My time here in Gulu with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) has thus far been nothing short of incredible. The staff, Emma, Mary, Brenda, Ruth, Walter, Patrick, Charles, and Faruk continue to welcome me with kindness and smiles on a daily basis, making work at GDPU seem more and more like a place I can see myself spending far more than ten weeks.
While I have experienced many new things, perhaps my favorite is spending time with the students in their classes. Here at GDPU, there are over 65 students between the ages of 16 – 30 (some boarding while others are day scholars) who are beneficiaries of a UK-based organization grant which enables them to spend six months at GDPU. During these six months, the students take a course in a particular field in the hopes of assisting them pursue a career. Some of these courses include knitting, tailoring, boda boda (motorcycle) repair, phone repair, hair styling, and handicrafts.
Due to the student’s disabilities and/or family’s financial status, all of them are no longer enrolled in school. Some have received very little to no schooling, with the opportunity to receive skills-based learning coming as a blessing to the students and their families. Not only does learning a new skill assist in establishing a career, but also allows the students to create friendships with other students with disabilities.
Over the course of my time here, I have spent much of my time in Brenda’s knitting class and Charles’ boda boda repair class. Brenda’s class is composed of about a dozen students, all girls and Francis, an incredibly talented blind knitter who has a great sense of humor and a love of Gospel music. Charles’ class on the other hand is all boys, also about a dozen, with a third of them being deaf and communicating through sign language.
During my second visit to Brenda’s class, I asked her students if they would like for me to play some music from my speaker. After an excited “YES!” we put on Apple Music’s Top 100: Uganda and danced, sang, and laughed. Since that day, it has become customary for me to bring my speaker to Brenda’s class and for the students to dance and enjoy, as well as watch the Mzungu attempt to dance.
The first couple of weeks, I found myself eating at Elephante Commons, a DELICIOUS restaurant across the street from GDPU. However, this past week, I decided that I’d rather spend my time eating lunch with the students at GDPU. Every day the students are served posho (or rice) and beans. While I was not fond of the posho (corn flour porridge) at first, I have developed a liking towards it and getting to speak to the students outside during lunch.
With the money I saved from not eating out for the week, I decided to go to Elephante Commons and buy some desserts for some of the students. I purchased a dozen brownies and a dozen lemon bars which were INCREDIBLE. I gave them to the students, all of which had never tried a brownie or a lemon bar before. They were a HIT to say the least.
During my first visit to Charles’ class, I was greeted by all of the boys. Upon arrival, the students introduced themselves to me either through speech or sign language, and after class, spent time teaching me sign language which was an incredible experience. While I still have a lot to learn, I have been practicing, allowing me to greet and communicate with all students at GDPU.
Posted By Kyle Aloof
Posted Jun 6th, 2022