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Leaving Kampala 2

Leaving Kampala

They say you should never go back, well we waited over two years before returning to Gulu and made sure that we had something to do when we got there. By the way, there is a fuller description of the Enhancing The Capacity at Gulu Disabled Persons Union project on the ETC website.  We went back to help evaluate the pilot project that started up the ETC programme in May 2017 and finished towards the end of last year.

The Donor Board at GDPU

The Donor Board at GDPU

We left the UK in wind and sleet with temperatures firmy into the minus, Kampala was relatively cool but the heat increased as we drove north. Gulu was 37 degrees and as hot and dusty as we remembered, although new tarmac everywhere made it slightly easier. New roads hadn’t stretched to our destination in Pece, meeting Ojok Patrick the Project Leader and Musema Faruk the Project Officer again in the GDPU offices, at the far end of the Acholi road, opposite the Police School.

GDPU Offices looking towards the road

GDPU Offices looking towards the road

It was assembly time in the school across the road and we heard children singing the Ugandan National Anthem again. When we first moved to Gulu to start our volunteer programme with VSO back in 2013, we lived opposite a different school and listened to ‘O Uganda’ every morning. Sounds and smells are great memory prompts, the dust smelt the same too.

Second Hand Clothes The Main Market Gulu Entrance

Entrance to the old Kaunda Ground Market, Gulu

In theory when you go back everything should look smaller and bathed in a nostalgic glow, but hearing that song it was as though we had never been away and everything seemed just as it had been. Changes of course, the old Kaunda Ground market (where I spent many hot hours unsuccessfully haggling with vegetable sellers) has gone, replaced by the Gulu Main market in town. We made a ‘field visit’ to this new market, to see one of our pilot business groups.

Visiting Gulu PWDs Electronics, Gulu Main Market

Visiting Gulu PWDs Electronics, Gulu Main Market

Gulu PWDs Electronics are, well, lads would be the best way to describe them, all physically disabled and concentrating on earning a living through phone and electronic repair. Actually, they are mostly obsessed with sports, wheelchair basketball and the wheelchair marathon in particular, their team are the national basketball champions and one member, Ocira Richards came second in the national marathon; real stars. You can see why the hearts of these young men might not be quite in phone repair.

ETC at GDPU project Officer with Gulu PWDs Electronics in Gulu Main Market

ETC at GDPU project Officer with Gulu PWDs Electronics in Gulu Main Market

But, we noticed during our years in Gulu on the Youth Development Programme, personal confidence and self esteem count as much as skills training in this sort of vocational education. Our Pilot Programme Evaluation report showed a real income increase for these young men, a significant development for them, although much to do of course. For example, when we met at their place of work in the bowels of the market it was noticeable that they had put little thought into presenting their business, old discarded phone parts littered the floor and were piled under tables; like looking under a teenage boy’s bed.

Meeting Akera Robert in Gulu 1

Meeting Akera Robert in Gulu

It was great to meet them again and those working on the three other pilot groups; one in Gulu town and the hairdressers and sweater weavers in Acet.

Meeting Sweater Weavers in Acet 4

Ojok Patrick, Project Leader, assessing sweaters in Acet

All reported improvements, all showed that the trajectory of their businesses was up. It was heartening to realise in our discussions at GDPU that the fundamental approach of the ETC project; that the people on the ground knew far more than anyone else, that the people being trained knew what skills they needed and should be able to determine what sort of support they wanted, that the project should not be determined by giving material goods but by skills training an support, that all this worked.

Meeting With Nyeko Rach Hairdressers Acet 5

Nyeko Rach Hairdressers group in Acet

Business Planning

We also had long discussions with Faruk and Patrick about business planning, participants had been trained in it under the old YDP programme and again with us, this time all in local language and using symbols and a much simplified system. It still hasn’t caught on well.

