise a short-term loan from the Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Club to the knitters. Peer to peer lending, as it is known, could be a good way to go in the future.
GDPU was also able to help with initial negotiations between the knitters and the college, to bank payment cheques as they came in and transfer money out to buy material. Emma will now support the group as they open their first bank account, making sure that some of the money will be retained for the repair of the all–too delicate knitting machines. We have also arranged that the group will be trained in basic machine repair, so that they can be kept in working order.
What next? There are other challenges that come with success. Whilst you work flat out to bring in your first major order, you forget about future work. Emma is helping Gulu Disabled Persons Knitting Workshop think about where the next orders should come from and where diversifying might take them.
Our discussions with repair groups during this February’s trustees visit, emphasised that the different context of town and village means different machines to fix, and therefore different training regimes for trainees. Some, like Akera Robert the electronics repair man, have used this difference to their advantage. He works on small scale electronics from a veranda in Gulu town, often with his original teacher. Robert can rely on a steady supply of portable repairs coming in on the buses from out of town for him to mend; a clever solution.
But others need support, so Emma has arranged for instructors to go out from Gulu to Paicho and Koch Li to train the motorbike groups in generator, small machine and different motorbike repairs. She reports that new work is now coming in
ETC of PWD, ETC@GDPU and GDPU
Enhancing the Capacity of Persons with Disability is the UK based charity that supports the Enhancing the Capacity at Gulu Persons Disabled Union project. It pays for the support and training of the business groups of disabled young people in Gulu and the surrounding district. It has long been the plan to expand the vocational training offer at GDPU, to return to the full programme that existed under the old Youth Development Programme overseen by Voluntary Service Overseas and sponsored by the Department for International Development. Now that ETC of PWD has trustees who know their way around bid writing we are working closely with GDPU in trying to put together suitable bids for funding a new vocational training programme for disabled youth in Gulu; exciting times indeed.