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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

Training

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

Challenges

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

Conclusion

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!

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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

Returning unto the ground: West Dorset

Returning unto the ground: West Dorset

Have we been busy singing “Ain’t got a home” like Clarence Frogman Henry?[1]

Have we been cast out into the world committed to wander the face of the earth?

“cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;

In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken”

(Genesis Chapter 3, verses 17 – 19)

Returning unto the ground: West Dorset

Returning unto the ground: West Dorset

We have spent a week in a classic thatched cottage in West Dorset, searching for our final resting place; our promised land? Views and walks across Hardy country from the Iron Age fort at Eggardon Hill. Low grey clouds, so  different to the huge skies we have been living under; bright sun and open savannahs.

Returning unto the ground: from the top of Eggardon Hill

Returning unto the ground: from the top of Eggardon Hill

Coffee and cakes in small country towns, what is the optimum number of mobility scooter shops for our future Eden?

Returning unto the ground: West Bay

Returning unto the ground: West Bay

Visits to the coast, nice to be by the sea after three years in a land locked country. A growing wish to write and make art about an ingrained sense of place

Autumn Return part two 4

(cf Robert Macfarlane of course, who wrote about the hollow ways of Chideock in West Dorset amongst other places; somewhere we have visited often.) Interesting by the way that the curious and savage late thirties thriller, Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household, is cited by Macfarlane

Rogue Male: Geoffrey Household, 1939

Rogue Male: Geoffrey Household, 1939

and has also been claimed as part of the Neo-Romantic movement, the art that best illustrates this area. For example in a recent article in Yarn magazine about Rena Gardiner.

Liz Somerville: 'Corfe Past Over Present' Linocut, 800 x 400 mm

Liz Somerville: ‘Corfe Past Over Present’ Linocut, 800 x 400 mm

Liz Somerville, also mentioned in that article, is still carrying on that tradition of “Ravilious, Bawden, Nash and all that lot’” as she puts it.

Returning unto the ground: West Dorset

Returning unto the ground: West Dorset

Small country lanes? The hospital years are coming; age and infirmity. Do we want to advance in age and decrease in confidence behind the wheel, marooned in the tiny lanes of a rural paradise as our personal sun begins to set?

“Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth.”

(Genesis Chapter 4, verse 14)

Where should we vagabond to next?

Murchison National Park: Elephants

Murchison National Park: Elephants

 

[1] “Ooh ooh

Ain’t got no home

no place to roam

Ain’t got no home

no place to roam

I’m a lonely boy

I ain’t got a home

 

I got a voice

I love to sing

I sing like a girl

And I sing like a frog

I’m a lonely boy

I ain’t got a home”

Making the Sparks Fly: Learning How to Learn at Daniel Comboni Vocational Institute

Making the Sparks Fly: Learning How to Learn at Daniel Comboni Vocational Institute

During our time here I am never going to be other than a middle aged white man, a status and appearance that can sometimes help and usually gets in the way. I have been working with instructors a lot recently, sitting in lessons offering advice and support. Or that is the theory; the problem is that (like Schrödinger’s Cat if I understand the quantum analogy correctly) my being there affects the whole process. The students seize up, becoming very shy and the teachers are worried that they have done something wrong. It will take a long time before I become a ‘normal’ part of the furniture.

Instructor Works on a Scheme of Work

Instructor Works on a Scheme of Work

How do we best help others to learn? How can we help others to make changes that best help them? When I was a teacher, enthusiastic encouragement and support seemed to work best, it is rarely productive to order someone to do well.