Book keeping

Book keeping, Acet

As Faruk explained, if you live in a subsistence economy you use the small amounts of surplus, let’s say half a dozen sweet potatoes, to sell by the side of the road or at the local market for a few hundred shillings to pay for an immediate basic need, some salt maybe. No planning and no investment is involved; no surplus, no cash and no purchase. Some small surplus equals some small buying; it’s an instant process. That concept, of using a business to slowly build up capital that you invest in new stock or better software, has no purchase with those brought up in subsistence; it’s an unknown in a world where unknowns lead to trouble. Any obvious surplus can open you up to suspicion, extra goods might well be stolen from you for example. I have recently read ‘Kintu’ by the Ugandan writer Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi, which begins with the conspicuous purchase of a ghetto blaster by a young man in a Kampala slum, that new object marks him out, he is subsequently accused of being a thief and beaten to death by a crowd.

Meeting 1

Sweater Weaving in Acet

An extra layer of difficulty is the unhealthy combination of the ‘big man’ system and with what Patrick and Faruk call ‘dependency culture’. I need to be very careful that I don’t come across as a foaming at the mouth right wing western commentator here; obviously I am not. But it is true that built into the mind sets of those brought up in the Internally Displaced Peoples camps in Acholi land during the LRA troubles and the subsequent influx of NGOs, is the belief that the ‘Whites’ will always turn up and give you something. If you couple this experience with the cultural expectation that it is the role of a powerful and wealthy family member, benefactor or politician to provide for those under his protection, then it is not surprising that many in great need will expect to wait until help comes to them.

Fabrics Acet

Fabrics, Acet

How to work with these difficulties?

The sweater weavers we met in Acet need cash to get someone to ‘join’ the sweaters they weave, the lads in Gulu main market need to invest in better software and hard ware to repair the new smart phones appearing everywhere, Akera Robert in Gulu town needs a new wheelchair to get to work. Only by understanding how much profit they earn, by organising savings and dedicating those savings to buying the equipment, will our students develop sustainable business to keep them and their families safe and alive. Only by listening to the members themselves and by letting people on the ground design the programmes will the ETC project get close developing that sustainability.

Going to see Nyeko Rach Hairdressers in Acet

Going to see Nyeko Rach Hairdressers in Acet

Although record keeping might develop further with support, if members see a better reason for it, business planning is not embedded in the approach of any them. After long discussion at GDPU we all came up with the idea of using the business constitution. Each business has a founding document, a constitution, which lays out the roles, responsibilities and time frames for each member. Apparently it is the only document regularly consulted by members; this then can be the place to site business planning, the fundamental economic processes that, we hope, will help these young entrepreneurs succeed; an exciting thought.

Elephants in Kidepo

Elephants in Kidepo

While in the North we grabbed enough time to travel up to Kidepo Valley National Park, a place we’ve been to many times before, it’s near the end of the dry season so the elephants were much in evidence; glorious to see again. Finally, a big swoop round the South West of Uganda down to Lake Bunyoni for the first time, and an eco camp on an island in the middle of the lake; just beautiful.

Lake Bunyoni

Lake Bunyoni

Were we right to go back? Of course. Will we go back again? We are in the process of applying for charitable status for our small project (expect request for donations soon!) so yes we hope to go back in a year or so to evaluate a much larger project, exciting times indeed.

It was snowing even harder when got back to the UK

Snow in the UK

Snow in the UK



























They say you should never go back, well we waited over two years before returning to Gulu and made sure that we had something to do when we got there. By the way, there is a fuller description of the Enhancing The Capacity at Gulu Disabled Persons Union project on the ETC website.  We went back to help evaluate the pilot project that started up the ETC programme in May 2017 and finished towards the end of last year.

The wheelchair road race in Kampala

Breaking News

As I was writing this report, Faruk (the ETC@GDPU project officer) emailed us to say that Gulu PWD Athletes have been in the national news again, this time for a major wheelchair marathon.

On 12th November, two members of the ETC@GDPU pilot group: Gulu PWD Electronics, competed in the MTN and UAF Wheelchair and Tricycle 10km road race in Kampala. It was a nail biting finish, after leading the pack Ocira Richards was only beaten into second place because he came off at the last bend in very slippery conditions, Okwonga Charles also finished well, coming fifth. You can read more about the race here; our heartiest congratulations to them both; first and second places next year we hope!

