Seeing these three outside of the Gulu Disabled Persons’ Union office, I wish more than ever that I could be in Uganda this summer to witness them in action. The work that they are doing will not only positively impact their organization’s own members, but can serve as an example for others in the world to follow.
My first three weeks of this fellowship have increased my motivation to encourage people from all parts of life to dedicate time and effort to making a difference. Having learned about the three individuals in this photo, I can confidently say that they have the academic achievement and the potential to pursue any lucrative career path just for the sake of economic success. At the same time, their passion to bring change leads them to strive to create opportunities for people whom their society unfairly disregards.
Ojok Patrick, for example, holds a diploma in education and a degree in public administration. His educational background, along with his career experience, could easily qualify him for a government position, but instead he chooses to work with nonprofit organizations to make a real difference in people’s lives.
As the coordinator of GDPU, Patrick is committed to working tirelessly to ensure that the laws that are on the books in the Gulu District to protect those who live with a disability are implemented. While I haven’t had the privilege to meet him in person, Patrick and I have been in frequent communication over the last few weeks. He is a gentleman – smart, and very thoughtful. He enjoys raising domestic animals including birds and dogs. And we discovered that we share a love for soccer. Patrick’s knowledge, experience, and leadership have already become apparent to me during the short time I’ve known him, and I feel that I can draw from his example throughout my future career in public service.
The next individual that I had the chance to participate in virtual meetings with is Ajok Emma. In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in community based rehabilitation, Emma has a career background in organizing and education. Prior to becoming the Assistant Coordinator for GDPU, she has participated in research on public health and disability advocacy and has cooperated with teachers and parents to create more inclusivity in schools for children with disabilities.
Emma has a variety of hobbies such as traveling, touring, and cooking which easily connect her with other human beings. Although she does not have a disability herself, Emma is determined to contribute to narrowing the opportunity gap that disadvantages disabled people in the Gulu District. Her deep commitment is evident from her continuing work on the WASH project as well as her involvement in the two new projects that GDPU and AP have undertaken to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the disabled community, the production of Clean Wash liquid soap and Mama Masks.
Musema Faruk, meanwhile, was inspired to study special needs education and earn a bachelor’s degree in social works and community development after witnessing the discrimination that his friends with disabilities went through during their childhood.
He has been with the Gulu Disabled Persons Union since 2014, with the exception of the seven months in 2019 that he spent attending a leadership program for social visionaries in India. With GDPU, he has served as a guidance counselor and offered skills training to youth with disabilities, as well as worked as a project assistant for the WASH project.
A soccer player and fan, Faruk also started the Ability Sports Africa initiative to support the participation of children with disabilities in sports and physical education, and he currently coaches the Gulu Deaf Football Club. Faruk’s hard work is preparing a new generation living with disabilities to embrace life with more optimism and confidence so that these youths can fight for their rights in society and become the leaders of tomorrow.
These impressive individuals are a source of inspiration for me, given that I, too, live with a disability, and I believe that their efforts in the Gulu District will yield valuable and priceless contributions. Uganda experienced twenty years of war that finally ended in 2006, meaning that Patrick, Emma, and Faruk grew up in the midst of this turmoil that resulted in large economic disparities.
As I continue to hear their stories and experiences of moving forward in a post-conflict setting, I believe that we in the West have a moral obligation to continue to strengthen the work that they are doing on the ground. The world is a global village, and injustice that affects one person can carry repercussions for all of us no matter how far away we live.
Posted By Wilson Charles
Posted Jul 4th, 2020