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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:

ETC at GDPU

Camera 360

which is full of information, photos and films.

PS

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

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Todays forecast is for low cloud and rain, again

Todays forecast is for low cloud and rain, again

If the past is another country and they do things differently there (O Level study of ‘The Go Between’, sorry) which aspects get changed in translation?

Local firework display:: The Battle of Waterloo

Local firework display:: The Battle of Waterloo

Between the re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo, the serving out of the sausages and the filling of the charity bucket in the firework display at the small north Dartmoor village we find ourselves in at the moment, they played music. We got used to cultural dislocation via bizarre musical combinations while we were in Gulu. Cliff Richards’ ‘Congratulations’ was played at every opportunity, more Westlife songs than is necessary (any more than none obviously), ‘’Islands in the Stream’ whenever possible along with the usual Celine Dion, local pop music and Acholi traditional songs.

Wet Devon

Wet Devon

But what surprised me in wet Devon as blond children rushed around with glow sticks and we stood around in the mud, was a Country and Western version of Patti Smith’s version of Springsteen’s song: ‘Because the Night’. Patti Smith’s raw singing made it an iconic song in Leeds in the early punk days. The only night club in town then (imagine that) had the single (imagine that too), we would demand it endlessly, would leap onto the dance floor as it rapidly cleared; that style of music was loathed by everyone else. And here it was thirty nine years later, a milky version that nonetheless accurately copied Patti Smith’s vocal styling, passing entirely without notice as the mix segued into some other anodyne American something or other, Celine Dion probably.

More wet Devon

More wet Devon

Elvis Costello is reading his autobiography on Radio Four at the moment, heard him describing his ecstatic reaction to The Clash’s ‘White Man in Hammersmith Palais’ yesterday morning and he played the song too, all before ten ‘o’ clock in the morning.

And now Siouxsie Sue is on the radio talking about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, eh? What has happened while we were away?

And yesterday I went to the London premiere of a film (The Revenge of the Mekons) about the band I used to be in way back when. Another form of the group is still going (a Country and Western version). The film is mostly about the newer group and certainly had a bigger audience than we ever did way back etc; curiouser and curiouser.

The sun: briefly

The sun: briefly

You couldn’t get further from the febrile urban atmosphere of the late seventies than the sodden fields and moors around us now, it has stopped raining since our arrival but only briefly.

The distant past: stone circle

The distant past: stone circle

The past we have been approaching here is very distant, stone circles, clapper bridges,

The distant past: clapper bridge

The distant past: clapper bridge

worked out mines and tiny lanes made for people on foot or pack horses.

The project: caravan on the hill

The project: caravan on the hill

Have we made any decisions about where to live and what to live in? A project? Living in a caravan while we struggle with ancient building techniques?

The project: all it needs is a little bit of tidying up

The project: all it needs is a little bit of tidying up

As Grace Slick sings ‘go ask Alice’ on the radio I’m reminded of the very different role of the past in Gulu. We worked and lived amongst astonishingly optimistic people, very few old buildings, a non-literary culture, no real evidence of the deep past and no wish to remember horrific and violent recent times.

Go Ask Alice

Go Ask Alice

On Dartmoor, as the rain sheets by, the past or rather a curious translation of the past, is threaded through everything we see, think and do. How that past will govern our next choices still seems to be placed in the future.

Or just fly away?

Or just fly away?

PS

‘Hold Back the Night’ was another important song, this time by Graham Parker and the Rumour came out in 1977. The drummer, fact fans, is now drummer with the current Mekons.

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

Whitemarkarts

From There to Here

Our Old Life, Packed Away in one Twenty Foot Container

Here

A Vocational Training Institute, Assembly under the Mango Tree

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