Instructors and Another 'Energiser'

Instructors and Another ‘Energiser’

When we were training in the UK before we came out to Uganda, our trainers put great stress in the difference between teaching and facilitating, between instruction and support. I find that difference more and more noticeable. Instructors here generally know what they are trying to do, it is up to us to help them get there, or discuss the direction and support change. Mostly this involves things like:

Mary Appreciates Visual Aids in Italian

Mary Appreciates Visual Aids in Italian

use visual aids with students who cannot read and write (the majority on this programme); sorting out the budget line so that the motor vehicle teacher can photocopy pages from a workshop manual for his students to consult as he demonstrates; asking teachers to use examples that they know will sell in the market, that sort of thing; small steps as they say.

Numeracy and Literacy Homework for Students, Level One

Numeracy and Literacy Homework for Students, Level One

There was depressing article in the East African Newspaper recently, pointing out that Africa loses $58 Billion annually in debt repayments, illicit financial transactions and other illegal activities. $192 billion profit is made in Sub Saharan Africa by international companies, very little of that stays here (tax evasion mostly).

Brick Laying and Concrete Practice in Atiak

Brick Laying and Concrete Practice in Atiak

Climate change is adding an extra $10.6 billion to that cost, climate change largely caused by industrialisation elsewhere. $134 billion flows back in through loans, foreign investment and aid much of which has to be repaid, adding to the debt crisis. Some of these figures may be questionable, but the principle still remains; Africa still gives the West far more than it gets back.

Tailoring and Garment Cutting Students

Tailoring and Garment Cutting Students

Can a small programme trying to improve the skills of young people so that they earn their own living after a nasty insurgency (Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army) destroyed the economy and civil society. Can such a programme ‘facilitate’ change?

Tailoring and Garment Cutting Students at Human Technical Vocational Institute Lira

Tailoring and Garment Cutting Students at Human Technical Vocational Institute Lira

I don’t know is the honest answer. Starting at a very small scale, helping youth here to become self-sufficient, would seem to be one approach, manufacturing hardly exists anymore and you have to start somewhere. Mary has being doing a lot on market relevance recently, expect more on this soon.

Electrical Installation Students at Human Technical Vocational Institute Lira

Electrical Installation Students at Human Technical Vocational Institute Lira

The people we work with are very honest, if something is not working and not suitable we are told very clearly. So far what we are doing has, mostly, met with approval. Keep on keeping on I suppose.

Male Hairdressing Students at Daniel Comboni Vocational Institute

Male Hairdressing Students at Daniel Comboni Vocational Institute

A round up of our Christmas in Uganda after last weeks guest blog.  My own top three best bits:

Weaver Birds in Ishasha

Weaver Birds in Ishasha

1: The weavers birds at Ishasha

We were staying in a rest camp just outside Queen Elizabeth National Park. Our tent was pitched alongside the Ntungwe river,  next to a weaver bird colony, well more of a weaver bird slum really. We were there just at the start of the breeding season, The noise was tremendous. The male weaver bird makes a nest and entices a potential mate to inspect it.

Weaver Birds at Ishasha: Inspecting the nest, does it come up to standard?

Weaver Birds at Ishasha: Inspecting the nest, does it come up to standard?

If she likes it she will move in, if he has not got it right, he has to completely rebuild it before she will accept him.

Weaver Birds at Ishasha: male bird by a rejected nest

Weaver Birds at Ishasha: male bird by a rejected nest

There was a feeling of empathy as I watched the nests being inspected and rejected.

Weaver Birds at Ishasha: Rebuilding the nest

Weaver Birds at Ishasha: Rebuilding the nest

2: Seeing the lioness(of course) so asleep and un-bothered.

Queen Elizabeth National Park:  The Lioness

Queen Elizabeth National Park: The Lioness

3:   ?

Murchison Falls National Park: Elephant by the River

Murchison Falls National Park: Elephant by the River

There were many other possibilities, so many could make my top three: Elephants

Murchison Nile Sunset

Murchison Nile Sunset

The Nile of course

Watching a bird of prey

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bird of Prey (on the left)

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bird of Prey (on the left)

tear apart it’s breakfast in Queen Elizabeth Park.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bird of Prey

Queen Elizabeth National Park, Bird of Prey

3: But really I think it was just being with partner and daughter:

Murchison Family Christmas

Murchison Family Christmas

aah.

