Chris Markomanolakis (Uganda)

Christopher Markomanolakis graduated from Towson University in 2012 with degrees in Political Science and Metropolitan. He served in the United States Peace Corps as a community health volunteer for three years (2014-2017). During the first two years, he worked on a wide variety of projects/programs including water sanitation, youth empowerment, HIV/AIDS awareness, increasing the capacity of health care providers, and many more. After the first two years, Chris became an Assistant Project Manager with Catholic Relief Service’s Accelerating Stunting Reduction Program which focused on reducing stunting by providing pregnant women with nutrition counseling and giving them to tools and skills needed to maintain a home garden. Chris’ responsibilities included facilitating seminars, distributing inputs, designing and constructing solar dryers, and reporting on project indicators. Now Chris has begun studying to earn a Masters of Public Management from the University of Maryland. He has been rewarded several fellowships including the TIAA Nonprofit Leaders Fellowship, Coverdell Fellowship, and the Global Philanthropy Service Fellowship. During the winter of 2017, he worked as a consultant with the Grameen Foundation’s Bankers without Borders and the Wildlife Trust of India(WTI). His team conducted a quantitative analysis to measure the WTI’s impact on female empowerment and conservation within the Valmiki Tiger Reserve. With June just around the corner, Chris is eager to begin training with The Advocacy Project and help the Gulu Disabled Persons Union promote sustainable WASH practices in Gulu, Uganda. After returning from his fellowship over the summer, Chris discussed with AP the impacts the fellowship had on him. "AP gave me the opportunity to stand on my own two legs. Graduate school loves to teach theory and best practices, but AP allowed me to take those lessons and apply them in real life. It was the best ten weeks of my life and it gave me the confidence to pursue a career in international development."

Ivan Olanya

28 Jul



Ivan Olanya at Tochi

Advocacy Project first met Ivan in 2015 at Tochi Primary School. He is a bright student with a one track mind. “I do not want a girlfriend; I just want to study to reach Standard 4.” When I ask him about after he finishes secondary school, he grins and looks down at the grass, “We’ll see.”

Ivan suffers from a mild form of cerebral palsy which makes walking painful. He aspires to be an electrical engineer and to repay his mother, who has been supporting him, single-handedly, his whole life. “She doesn’t have a job; she works on the farm so that I can stay at a private school”. Ivan says his mom was the only person to encourage him. “You know, children just like to tease. Its fine until they realize you are not like them,  that you are different. Once they see you cannot run or jump or play football, they just laugh at you”.  Ivan goes silent for a long minute, reliving some of the bullying was clearly a lot to bear. “I could not even go to the bathroom because it hurts when I squat. This is why the [GDPU latrine] was so helpful for me. I could use the handrails without pain or fear of falling over.”

He goes silent again, this time for much longer. He eventually comes back with a softer look on his face. “It’s better now that I am in secondary school. The students are much friendlier and there are other disabled students there. People still make jokes, but that does not matter. My disability does not stop me from doing anything.” The shift in optimism was stark but genuine. It seems like Ivan is used to shaking it off, letting go of the past in exchange for the future. Within seconds, he is talking about physics and mathematics. From 2015 to today

Ivan has blossomed. He thanks GDPU and AP for helping him feel more comfortable in school and I thanked him for being an inspiration.

Ivan Olanya at Tochi

Posted By Chris Markomanolakis (Uganda)

Posted Jul 28th, 2018


  • Corinne Cummings

    July 30, 2018


    Hi there Chris — thank you for interviewing Ivan! I know of Ivan because I am creating the GDPU profiles. I will make sure to add this information into Ivan’s profile. I was unaware that Ivan has cerebral palsy — it was never mentioned in earlier blogs that initially introduced him. Through your blog, I learned how incredibly strong Ivan is as he does not let his disability negatively affect his life, despite the difficulties he faces — he is a true inspiration. I have a family member who also has cerebral palsy; it is hard to watch them go about their daily routines and know of the pain that they experience. I wish Ivan the very best with his future…I am so happy to have learned more about him. Keep up the good work Chris — I look forward to your next blog. Best, Corinne

  • Princia Vas

    July 30, 2018


    Great pictures and profile of Ivan! I loved that you shared direct quotes from him which makes this post an even more interesting read.

  • Ali

    July 30, 2018


    Hey Chris, thank you for sharing! Ivan’s story is very powerful and goes to show just how important AP and GDPU’s partnership is. Keep it up!

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