The start of the 10k wheelchair road race, Kampala

Next Steps for October: Training News, ‘fixing the gaps’ and future planning

Highlights of the month

  • Analysis of the Reflection Meeting in September leads to extra business training for pilot groups.
  • Further evidence that the pilot programme has worked and members income has increased
  • Monthly follow up activities and decisions to make about the future

The ETC@GDPU Project Officer Fact Finding in Acet

Training in Business Management and Book Keeping/Record Keeping

The recent training programme at the ETC@ GDPU project shows the importance of ‘reflection’ meetings with the people you are training. After those meetings in September the ETC@GDPU Project Officer realised that one of the most important areas identified as gaps needed attention.

Where was that gap?

It was in Basic Book Keeping and Business Management

Why does that matter?

Unsuccessful training in business management and record keeping was one of the areas that caused poor sustainability amongst the earlier YDP youth enterprises.


Because they failed to analyse their profit margin, members didn’t know how much they were spending on materials and because they didn’t keep other records for their businesses, they didn’t know how much money, if any, they were making. Therefore, members didn’t know which areas of their business were successful or unsuccessful. The young enterprises cannot plan, develop or even understand their own business without such basic information.

Reflection Meeting in Gulu

Aim of the extra support training

to help strengthen and develop the business enterprise by the end of November.

What did ETC@GDPU do?

GDPU Identified KENVIC CONSULTANCY Firm and the expertise of the GDPU accountant to train these youth in areas of Business Management and Book Keeping/Record Keeping.

Business Management Training

The training was conducted successfully in Omoro Acet Centre and Gulu Municipality targeting 4 members of NYEKO RAC HAIRDRESSING AND COSMETOLOGY, 2 members of RWOT AYE TWERO YOUTH ENTERPRISE and 6 Members of GULU PWDS ELECTRONICS REPAIR & MAINTENANCE. Trainings were conducted on Friday 20th 10 2017 at Acet Centre and Tuesday 24th 10 2017 in the Gulu office.

Business Management Training


This extra training was beneficial to the four business enterprises, under the ETC pilot project they have now learnt how to manage finance and take records for their daily expenses and sales. The four groups were provided with a simplified book of accounts and were trained on how use them. Members were encouraged to design and enter their income and expenses and calculate their profit at the end of the month. They can now make a record book indicating income column and expense in local language that might actually be used, unlike the complex written English based systems they had ignored before.

Business Management Training

Village Saving and Loans Associations

Saving pass books were given to Gulu PWDS electronic and Nyeko Rac enterprise to help them improve on their VSLA.

Hairdressers in Acet

Monthly follow-up activities at Acet centre, Omoro District: Nyeko Rac and Rwot aye Twero youth enterprise

The ETC@GDPU project officer followed two youth enterprises based in Odek sub county Omoro District, checking on their progress in skills training and progress in work.

Business skills

Business plan for two groups were completed successfully, each member has clearly understood the purpose of having a business plan, how to follow plans and strategies and to make their enterprise out-compete their competitors.

Increased income?

According to the assessment of the youth enterprise there is an increase in income generation compared to assessments made before the start of the project. Members of Nyeko Rac Hairdressing enterprise have recorded increase in their income:

Before the project started daily income was (0-5000 shillings) and now most members agree that the list range per day is 5000-10,000 shillings and during market days (every Wednesday) they make 10-30,000 shillings. This income increase is because of improved skills in plaiting, record keeping, customer care and business management; fixing the gaps appears to be working for them.

Issues for Rwot Aye Twero

Rwot Aye Twero enterprise have had training problems. Initially GDPU contracted a knitting and tailoring instructor to train the youth twice week, but continued absenteeism by that instructor (who stays 4km from the Centre) meant that the youth did not get sufficient training to improve the quality of their products and therefore get more customers. They have received some trained in knitting V-shape sweaters, but were not trained in joining sweaters using a sewing machine, because they don’t have any machine for training.

