I thoroughly enjoy sharing my stories and the stories of others during my experience in northern Uganda with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union (G.D.P.U.) through this blog. There are more blogs to come covering such topics as inclusive sports, yoga for children with disabilities, my Acholi family, the status and implementation of accessible toilets for persons with disabilities in northern Uganda and a certain dance off between me and an Acholi woman at a cultural performance show. However I would like to try something different and feature a guest blogger, my good friend Ojok Patrick. Patrick is a Field Officer at the G.D.P.U. and has an amazing story of success and the places you can go if you believe in yourself.
By Ojok Patrick, Field Officer for the Gulu Disabled Persons Union
I am a male Ugandan with a physical disability. I became disabled when I was a kid. The cause of my disability was the administration of an injection on my nerves by medical personnel when I got malaria when I was 2 years old. This paralyzed my right leg and made me walk with difficulty. I did not know I was a disabled child but each time I played with other children they often insulted my disability. This made me very frustrated as a kid. By the time I started schooling that is when I started walking long distances and could feel lots of pain on my hip. This made my life in school really difficult and I would not manage to travel to school every day. I had to miss school at least twice a week until I was taken to where my father was working as that school was very close to our home in the Masindi district (western part of Uganda).
As a child while studying in primary and secondary school I did not have problems because I was doing well in class and because of that I had lots of friends as they wanted me to help them with their assignments and tests. After completing my secondary education I was admitted to University on a private sponsorship as my parents could not afford school fees. I then joined a Teacher training college where I qualified with a Diploma in Education to teach in secondary School. I taught for six years, then left and worked as a development worker with the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU), associated with the Gulu Disabled Person’s Union. I then left to work as Program Assistant with the Private Partners Collaborating Together Incorporation (Pact Inc.) providing small grant for DPO’s (DPO’s are representative organizations or groups of persons with disabilities) in Gulu and Lira. Currently I am working as Field Officer in the inclusive disability sports project, one of GDPU programs to build the self esteem of children with disabilities through sports.
Ojok Patrick leading a training session to develop the skills of peer mentors with disabilities to counsel younger persons with disabilities
After ten years, I went back to the University and completed a bachelor’s degree in public administration and Management in 2011. This will now allow me to compete favorably in the current scarce job markets in Uganda. In Uganda it’s not easy to get a job as there are lots of qualified people who are degree holders floating on street. This is even worse for PWDs (persons with disabilities) as most employers think they cannot perform well at a work place. Lucky enough for my case I have been able to get jobs to support my family, maybe because my disability is not very severe that is why I have been able to get jobs.
I am married man and now have two children; I also support two other children who are orphans, they are children of our close relative and have no place to stay so we agreed to take care of them. Both I and my wife have a contract job to support our family. In Uganda because of the attitude that people have on PWDs it is very difficult to maintain a relationship, more especially when you are poor and have no job. We have now been in our marriage for ten years. To be honest there is nothing impossible in this world, no matter what physical challenge you may have, if you are confident and believe in yourself you can also achieve like others have achieved.
Ojok Patrick, a Field Officer at the Gulu Disabled Persons Union achieved much success in his life through his education and belief in himself.
Apwoyo matek (Thank you),
Posted By Dane Macri
Posted Sep 11th, 2012