John Steies

John Steies (Gulu Disabled Persons Union – GDPU): John received his Bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Minnesota State University. At the time of his fellowship John was pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy degree at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs where he also served as president of the student group Dialogues in International Security and Peace (DISP). After his fellowship, John wrote: "I can’t speak enough about the power of people from different backgrounds, and those thousands and thousands of miles away from one another, coming together to collaborate on such a wonderful and worthwhile cause."

Conclusion of the IDS Program

13 Aug

The children are very anxious to receive their awards

As noted in earlier blogs, the Inclusive Disability Sports (IDS) program was something I was extremely excited about when I learned of it here at the GDPU. A program teaching kids about disability and including those who may be different from them is critically important in a society where it is difficult to find resources for disabled people. All of this is why seeing this 7-week IDS season through to completion alongside my co-workers at the GDPU was such a great opportunity.

One IDS Football squad is made up of children who are deaf

It all culminated in Awards Day this past Saturday. Participating children came to the GDPU offices like any other IDS Saturday and played sports which included soccer, volleyball, bocce ball, showdown and wheelchair basketball. Upon completion of these games, the children gathered to hear local government officials and GDPU chairmen applaud them for their successful season and all that they had learned when it comes to disability and including those who are disabled in their society as they grow up and become the leaders in this community.

Participants are awarded with their medals, full-on Olympic style

The looks on the children’s faces as they saw the medals and jerseys they were to receive for participation in this program were priceless. In true Olympic style, children came forth and had their respective medals placed around their necks one-by-one. It was clear seeing the way they interacted with one another that they weren’t just happy to have these medals for showing up, but they were genuinely happy with the entire situation and for making new friends that they could share this happiness with. Throughout the program I saw countless instances of just kids helping other kids crossing the disabled, able-bodied boundaries and just playing with one another in each way they knew how. One child helping a mentally challenged participant take a drink of water, kids guarding the out of bounds lines on the basketball court and sprinting to retrieve a lost ball and racing back to the court to give it to another kid playing wheelchair basketball, or just lending a helping hand as the children re-loaded onto the bus to head home after a day of IDS. In each instance, you could see the power of this program and the affect it could have on this community as these kids grow up with eachother remembering the days spent playing sports together at the GDPU.

IDS Awards Day

Spectators watch as the wheelchair basketball teams put on a show

As the day drew to a close, the kids celebrated as Ugandan’s of all ages know how to do so well, with dance. One young man using the assistance of a walking brace was the star of the show, clearly doing his best to imitate the moves he had seen in the latest music video’s here in Uganda and doing it quite well. He was soon joined by many of the other children as the ones who had already boarded the bus looked on with a hint of jealousy upon their face.

Kids celebrate the days conclusion with some song and dance

This program came full circle in a really incredible way and I believe  it will leave an indelible mark on the children who participate in it. The IDS program is in it’s final year of funding with another 7-week season beginning in October. I’ve seen first hand that it would be in the best interest of many people for this program to continue with the GDPU’s strong leadership.

Some of the IDS basketball coaches show off their certificates

GDPU Chairman Ongon Simon speaks to the crowd as his words are signed for those in attendance who are deaf

Posted By John Steies

Posted Aug 13th, 2013

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