GDPU Sweater Weavers

Follow up at Gulu Municipality: Gulu PWDs Electronics

Skills trainings was conducted every Tuesday and Thursday from 8:00 am to 12:00pm for electronic group. They were trained in Radio, TV and Phone repair and have greatly improved their level of income and confidence.

ETC@GDPU pilot provided a digital meter to Gulu PWD electronic to improve on their work, in order to capture more profit.

Gulu PWDs, Electronics and Repair: repairing a phone.

Development at GDPU itself

The GDPU coordinator and ETC@GDPU project officer have worked at improving publicity at the organization. They have redesigned the organization sign post showing all partners’ organization at the union, improved on flow of the main reception and the business office. Office signs were put in each office door and currently they are working towards developing the GDPU Business plan.

a YDP Gala at GDPU

Way Forward

Training for PWDs electronic in repair of electronic appliances is ongoing up to 19th November 2017.

GDPU will continue to follow up the youth enterprises, supporting them in areas in which they face challenges, guidance/ counselling programs and life skills until the project is evaluated by the funders and new plans are agreed.

GDPU will engage on Skype with the funders to look for the way forward for the greater project.

2017 National Disability Sports Gala in Gulu

Spectators at the 2017 National Disability Sports Gala in Gulu


  • Gulu PWDs Electronic and other members of Gulu Wheelchair Basketball Team took part in a National Sport Gala for Persons with Disabilities organized by Uganda Paralympic Committee and won! See this earlier post.
  • Members taking part in ETC@GDPU report significant increase in income as a result of their training
  • An in-depth Reflection Meeting will really help us all evaluate what has worked in the pilot project, and what has not, and where to go from here.

Reflection Meeting in Gulu

Skills Training Report

The ETC@GDPU project officer followed up recent trainings in Omoro and Gulu, to ensure that the pilot business enterprises are building their capacities in areas such as:

  • Business plan development,
  • Skills training
  • Conflict management and resolution.

The youth are now actively participating in the training programme and 75% are reporting that their levels of income are increasing because:

  1. Their area of coverage has increased
  2. They can now repair more things compared to when they started project.

The training program is running up to the end of October and the GDPU project officer is following up to ensure that they are getting the required skills and that relevant knowledge is imparted

Hairdressing Training in Acet

Hairdressing at Acet

Five members of Nyeko Rac Hairdressing and Salon at Acet Centre are trained in areas they need. These are:


  • pencil plaiting
  • styling and twisting hair
  • dread locks
  • free hand.

Savings are being made among members of Nyeko Rach hairdressing,

Conflicts are being resolved among members


  • Some materials for hairdressing are now available at Nyeko Rac Hair Beauty Salon at Acet, although lack of material for weaves, chemicals etc


Gulu PWDs Electronics and Repair, Training at GDPU, Gulu 2 low res

Gulu PWDs Electronics and Repair, Training at GDPU, Gulu

Gulu Pwds Electronic

The ETC@GDPU project officer has reported before about difficulties with Gulu PWDs, their lack of cohesion as a group, their disinterest in saving money and in training for anything but phone repair.

Training is going on for two months from 11th September to 19th November 2017, aimed at addressing problems areas where they feel they face difficulties:

  • Discovered the use of charcoal stove for soldering gargets such as Radio, TV, phones etc
  • Changing/repair of mouth piece, charging system and screens
  • Discovered the alternative for Blower Machine by using candle when there is no electricity


  • The training program was affected by the National Sports Gala which took place from 25th to 30th September 2017.
  • Village savings and loan association (VSLA) is not active among Gulu PWDS electronics members although they attended training for VSLA
  • Business location for PWD electronic is neither favourable or easily accessible, it is hard for them to keep customers appliances because they operate their business in a corridor.
  • Some phones are complicated to repair, spare parts are not available for most bought in the area, especially Chinese phones.
  • Unlike their business competitors they lack software to unlock phones
  • Business is not growing for electronics
  • Limited knowledge and skills on other electronic appliances such TV, Radio, DVD players, Smart Phones and Amplifiers
  • Customer demand lower prices than are viable

