Amy Gillespie (Uganda)

Amy is currently a graduate student at New York University earning her MPH with a concentration in Global Health Leadership. She also earned her MSW from Simmons College, where she took her first trip to Uganda to work with local NGOs around issue related to HIV/AIDS and women's rights. Amy has several years of experience working as a social worker in various settings such as hospitals and homeless shelters. Her experiences motivated her to want to learn how to research, evaluate and create programs to provide support to vulnerable populations. She has taken the time back in school to explore many areas of public health and is currently interning at the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene assisting with research around foodborne diseases as well as working as a Researcher Assistant with the NYU EMPOWER lab, focusing on women who have been victims of sexual trafficking and abuse. After her fellowship, Amy wrote: "This fellowship was not always easy but 'easy' things don't help you learn or push yourself. Over the course of the summer I've learned a lot about myself personally and professionally and I will take those lessons with me for the rest of me life."

Training the trainers: bringing inclusive trainings to schools

08 Aug

Patrick working the room

Last week was a busy one where we accomplished teacher trainings around inclusion in two different schools. It was by far my favorite part of the fellowship thus far for a couple different reasons. The first is that I’m a big believer in communication being a catalyst for change. It’s amazing the damage that misconceptions can do, not just here in Gulu but everywhere. I was really happy to be a part of bringing accurate information about disabilities to a group of teachers who, with the right knowledge could make a big difference to children enrolled in schools.

The second reason the trainings were a highlight was because I got to see the entire GDPU team work together and show off their own talents. I worked with two volunteers who also assisted with trainings, Emma and Faruk, to organize all of our materials and ensure all the details were taken care of. Then I got to see the two of them as well as Patrick in action in front of a group of teachers.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Patrick is a former teacher and it certainly showed when he got up to do his training parts. He’s got charisma and a sense of humor that really drew all of the teachers in and got them interested. One thing I really admired was his self- disclosure about his own experiences living with a disability. Patrick walks with a limp from a reaction to a vaccine as a child and has overcome many barriers to get to where he is today. It brings a new meaning to the training and I think to the teachers, to see someone in front of them with a disability and to see what they are capable of accomplishing. The unique part of the GDPU is that it was started by people with disabilities so they know the unique challenges that people in the community face and are able to advocate for them in important ways.


Faruk leading an exercise about labeling

It was Faruk’s first time doing a training and he handled himself really well at the first school. Speaking in front of others has never been at the top of my list of things to do, so I felt for him even though he hid his nerves when doing his part. I could see the confidence grow in him grow in the second training and it’s clear he is going to be an important part of trainings in the future.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from all of the teachers during the trainings. We came in mid-day after they had already had a pretty busy day and we had a full schedule of lessons and activities for them. If it were me I know that I would have had a difficult time staying focused. All of them they face countless daily stressors like dealing with lack of classroom space and managing far too many students then they ought to. I’m sure there is a whole host of issues that they think about every day and they may not have known the importance of understanding disabilities until someone brought the issue to their attention. