Josh Levy

Josh Levy graduated from Columbia University in February 2015 with a Master's of Public Administration. Before becoming an AP Peace Fellow, he was the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) intern for the West Africa Team in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, where he provided administrative and research support on a variety of security and development issues. Prior to joining the UN, Josh worked for The World Bank, where he co-managed a research team and assisted the Global Center for Conflict, Security and Development in improving their evaluation methods for development projects in fragile and conflict-affected situations. Mr. Levy also worked in public relations and marketing in the public sector and in the private sector prior to moving to New York to pursue his Masters. After the fellowship, Josh wrote: "The fellowship has helped me grow professionally and personally. I improved my photography skills, my journalism/writing/reporting skills, and my project management skills. And seeing the fruits of my labor was the best experience. Once the toilet was built I felt an enormous sense of accomplishment." Contact: jlevy@advocacynet.org



A Week With Winston

27 Jun

Winston4

Feeling the wind while riding on a boda boda is normally quite refreshing, but on this occasion, my mind was consumed by fever and worrying thoughts. Suddenly I hear the cluck of a chicken and see a blur in the corner of my eye as someone’s future supper runs directly into my leg. Did I just kick a chicken from a motorcycle on my way to the hospital? Yep. That appears to be the case.

Thankfully, I was not diagnosed with Malaria or some other grave illness. It was merely an infection, probably from eating dirty food. I was worried that I caught some terrible disease from the newest addition to my family, a Vervet monkey named Winston. He was perhaps the most human-like creature I have ever met, but he was also bothersome at times.

Winston1

 FullSizeRender2

I feel like my experience in Uganda is aptly reflected by my experience with this wonderful yet irritating Vervet. Despite the joy of watching Winston play fruit ninja on my wife’s ipad or drinking soda from a straw, there were times when he pushed my limits. Winston was adorable, intelligent, and a joy to be around, but he could also be a handful and a general nuisance. I couldn’t leave a single thing out of place without finding him tearing through my stuff.

Winston Playing Fruit Ninja 

FullSizeRender 

Likewise, the rhythm of life in Gulu can be relaxing but also quite frustrating. Perhaps I’ve grown accustomed to the speed of living in New York, but I get the feeling that everyone here just moves at an astonishingly slow pace. It has been over 3 weeks since my arrival in Uganda and I am only now beginning to make progress on the Tochi toilet project.

We collected bids from a few contractors and started a haphazard negotiating process with one of them. It was a mess because if they discovered that a Muzungo (white person) was working on the project, they would immediately jack up the prices on everything. Regardless, it’s about time to finalize everything so that we can begin implementation.

2015-06-23 13.03.54

On Friday, June 26, GDPU and I made another site visit to Tochi. We were leading an inclusion exercise with parents and teachers where we trained them on proper language to be used for persons with disabilities, the rights of persons with disabilities, and a game called ‘life’ which illustrated the societal gap between able bodied Acholi people and Acholi people with disabilities. This is the groundwork that makes the Tochi toilet project a unique and innovative endeavor.

We are building an accessible toilet, but it is more than just a toilet. We are advocating for the rights of students with disabilities to have equal access, and we are changing perceptions of students with disabilities by empowering them to educate their community about proper hygiene practices.

At times, it is astonishing how unhygienic the people in Gulu really are. Just the other day my wife and I were eating at the local Indian restaurant and chatting with a patron named Hadi. He was fascinated by Winston because his species of monkey is apparently a physical representation of a Hindu deity. Hadi gave Winston a mango to eat but it was too much food for him to finish. Winston threw the half-eaten mango on the ground, and Hadi picked it up a few minutes later to give it to a young girl who was staring at Winston. The girl ate the rest of the mango and walked off.

Winston5

That scene was appallingly shocking to me. Here I was recovering from a stomach bug, washing my hands every 10 minutes because I was afraid Winston would give me some kind of infection, and people around me are so blasé about consuming a mango half-eaten by a monkey and covered in dirt? When I asked people about this, they just shrugged and told me that most Acholi kids don’t even wash themselves on a regular basis.

The Tochi toilet project is designed to make schools more accessible to students with disabilities, but it is also about empowering those same students with knowledge that they can use to improve their community. Hygiene education is sorely needed in Gulu. Students with disabilities need something to help them bridge the societal gap in Acholi culture between themselves and able bodied individuals. Bringing accessible toilets to schools as a tool for hygiene education can empower students with disabilities to make meaningful contributions to their community. 

That’s why this is more then just a WASH program.

After all, WASH programs are so simple, even a monkey could do them.

[content-builder]{“id”:1,”version”:”1.0.4″,”nextId”:3,”block”:”root”,”layout”:”12″,”childs”:[{“id”:”2″,”block”:”rte”,”content”:”

\"Winston4\"<\/p>

Feeling the wind while riding on a boda boda is normally quite refreshing, but on this occasion, my mind was consumed by fever and worrying thoughts. Suddenly I hear the cluck of a chicken and see a blur in the corner of my eye as someone\u2019s future supper runs directly into my leg. Did I just kick a chicken from a motorcycle on my way to the hospital? Yep. That appears to be the case.<\/span><\/p>

Thankfully, I was not diagnosed with Malaria or some other grave illness. It was merely an infection, probably from eating dirty food. I was worried that I caught some terrible disease from the newest addition to my family, a Vervet monkey named Winston. He was perhaps the most human-like creature I have ever met, but he was also bothersome at times.<\/span><\/p>

