Hello, my name is Dane Macri. If you are just joining me you are coming at the start of what is to be a once in a life time experience in northern Uganda where I have been privileged enough to serve as a Peace Fellow for the organization the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (GDPU) through the NGO the Advocacy Project. For the next three months I will be working as advocate for a much marginalized community in northern Uganda, persons with disabilities. I will be working in outreach, fundraising and ICT support, telling peoples’ stories through creating profiles and videos and assisting in strategic planning with the GDPU to meet long term goals and create social change. All the while I will be sharing my experiences with you through this blog.
However, if you are going to join me electronically for this journey I feel we should start at the beginning of this story, the very beginning. The unlikely beginning of this journey started 5 years ago with a reluctant trip to the mall, a cinnabon and a little bit of fate, otherwise known as serendipity.
(The cinnabon really has nothing to do with the story, it was just too delicious not to mention)
Serendipity and the Cinnabon
Five years ago I reluctantly went on a mall- date with a girl who just wanted to ‘look around’. This concept of looking at clothes always baffled me. If you were going to ‘just’ look at something it might as well be interesting and entertaining. Needless to say my alternative of ‘just’ looking at the basketball game was declined.
While standing around aimlessly as my lady friend perused jeans that were purposefully pre-ripped (a baffling concept to me) I came across a documentary about Uganda. Now I am not an experienced shopper by any means. In fact, I dislike going to the mall so much I usually reward myself for the unwelcomed trip with a cinnabon. However, despite my low shopping I.Q. I am aware that movies are not typically sold in clothing stores, especially movies documenting the issue of child soldiers in Uganda. This is where I believe fate stepped in.
In addition to my habitual cinnabon purchase that day I also bought a documentary about child soldiers in Uganda entitled Invisible Children: The Rough Cut. After watching it I instantly became disgusted and inspired by what I saw. I was made aware of the human rights violations occurring in Uganda and had developed a thirst for learning more about this issue. If children were being abducted by the thousands in Canada, forced to kill their own relatives and systematically conscripted through fear and traumatic abuse to become soldiers for a heinous rebel group something would be done to stop this. Why not in Uganda? I became inspired to get involved to some capacity.
This inspiration led me to northern Uganda in the summer of 2011 where I served as an instructor for the Invisible Children Teacher Exchange program, team teaching with a Ugandan teacher and focusing on critical pedagogy, student-centered methodologies and initiating an after school ultimate Frisbee club. During my stay in Gulu I met a wonderful man named Richard Omana while walking down the street. Richard literally rolled up next to me. He was in a bulky three wheeled wheelchair that looked more like a Roman chariot than the wheelchairs I have been accustom to seeing in Canada. Richard exercised his mobility in his chair by using his hands to peddle a chain similar to that of a bicycle. Richard and I had an instant connection and became great friends. He introduced me to the place which he described as ‘the only place where he could use the bathroom’. This place was the Gulu Disabled Persons Union, otherwise known as the GDPU. This place also had the only wheelchair accessible washroom for a person with a disability in the entire region. During my stay in Gulu in 2011, this was the place I felt I had been called to. On my days off from teaching I helped coach the youth wheel chair basketball league. I also met a Peace Fellow named Rebecca who told me ALL about the Advocacy Project and the wonderful work they do. And the rest they say, is history.
Richard and I after he made me a traditional Ugandan shirt. Richard makes a living through being an excellent tailor
Can you believe I wanted to watch basketball that day instead of going to the mall?!
APWOYO MATEK (thank you) and peace,
Next Blog Topic: The Advocacy Project, the GDPU and my Expectation
Posted By Dane Macri
Posted Jun 21st, 2012