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!"

Making a dent – reflecting on my time with GDPU

08 Oct
Ogul PS latrine block installed by a different NGO.

Ogul PS latrine block installed by a different NGO.

When I first tried writing this reflection I was back from Uganda but my semester had not started yet and I was struggling with how to convey the various things I learned from this summer. Since getting back into the swing of school again, I am looking at my summer a little bit differently. I am still incredibly grateful and honored by the opportunity and I will not forget the people I worked alongside who are continuing to do great work in Gulu. I also won’t forget Gulu, a very unique city in Northern Uganda, that was home for ten weeks. However, one of the things that I keep coming back to about this summer is the lack of international programming dedicated to persons with disabilities (PWDs) or that considers their needs, requirements, and rights. A glaring example for me were the latrines that were installed at Ogul Primary School by a different NGO a few years back. The girls toilets were supposed to be accessible, I think, however, there was no path leading to them from the school (so someone in a wheel chair could not access them), and they were just squat latrines without any handrails to help students with physical disabilities. So although the idea of installing latrines was a good thought for the school, the project didn’t go all the way through to consider all of the students who may need to use the toilets.

It seems that persons with disabilities are often forgotten in planning and programming. Working with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) this summer I worked alongside people who were striving hard to make a difference in their community with minimal resources. I learned a lot of things from them and from my work but one of the most critical lessons was the need to encourage awareness and action among neighborhoods, communities, national, and international organizations to ensure the needs and rights of PWDs are taken into account. We did this at Ogul Primary School and I was happy that the school was open to the lessons we brought with us and felt comfortable enough to ask their questions. However, more needs to be done and GDPU just doesn’t have the resources to do it on their own, other organizations need to step up to the plate and make sure their programming is inclusive.

Students from a former GDPU program designed to teach PWDs skills like electrical repair gather for a focus group over the summer.

Students from a former GDPU program designed to teach PWDs skills like electrical repair gather for a focus group over the summer.

Looking back on my work this summer, I am very proud of all of it. I’m happy that Ogul Primary School was open and welcoming to the accessible toilet project and that the local government officials turned out for the handing over ceremony to lend their voices in support of sanitation, hygiene, and disability rights. Despite being proud of this, there were times when I felt like I could’ve done more. We always do when we’re confronted with a large problem like improving the lives and opportunities for PWDs. But on returning to school, I was reminded in one of my classes this semester that despite facing an immense and daunting issue (disability rights) we are all still able to make a dent. We aren’t going to solve the world’s problems because that is not the job of one person or one organization, however, we can make a dent. I made a dent this summer and I intend to continue to do so.

Standing with Ogul Primary School's Head Teacher in front of the new latrines!

Standing with Ogul Primary School’s Head Teacher in front of the new latrines!

Posted By Lauren Halloran (Uganda)

Posted Oct 8th, 2017

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