Sipi, Looking North West at Dusk

Sipi, Looking North West at Dusk

We have been off on our travels again. This time, via meetings with colleagues in Lira and Soroti, to Sipi Falls at the foot of Mount Elgon, South East of Uganda. Near the city of Mbale that looked, architecturally anyway, worth visiting properly.

We stayed in one of a collection of wooden cabins crawling up a hill opposite the largest of Sipi’s three waterfalls. If another much travelled volunteer describes the accommodation as basic, I think you get the idea. The view made up for it.

Sipi, the Largest Waterfall Viewed from our Cabin; Rain Coming On

Sipi, the Largest Waterfall Viewed from our Cabin; Rain Coming On

“Is anyone else staying here at the moment?

“Ah yes, many, there are many of them”

“Who?”

“The American students”

Not quite what you want to hear as you check into a mountain top retreat. That you will be sharing it with 27 students, oh and they are good Christians too. Visions of Kumbaya at dawn after a night of noisy antics in the dorm. In fact they did their dawn singing further up the mountain and, unlike their British counterparts I suspect, there was no drunken rowdiness at all; early beds all round.

Sipi, the Thatched Bar at Lacam LodgeThis is walking country, all walks are guided, some of the payment going to the community. It is also the big coffee growing area of Uganda: beans drying by the side of the road; beans drying on paths; beans in front of houses; beans everywhere. People sitting in the drying beans or walking across them to pick out bad beans, or maybe ready beans. It was the sitting and walking about on them in flip flops or muddy bare feet that caught my attention, all organic of course.

Sipi, the Path to the Top Waterfall

Sipi, the Path to the Top Waterfall

Our guide took us along tiny steep muddy paths up through banana plantations, interspersed with coffee plants that grow surprisingly high, also climbing runner type beans on tall sticks, higher up the mountain rows and rows of onions and maize. Large scale organised agriculture compared to the haphazard subsistence farming of the north.

Sipi, the Top Waterfall

Sipi, the Top Waterfall

There was some evidence of terracing but not much, which gave us one of the talking points of the weekend. In for example Italy, India, South America, China wherever there has been long term farming in mountainous areas, the land is organised into terraces; not here. It would have made travel up and down the slippy hillsides easier. Is organised agriculture a relatively recent arrival? Or are Sipi farmers unaware of the practice? Surely not, it is a logical outcome of moving earth about and stops soil erosion. Maybe people enjoy sliding down mud chutes? It would give us something to talk about as the rain poured down that night and we went to bed very early in our cold little cabin with the creaking bed far too big for the sheets.

Sipi, Mary Not Getting Too Close to the Edge of the Top Waterfall

Sipi, Mary Not Getting Too Close to the Edge of the Top Waterfall

Our guide Simon, a competent young man and not too pushy although we bought the world’s most expensive local coffee from him later, took us to the top waterfall first.

Sipi, Near the Top Waterfall

Sipi, Near the Top Waterfall

The spray filling the eucalyptus trees with photogenic mist, wild bananas and bright wild flowers along the path.

Sipi, Near the Top Waterfall, Mary and Simon our Guide

Sipi, Near the Top Waterfall, Mary and Simon our Guide

Down to the second fall, hidden from our view across the valley where the river suddenly disappears

Sipi, Approaching the Top of the Second Waterfall

Sipi, Approaching the Top of the Second Waterfall

at the corner of this natural infinity pool. Frighteningly close to the cliff edge women wash clothes, their babies crawling around them.

Sipi, At the Top of the Second Waterfall.

Sipi, At the Top of the Second Waterfall.

Further upriver we had seen a narrow log bridge crossed by a toddler still learning to walk; alarming.

