This past week has presented itself with some challenges for me. I’ve been adjusting to this new environment while still dealing with life that is waiting for me in the US in addition to the work here having a bit of a monkey wrench thrown into the mix. More on that in a bit, but I want to first thank and recognize the head honcho of the GDPU, Patrick Ojok.
Patrick has been managing the GDPU for many years and has been an AP partner for over 5. Prior to joining the GDPU he was a teacher. Last week he drove me all over Gulu on his motorbike as we went to assess schools for their level of accessibility. It was heartwarming to see that at just about every school, Patrick saw a teacher who was once his student.
We visited 6 different schools in the Gulu Municipality last week to determine where the best setting would be for our project. The good news is that almost all of the schools that we visited had made made improvements in their facilities and had latrines that were new and accessible. Some other good news is that every school we visited was interested in inclusion training, which is definitely needed. Despite having great intentions, the teachers and administration need some education about what having a disability means and what a person with a disability is capable of accomplishing.
While our field visits showed great progress it also presented some issues for our plan for the project this year. We are able to provide inclusion training to multiple schools it’s unclear if any of these particular schools would benefit from a new latrine. I suppose that adjusting plans is something that comes with the territory of this type of work and what can seem like a perfect idea in planning stages often doesn’t work because of various unforeseen circumstances. Although it’s frustrating, it’s also an opportunity to rethink a plan of action to make the right kind of impact.
Another thing that comes with the territory with this type of international work is getting to know and understand a new culture. While Patrick and I were thinking of how to move forward with our project, I was able to go on another type of field visit with him and other GDPU staff to Odek, where some of the team has been conducting research. Odek is about an hour and a half from Gulu and is where the LRA leader Joseph Kony is originally from. When I learned that we were in a place where such a violent and evil person grew up I got a queasy feeling in my stomach. When I met some of the people who live in the town, I couldn’t help but reflect again on the resilience of people but also notice the way that grief is handled so differently here.
Loss is something that seems so familiar within the community and, from what I’ve observed, feelings don’t stop people from doing what they need to do every day. Some of my GDPU coworkers have lost friends and family members recently and have said little more about it than “it happens.” The social worker in me could have a field day with writing on this topic and while I’ll refrain from opining on if this is a “right” or “wrong” way of managing grief and loss, I will say it’s been complicated for me to understand how to manage my (many) emotions while I’m here.
I think the challenge and gift of this fellowship is to cope with change in it’s various forms in an unfamiliar place. Some of these struggles feel difficult to manage right now but I’m hopeful that both the GDPU and I will come out stronger at the end of this.
Posted By Amy Gillespie (Uganda)
Posted Jun 27th, 2016