Lauren Halloran (Uganda)

Lauren Halloran is a graduate student at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) where she is earning her Master’s in International Policy and Development and focusing on conflict resolution. Prior to MIIS, she worked with Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity, as an AmeriCorps member and, after two terms of service, as a staff member in the Volunteer Department. During this time she worked on volunteer engagement and building homes for families in Milwaukee. Through this work Lauren became interested in local, community-based advocacy and aid. While working with Habitat, she travelled to Guatemala and El Salvador and has previous experience studying abroad in Nigeria during her undergraduate degree. Lauren received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in International Relations and African Languages and Literature. Lauren spent her 10-week Peace Fellowship working with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union in Uganda. She summed up her fellowship in the following statement: "This opportunity was an incredible experience to not only get experience in my field but to learn about an area of work that is does not get as much attention as it should. I'm coming out of this summer with a new perspective to use for my future work and with a better understanding of disability rights. I hope that I can continue to advocate for these communities and that I am able to carry with me all that I've learned this summer. Thank you for the opportunity!"

Accessible Toilet Heroes

15 Aug

My last few days in Gulu were a flurry of dropping off construction materials, verifying that the last stages of construction were completed, planning and hosting the handing over ceremony, and packing to leave. With all of that going on, I didn’t get a chance to post about a few people who were key players in the success of this project, and how we came to rely on them at the last minute. In addition to the two specific individuals I will mention, the GDPU staff took on additional roles helping to complete the project and the school community continued to support us throughout the ups and downs of the process. I appreciated having such a great community of support surrounding the project.

I mentioned in an earlier post, Construction Challenges and Creative Solutions, that we would sometimes have to pick up materials ourselves when the contractor would unexpectedly be out of town or somehow unable to communicate with us. After that post, our contractor went completely out of contact. We couldn’t reach him on the phone and he missed a couple meetings. On top of that, he was not bringing materials to the site or paying the construction workers, which meant that construction was consistently delayed. In response, we at GDPU drafted a breach of contract letter asking him to respond to these issues. When he did not answer the letter, we ultimately decided to fire him. I was pretty nervous about that decision because I had just over a week until I left. However, I was reassured that the remaining work was easy enough to complete in the time we had left.

Ronald putting final touches on the ramp for wheelchair access.

Ronald putting final touches on the ramp for wheelchair access.

I was also worried that by firing the contractor we would have to replace all of our construction workers at Ogul. Luckily that was not the case. The construction foreman, Ronald Worocha (pictured to the left), and the entire crew at Ogul stayed on to finish the job. In addition, Ronald took on the added responsibility of managing the materials, overseeing construction, and tracking the laborers’ working days. He also worked every day with the workers to make sure the latrine was well constructed. He was a better communicator and never missed a meeting. Without him, I’m not sure where we would’ve ended up.

Collins is a talented welder in Gulu. His last minute work allowed us to complete the construction before I left.

Collins is a talented welder in Gulu. His last minute work allowed us to complete the construction before I left.

Besides Ronald, another person who helped us out in a pinch was the welder, Abonga Collins, we hired to put together the doors, hand rails, and security gates. When we fired the contractor, we returned his receipts for doors since we never received them and therefore never paid for them. A key aspect of building better latrines at Ogul Primary School is having doors to provide privacy. To make sure the doors were done in time and done well we got in touch with a former graduate of a GDPU youth Skills training program. Collins graduated from the Youth Development Skills Program in 2014. In order to improve his chances of getting a job, he came to take part in this program at GDPU after graduating secondary school. Since completing the training, Collins is one of GDPU’s great success stories of youth with disabilities who have gone on to own and run their own businesses. In his work with us, he was very professional, efficient, and organized in keeping track of all of his receipts (this can be rare, so he automatically became a star graduate from GDPU in my eyes). His work, talent, and professionalism were a needed highlight during my last week in Gulu.

Despite these obstacles and my worries, the construction workers stayed with us, the doors were completed, and the accessible toilet was finished on time. The handing over ceremony, which was held on Tuesday of last week, officially passed control of the accessible latrine to Ogul Primary School. With this transfer of ownership came the realization that construction was actually completed and my summer was coming to an end. I was glad to have been present for the ceremony because everyone who was involved in the project came out in support. The School Management Committee, PTA, staff, students, community members, construction workers, and the district and sub-county officials gathered to celebrate the completion and re-affirm the importance of the next step of the program: maintain and monitor the sanitation, hygiene, enrollment, and attendance at Ogul Primary School.

District officials and school leadership cut the ribbon on the new accessible latrine at Ogul Primary School.

District officials and school leadership cut the ribbon on the new accessible latrine at Ogul Primary School.


Posted By Lauren Halloran (Uganda)

Posted Aug 15th, 2017

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