Sipi, Further below the Second Waterfall

Sipi, Further below the Second Waterfall

Coming down to the last and biggest fall (one hundred metres apparently) the rain really started.

Sipi, Underneath the Second Waterfall.

Sipi, Underneath the Second Waterfall.

We sheltered at the Sipi Falls Lodge, a very upmarket place indeed, perfectly slashed lawns, beautifully dressed Japanese tourists waiting for lunch, lunch prices started at 40,000 shillings (more than we were paying for a nights accommodation).

Sipi, Mary and Simon (our guide) Underneath the Second Waterfall

Sipi, Mary and Simon (our guide) Underneath the Second Waterfall

We dragged ourselves away. Us in waterproofs and fancy boots, Simon in T shirt and canvas shoes.

Sipi, the Third and Largest Waterfall

Sipi, the Third and Largest Waterfall

A good walk and there are longer ones we hope to take in the future. The American students had walked one and returned limping and muddy from top to toe, keep them tired was my technique for school trips too.

Sipi, the View from Above the Third and Largest Waterfall

Sipi, the View from Above the Third and Largest Waterfall

It is possible to stay in campsites in the national park higher up the mountain. We had brought our tent but the rain was too heavy, maybe next time. A beautiful place, clearly used to tourism as the efficient way local youth ‘helping’ us with a problem with our car relieved us of money proved, but a place to return to nonetheless.

The view from the front gate

The view from the front gate

We have moved, out into what I suppose you could call the suburbs. We now live in a place called Kirombe. It is much greener, fresher and less crowded than Pece and the dusty Labour Line in the centre of Gulu, our former home.

Across the Road

Across the Road

The noises are different, well there is the ever present sound of children – people will tell you that African babies don’t cry, their close bond with mothers etc – this is untrue. The non-crying Ugandan baby bawling it’s woes to the world is a familiar accompaniment to our lives everywhere.

The Mosque at Kirombe

The Mosque at Kirombe

Our new house (and it is brand new, we are the first occupants) is near a small mosque, an audible presence during Ramadan and the muezzin duets striking up in the early evening are a new and rather special addition.

The Kirombe Road looking back to the Mosque and Sir Samuel Baker Road

The Kirombe Road looking back to the Mosque and Sir Samuel Baker Road

In fact Kirombe seems to be surrounded by places of worship which vary from Baptist style singing to Acholi drumming through to Evangelical fervour (mostly a man shouting for hours).

The view down towards the Kampala Road, local shop on the left

The view down towards the Kampala Road, local shop on the left

Some of the music is beautiful, some very strange to western ears. Some of the singing is glorious, some so flat that us old punk rockers could not have aspired to such confident tunelessness even in our glory days. ALL OF IT IS LOUD.

The Kirombe Road

The Kirombe Road

Church services are marathon affairs, many go on all night. But if you mix them together, add in birdsong, distant thunder, children of course and the, almost, audible effect of vegetation growing in the rain, and it makes for an intriguing place to live.

PS

New Beans

New Beans

We have made seven bean strings so far, Mary is working on a place/ glade for the bees

“I will arise and go now,

And go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there,

Of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean rows will I have there,

A hive for the honey bee,

And live alone in the bee-loud glade”

W B Yeats: The Lake Isle of Innisfree

Storm Clouds Above Gulu 1

Storm Clouds Above Gulu 1

It’s just a rainy night in Gulu. Eating pasta and tomato sauce might not be a new experience, but eating it on a veranda as lightning crashes around you, rain lashes down and thunder rattles across the town certainly is. Especially as the sauce contained dried Aubergine, we had to buy it from the student of a college we were visiting. As part of their training in ‘Agric’, students had been given seeds to grow and then encouraged to sell the results in the market. It’s OK, tastes as you might expect dried Aubergine to taste.