Akera Roberts, Individual Business Enterprise, Electronics and Repair, Gulu

Akera Roberts

Radio repair is doing well for Akera Robert, Rubanga Na Electronics business plan was successfully developed and completed by Akera Robert and GDPU project officer


  • Security for his place of work is still an issue, Akera Robert still operates under the veranda

Akello Catherine and Florence are being trained in making V necked sweaters

Knitting and Sweater Weaving

Sweater weaving is doing well, they get contracts from schools and local community members. Support training is aimed at improving their quality of work and building customers trust, training area for knitting is:

  • joining using sewing machine
  • making V shape sweater
  • designing sweaters.

Learning to Make V Necked Sweaters, A customer checking on his newly made garment


  • High-level absenteeism from the instructor for knitting and sweater weaving might be affecting the positive development of the programme.
  • Customers take long to pick their items
  • Customer demand lower prices than are viable


Reflection Meeting

Conducted by GDPU project officer and ETC and Project Coordinator GDPU to check on the impact of ETC project in Gulu and Omoro District.

What has worked?

The local community attitude towards PWDs is that they are best known for leather work. Yet as this and the YDP proved, they are able to do other income generating activities such hairdressing, motorcycle repair, electronic repair and maintenance.

  • Skills training has improved the ‘offer’ of all the business groups
  • Active in repair of electronic gadgets, hairdressing and sweater weaving, i.e. businesses are growing although some are slower than others.
  • Record keeping is now observed in all enterprises, learnt how to balance books of account because of financial literacy received during the ETC project.
  • Learnt to communicate effectively with customers, most of the youth enterprise members had bad communication skills that made them lose customers but the capacity building trainings offered by the ETC@GDPU project has improved this aspect.
  • Learnt how to deal with large number of customers, greatly improved customer services by use of first come first serve.

Reflection Meeting Gulu

Challenges: Solutions and the Way Forward

The reported rise in members incomes is very welcome, how can we continue this increase? Which parts of the programme are working and what do we need to do to improve them as part of the pilot programme and for future programme planning? Diversification and widening the ‘offer’ of each group, further investigation into sources of investment and increasing the self-confidence of members could all play a part. As could:

  • Linking the enterprise to other service providers available in their location
  • Having a by law on mandatory savings
  • Inclusion saving for disabled and non-disabled
  • Continuous follow-up and support from GDPU project staff
  • Further tailor-made refresher training in specific areas e.g. Repair of modern phones, TV radio etc
  • More advertising using posters
  • Enterprise members to carry out market survey to check on the prices of commodities and services to be comparable with other enterprises and avoid over pricing.

    GDPU Co-ordinator Conducting the Reflection Meeting

Apologies for late arrival

Apologies for the late posting of this months news, also we (the UK founders of ETC@GDPU) had  hoped to be flying out to Gulu at the end of this month to discuss and evaluate the pilot phase and how to move on to the full project. Sadly, Mark was involved in a motorbike accident in the UK just weeks before departure. Although he will be OK, his mobility is restricted for a few months. Ironically Mark clocked up 12,000 kilometres on a motorbike around Gulu and district with only a few bumps and scrapes, riding in the UK is far more dangerous. If you are a car driver, please look properly before you pull out of a side road! However we hope to carry on the project development by Skype in the next few months and return to Gulu in February.

The safer roads in Gulu District!


During August, the ETC @ GDPU Project Officer and Project Leader followed up on business plan development, record keeping and conflict management making sure that they were being implemented by each business enterprise. A busy training programme continued and proposed activities for September look equally focused.

