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!"



And the summer begins: Welcome to Uganda!

31 May

Early Sunday afternoon, as my plane taxied down the Entebbe runway, I was excited to have finally made it to Uganda. I’ll be in Uganda for ten weeks this summer working with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) as an Advocacy Project Peace Fellow. GDPU advocates for people with disabilities in the district of Gulu.

This summer I will be helping to install an accessible toilet in Ogul Primary School for disabled students, as well as assisting GDPU staff in inclusivity training for the school. I have been looking forward to this opportunity since I learned I would be a Peace Fellow in April and I’m excited to have the opportunity to share the work of GDPU with people back home. However, I still had a few more stops to make before I really began my summer fellowship in Gulu. The plane slowly pulled up and eased to a halt in its parking spot, all passengers disembarked down the stairs and off the plane to make their way across the tarmac to the Entebbe International Airport.

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View of Entebbe and (in the distance) Lake Victoria while flying into Uganda

I got through customs in Entebbe around noon local time and felt the last bit of my energy kick in to get me to my final trip for the day, the MTN booth outside the airport where the driver would be meeting me. Once that was achieved, I settled in to enjoy the scenery on the way to Kampala. The single lane highway connecting Entebbe and Kampala was a fairly easy drive and passes right alongside Lake Victoria. After two nights of rest in Uganda’s capital, I took the early morning Post Bus from the Post Office in Kampala six hours north to Gulu. On arriving, Gulu greeted me with rain, overcast skies, and deep-red muddy roads. Once unpacked and settled at my hostel, I took a walk around my new town. One thing that immediately jumped out at me during this walk was that everyday movement in Gulu is likely not easy for people with disabilities. The roads are unpaved and riddled with potholes, there are very few sidewalks, and to get to them you have to cross over slated grates that cover the sewers (if they’re still there). Ease of movement and accessibility of services is an obstacle for persons with disabilities anywhere you go and I only scratched the surface of it during my walk through Gulu.

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One of the many roads in Gulu that can be hard to walk down.

This issue is not limited to Gulu, or to Uganda, take a look at the environment around you at home, at work, at school, is your community doing enough for people with disabilities? Everyday obstacles like these make it hard for people with disabilities to lead an independent life. And obstacles to schooling, like toilets that are not accessible, make it hard for children with disabilities to receive an education. I head into GDPU tomorrow morning to begin my summer fellowship. I’m excited to learn more about this issue and about GDPU and to share their stories here. So check back to see the great work that GDPU is doing to advocate for persons with disabilities in Gulu!

 

Posted By Lauren Halloran (Uganda)

Posted May 31st, 2017

7 Comments

  • SweaterVest

    June 1, 2017

     

    Keep up the good work. God bless you and may his spirit propel you during your difficult journey!

  • Carli

    June 2, 2017

     

    Lauren! What an awesome project. I am excited to follow along via your blog. I remember spending a day in a wheelchair in La Crosse…a relatively accessible city. Still, it was work. I can only imagine what challenges you will find, good luck!!

  • SpazBoy

    June 3, 2017

     

    We’re excited to hear more about your journey, it certainly is something that we all can think of more often in our daily lives.

  • Iain

    June 5, 2017

     

    Hi Lauren. Impressive that you’re already trying to understand what life is like for people with disabilities. You’re taking on a tough assignment, but all starts with empathy and understanding. Can’t think of anyone better equipped tp offer that than you.

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