The Storm that Hit Opit

The Storm that Hit Opit

The weather is changing, the rainy season is coming. Towards the end each day the clouds start to mass. There have been spots of rain a few times, and a couple of tremendous storms. One hit when we were out at Opit, the small market town about 25 kilometres away we visited with the college principal. First a huge wind blew up the dust so that we couldn’t see anything, a pause whilst we drew our breath, the sky went black and the ferocity of the following rain was frightening.

Storm Clouds Above Gulu 2

Storm Clouds Above Gulu 2

Another big storm last night, rain poured into the compound. Standing in the doorway a perfectly perpendicular single bolt of lightning appeared to bisect the opening; the subsequent thunder was almost instantaneous; we jumped and screamed.

Storm Clouds Above Gulu 3

Storm Clouds Above Gulu 3

More heavy rain and thunder this evening, the rain brings the frogs out, their croaks get louder each night. It’s just a rainy night in Gulu, sometimes I feel like it must be raining all over the world.

Sunshine After Rain

Sunshine After Rain

The comparative comfort of our language classes in Kampala.

The comparative comfort of our language classes in Kampala.

We leave to go north to Gulu, Uganda’s second city, about half a million people. Once you get out of Kampala the road is dead straight.

Leaving Kampala

Leaving Kampala

It starts out as a two lane highway, some six hours later it has become single track with occasional tarmac.

The road north to Kampala

The road north to Kampala

The famous red dust of Africa blows in clouds around the huge trucks going further north with materials to reconstruct South Sudan. There are no street lights in Gulu, cars loom out of the dusty darkness, some of the Bodas have lights the bicycles do not and none of hundreds of pedestrians use any form of lighting. What light there is coming out of the small shops is made soft by the dust (there are no road surfaces or pavements) walking about is strangely silent as the dust soaks up the sound.

That does not last. It is later and we are sitting on the balcony of one of the houses in our compound in the centre of town, it is a bit (not much) cooler than the 40 something it got to today. Somewhere across town is a huge dance festival with a series of local rap acts, it is to include Chameleon, the biggest pop star in Uganda. Each successive turn is louder and more dependent on the distorted bellow end of the discipline than the last, their sets are punctuated by occasional shouts of “Gulu are you ready”. Two blocks away Sammiz night club is pumping out Ragga, small children run up and down outside shouting “Muno, Muno” (whiteman, whiteman). The men working in the metal shop on the corner seem to be putting in some overtime. There is so much aural attack from so many different sources it swirls around like white noise, much like the dust really; this is not the Home Counties it is far more interesting.

The view down the Muyenga Road, Kampala.

The view down the Muyenga Road, Kampala.

I suppose it is inevitable that one makes connections between new places and others visited before. Kampala is different to anywhere we have been, but I can’t help seeing those earlier destinations here; the Caribbean for the hills, the vegetation the bland starchy food and the Middle East for the chaotic driving and the souk like markets.

The Old Taxi Park, Central Kampala, next to the vast Owino Market.

The Old Taxi Park, Central Kampala, next to the vast Owino Market.

It is twelve ‘o’ clock, I am writing this in the garden of the Hotel Kenrock as we wait to go to a ‘Cultural Event’, I can hear the very fierce, very amplified church service next door, it has been going on since at least eight this morning. Seeds are falling from a tree and clattering onto the corrugated roof of the breakfast area, great storks and cranes fly overhead,

Storks and Cranes above Garden City Shopping Mall, Kampala.

Storks and Cranes above Garden City Shopping Mall, Kampala.

the hotel guard with the gun is asleep in his plastic chair by the entrance, trucks drive past the road outside, boda bodas (the motorbike taxis) rush past continuously. There is a gentle breeze that brings the smell of charcoal fires, diesel fumes and heat from the rest of the city, although the temperature here is very pleasant, about 26 degrees I should think. The sky varies from overcast cloud to pale blue; it is all rather nice. Rather different to the world described in our VSO training sessions, that world we will meet later.

The VSO Training Area, Kampala

The VSO Training Area, Kampala

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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