Village Savings and Loan Association pilot training session at Acet centre, Omoro District, August 2017


Skills training were offered in Hairdressing, Electronic Repair and Maintenance and Knitting & Sweater Weaving in Omoro Acet Centre and Gulu Municipality targeting 4 members of NYEKO RAC HAIRDRESSING AND COSMETOLOGY, 2 members of RWOT AYE TWERO KNITTING and 6 Members of GULU PWDS ELECTRONICS REPAIR & MAINTENANCE.

Training: Village Savings and Loan Associations 

Trainings in Village Savings and Loan Associations (micro finance) were carried out. VSLA pass books were distributed to the saving groups created by each enterprise to encourage the culture of savings in their enterprise.

Training: Conflict Resolution

Training in Conflict Resolutions under Group Dynamics was carried out in Acet.

Group Dynamics and Conflict Resolution Training in Acet, August 2017


But as the initial stages are completed, challenges were registered by the project officer during his visits. These were: poor attendance; high expectation for money (Especially refusal to attend meetings without payment see Sitting Fees below)); difficult attitudes; skills gaps; luck of trust from customers etc.

Challenges: Gulu

These challenges were particularly noticeable in Gulu, with high levels of absenteeism, lack of commitment to customers and work, lack of skills in: radio; TV; video decks; speakers; computer repairs. Members only specialise in phone repair which does not bring in enough income. Finding a qualified instructor to train Gulu PWDs in electronic repair and maintenance has not yet been resolved.

Akera Roberts, Individual Business Enterprise on the pilot programme, Gulu.

Although the Project Officer suggested their fellow disabled electrician (Akera Robert), who has all the skills they want, members were not interested. The P O believes that there is no unity and love among PWDs in Gulu municipality, that is the reason why most of them are not successful, because of the differences amongst them.

Gulu PWDs, Electronics and Repair: repairing a phone.

Challenges: Sitting Fees

Sitting Fees (or payment for attending trainings or meetings) are a great example of the unintended consequences of well intended actions. I believe that sitting fees were originally paid during the conflict, as a means of quickly getting money directly to those who badly needed it and bypassing those who would take a substantial cut. But now, demand for sitting fees and refusal to attend without payment is a constant problem. Most NGOs refused to pay sitting fees because the payments eat up small budgets and badly distort training sessions. The people you really need to reach either refuse to turn up or invitations are issued in turn to those who have not yet been paid a fee or to those who are powerful enough to demand that they always get one. Sessions are either taken up with endless arguments as to why participants should be paid substantial sums, or on the odd occasion where fees are paid, participants leave, in body or mind, once they have been paid because they feel their work had been done; either way nothing is achieved.

Gulu PWDs Electronics and Repair, Training at GDPU, Gulu

Challenges: Solutions?

The only surprise is that the challenges for ECT @ GDPU had not begun earlier, these are all difficulties that are common on any project of this type in this sort of context.

There is no simple solution, this culture (Sitting Fees especially) is deeply embedded and will take years to change. But we intend to try some of the approaches listed below and begin that process

Thinking about the simplest non-financial reward systems is an important part of the pilot programme. Actually, faced with this problem during the earlier Youth Development Programme we found that:

  • educational games
  • sport or other competitions
  • Cultural activities, eg dance and drama
  • and of course, food.

Were all good ways of bringing people to meetings and making them engage without concentrating solely on the money.

  • Regular VSLA meetings can also be a useful time to carry out training.

VSLA Training, GDPU August 2017

Challenges:  Solutions/ Communications and Mentors

Group dynamics, and communication could be the key that unlocks this door.

During the VSLA sessions it was noted that members will not take leadership roles, even just for the workshop; leadership training as part of a drive to improve self-esteem might be worth following up too.

Relationship between the groups, their customers and skills trainers (especially the Gulu PWDS) are a challenge that could be met by finding the right mentors/ role models to show members where their hard work might lead to in the future. Groups need to see why they are doing what they are doing, how the rewards are not immediate but are worth waiting for; could mentors help in that aim?

Village Savings and loan Association Training at Acet center Omoro District August 2017


None of the challenges noted above are unusual, they are to be expected in this context and in a project of this type. There is no need to feel downhearted, it is important to remember that this is still the pilot phase, there are still opportunities to work on many different approaches and be experimental; many exciting possibilities ahead. We must keep pushing on well!

