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!"



The Gulu Disabled Persons Union

24 Aug

Getting to know the work of GDPU takes a bit of time. Not all of it can be categorized into specific formalized programs but it is instead a response to the needs of the community. This means that getting a good understanding of the work going on at GDPU takes a good part of the summer. So, although this is a late introduction, I’d like to introduce the four people I spent the most time working with this summer and the work that they do at GDPU.

GDPU and friends gathered outside the compound.

GDPU and friends gathered outside the compound.

Before I dive into the four people I worked closest with I have one note: apart from one staff member, everyone at GDPU is a volunteer. Each person I’ve worked with decided to stay with GDPU when projects ended and funding ran out, their outside lives help to sustain them but even that is minimal. Their dedication to GDPU comes from a variety of sources, it’s something to put on the resume, the volunteer work gives good experience, the staff believe in the work itself; but regardless of the specific reason for staying, their experiences have inspired them to continue their work. That is not to say that they’re always optimistic about their work or are happy to be in this situation, however, they find ways to keep GDPU functioning.

Faruk (on right) at the Ogul Primary School Handing Over Ceremony.

Faruk (on right) at the Ogul Primary School Handing Over Ceremony.

My first coworker I’d like to introduce works with the Youth Development Program. This program taught skills to youth with disabilities to help them become economically independent. Students were taught one of five skills: welding, electrical repair, hairdressing, motorcycle repair, and sweater knitting. He’s also involved in the next phase of the project, Enhancing the Capacity of GDPU, which helps graduates of the first phase of the program develop business management skills, conflict resolution skills, and further training in their skill area. Faruk is also helping to apply for more grants for sports programs at GDPU. A graduate of Kyambogo University, Faruk is constantly searching for other jobs, however, he remains at GDPU because of the community and experiences he’s found there.

 

GDPU Staff member Mary

GDPU Staff member Mary

Lakot Mary, the GDPU accountant, graduated from Gulu University with a degree in accounting and is currently pursuing her CPA certification. She lives in Gulu with her son and has been working hard to cultivate her farm that is about an hour outside Gulu. Mary has a great sense of humor and, like everyone at GDPU, is learning sign language so that she can communicate with people who walk into GDPU. One of my favorite times with Mary was when I came back to GDPU around 6pm exhausted and found Mary dancing with the deaf dance club with a huge smile on her face. Mary is a great addition to the GDPU team because of the laughter and joy she brings with her.

 

Walter, our driver, careens down severely pot-holed roads in a strangely controlled fashion that after a couple drives with him becomes less terrifying. I believe he’s been described as fearless in the past and I would not disagree. Walter worked at the Post Office for twenty years as a driver and usually drove the Kampala-Gulu-Kitigum bus to deliver mail and people to various places along the route. He has a farm in the Ogul Primary School community and was a huge help to me in the second half of my internship when he and I would go out and get materials and bring them to site. Walter’s negotiation skills kept the cost of materials down and his driving meant we got all the materials to site safely and quickly.

Patrick with GDPU during one of our first visits to Ogul Primary.

Patrick with GDPU during one of our first visits to Ogul Primary.

If you’ve followed previous Peace Fellows’ blogs from GDPU, Patrick has been present throughout, not always the point person but always present. And from that first day onward I have felt more at ease when I’m able to discuss and work on issues alongside him. Patrick’s knowledge, patience, and experience are unmatched at GDPU. He is the heart of the place and I’m not sure what will happen when he eventually retires. In the last few weeks of my time here, Patrick and I dealt with issues surrounding the construction contractor as well as the laborers themselves. I’ve been amazed by his ability to make people feel like they’ve been listened to and understood while still making sure that we get done what we need to get done. I’ve taken to heart the lessons Patrick has inadvertently taught me on patience and respect that he shows to everyone he works alongside.

It’s been a great summer getting to know the work of GDPU and my coworkers in Gulu. Like most jobs there were ups and downs, but overall I really appreciated my time in Gulu and the laughter I shared with my coworkers.

Posted By Lauren Halloran (Uganda)

Posted Aug 24th, 2017

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