\"Winston1\"<\/p>

 \"FullSizeRender2\"<\/p>

I feel like my experience in Uganda is aptly reflected by my experience with this wonderful yet irritating Vervet. Despite the joy of watching Winston play fruit ninja on my wife\u2019s ipad or drinking soda from a straw, there were times when he pushed my limits. Winston was adorable, intelligent, and a joy to be around, but he could also be a handful and a general nuisance. I couldn\u2019t leave a single thing out of place without finding him tearing through my stuff.<\/span><\/p>

Winston Playing Fruit Ninja<\/a> <\/p>

\"FullSizeRender\" <\/p>

Likewise, the rhythm of life in Gulu can be relaxing but also quite frustrating. Perhaps I\u2019ve grown accustomed to the speed of living in New York, but I get the feeling that everyone here just moves at an astonishingly slow pace. It has been over 3 weeks since my arrival in Uganda and I am only now beginning to make progress on the Tochi toilet project.<\/span><\/p>

We collected bids from a few contractors and started a haphazard negotiating process with one of them. It was a mess because if they discovered that a Muzungo (white person) was working on the project, they would immediately jack up the prices on everything. Regardless, it\u2019s about time to finalize everything so that we can begin implementation.<\/span><\/p>

\"2015-06-23<\/p>

On Friday, June 26, GDPU and I made another site visit to Tochi. We were leading an inclusion exercise with parents and teachers where we trained them on proper language to be used for persons with disabilities, the rights of persons with disabilities, and a game called \u2018life\u2019 which illustrated the societal gap between able bodied Acholi people and Acholi people with disabilities. This is the groundwork that makes the Tochi toilet project a unique and innovative endeavor. <\/span><\/p>

We are building an accessible toilet, but it is more than just a toilet. We are advocating for the rights of students with disabilities to have equal access, and we are changing perceptions of students with disabilities by empowering them to educate their community about proper hygiene practices. <\/span><\/p>

At times, it is astonishing how unhygienic the people in Gulu really are. Just the other day my wife and I were eating at the local Indian restaurant and chatting with a patron named Hadi. He was fascinated by Winston because his species of monkey is apparently a physical representation of a Hindu deity. Hadi gave Winston a mango to eat but it was too much food for him to finish. Winston threw the half-eaten mango on the ground, and Hadi picked it up a few minutes later to give it to a young girl who was staring at Winston. The girl ate the rest of the mango and walked off. <\/span><\/p>

\"Winston5\"<\/p>

That scene was appallingly shocking to me. Here I was recovering from a stomach bug, washing my hands every 10 minutes because I was afraid Winston would give me some kind of infection, and people around me are so blas\u00e9 about consuming a mango half-eaten by a monkey and covered in dirt? When I asked people about this, they just shrugged and told me that most Acholi kids don\u2019t even wash themselves on a regular basis.<\/span><\/p>

The Tochi toilet project is designed to make schools more accessible to students with disabilities, but it is also about empowering those same students with knowledge that they can use to improve their community. Hygiene education is sorely needed in Gulu. Students with disabilities need something to help them bridge the societal gap in Acholi culture between themselves and able bodied individuals. Bringing accessible toilets to schools as a tool for hygiene education can empower students with disabilities to make meaningful contributions to their community. <\/span><\/p>

That’s why this is more then just a WASH program.<\/span><\/p>

After all, WASH programs are so simple, even a monkey could do them.<\/span><\/p>\n”,”class”:””}]}[/content-builder]

Posted By Josh Levy

Posted Jun 27th, 2015

5 Comments

  • I love reading your blog’s and look forward to them. Sounds very challenging to succeed in your mission , clearly you are beginning to learn how to adapt. Patience is a virtue

  • Steve Brooks

    June 28, 2015

     

    Josh, you are clearly having an experience of a life time and my hat goes off to your endeavors. Love the blog and the photos. Coming from NYC, I can’t imagine the culture shock you both must be going through. Certainly, don’t eat the dirty mangos…..LOL. Keep yourselves safe and keep up the good work.

  • Josh Levy

    June 30, 2015

     

    Thanks for your comments everyone. Paul and Annika, the training session went well. Most of them already had some kind of training like this, but we reinforced some good lessons during our session. For the language part, we went over things like how to call someone who has a clubbed foot. For instance, rather then say ‘cripple’ we discussed using labels such as ‘person with a physical disability’. We also discussed the rights of people with disabilities and referenced certain legal documents, such as the constitution of Uganda. In the final activity we played an interactive game called ‘life’. This gender-based game involved 4 of the teachers role playing as children. 2 were male and 2 were female. One of each gender was assigned to role-play a child with a disability. We then had the other teachers respond to a series of questions describing certain life events and asking the bystanders to rate how they felt each child’s prospects were. The game then had those children who received very positive feedback take 2 steps forward, slightly positive 1 step forward, slightly negative 1 step backwards and very negative 2 steps backwards. By the end of the game we covered all of the major life events from birth until having children of their own. It was quite interested to see an Acholi perspective. The outcomes were that women with disabilities were extremely disadvantaged and only had a slightly positive response on the question of whether or not she would attend school. The able bodied man on the opposite end of the spectrum received very positive feedback on all counts, even the bonus round for whether or not the participants would run for political office.

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