Open Day GDPU 2015 for MM in U 4

Open Day Gulu Disabled Persons Union 2015


Expecting the Unexpected:

During our time in Uganda I was offered small gifts often; it’s part of the culture and of course a way to buy influence. Live chickens (once even a pregnant goat) are a standard African present. Proposals by trainees to service my motorbike, shave my hair or do my nails were frequent. After one student graduation I was given a large orange iced cake, the whole college, parents and honoured guests watched as I tried to balance it on the motorbike and wobble down the road in a rain storm.

But there was one present that I still treasure.

I might have mentioned before that volunteers were warned to expect the unexpected. Working with the disabled is not something either of us had done before. Gulu Disabled Persons Union was one of the most inspiring institutions on the Youth Development Programme and the instructors certainly amongst the most inspiring for their students.

GPDU Sweater Weavers. Madame on the right holds up my gift

GPDU Sweater Weavers. Madame on the right holds up my gift

This sleeveless jumper was the gift that meant the most to me, it was made by Youth Development Programme students at Gulu Persons Disabled Union (GDPU). Their disabilities can be profound, both physical and mental and their exclusion from society, education and the economy equally debilitating. This jumper was one of the first to be completed by the sweater weaving trainees. The young women (and two young men) who had made this garment – lots of room to grow into it too – were justifiably proud of their first steps to economic independence. Receiving such an important statement is an experience I will never forget.

GPDU Sweater Weavers

GPDU Sweater Weavers

Since leaving Uganda in late 2015, we have been in discussion with GDPU, wanting to help them continue the good work they had started under The Youth Development Programme. So, we are very proud to announce that our project: ‘Enhancing the Capacity at Gulu Disabled Persons Union’ or ‘ETC at GDPU’ for short is taking its first steps. The aim of the project is to provide extra support for the small business groups set up by students with disability who had trained with GDPU between 2013 and 2015 under the YDP. We will fund the six month pilot phase of the ETC project but will be looking for funding for the substantive programme, once we have evaluated that pilot; you have been warned, calls for donations are to be expected!

Camera 360

Ex YDP GDPU Electronics students outside their shop 2017

Fifteen business groups were set up under the YDP. ‘ETC at GDPU’ aims to strengthen those nine groups still in existence, so that they can become more profitable, more resilient and last longer. This will improve the livelihoods of the group members and of course of their families and their village.

Camera 360

Project Leader carrying out first assessment of an ex YDP business group (Group Enterprise: Electronics)

GDPU will work with the groups to decide what will help them grow and develop and then organise for that support to be delivered. This project will provide capacity building – group dynamics, business support, additional technical training, mentorship and support. Stay tuned to see how it develops, and of course do look at the website:


Camera 360

which is full of information, photos and films.


Perhaps even more unexpectedly, as some of you might know, I was in a group in the 1970’s (weren’t we all?) the original version of the that group played again recently and to honour GDPU I wore my jumper, you can see it here.

Jumper Mekons Manchester 3

Some Background

We were in Gulu, Northern Uganda for two years nine months, working with a huge DFID funded vocational training programme.

Gulu is on the road to South Sudan, it was the centre of the conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan Government. Many of the Internally Displaced Peoples camps were here. The northern region has been peaceful since about 2007-8 and the context has moved from emergency humanitarian aid to development work.

The Vocational Training Institutes provide opportunities for the youth(male and female aged 14-35). Most of them lived in the camps or were abducted by the LRA. They have had very little education, leaving them with few skills. Our purpose was to help these Vocational Training Institutes build up their capacity to equip the youth with what they need to earn a living and live as decent a life as possible.

By the Way
Mark's old art/ history of art website is still active should you want to read more by him or look at his work


From There to Here

Our Old Life, Packed Away in one Twenty Foot Container


A Vocational Training Institute, Assembly under the Mango Tree

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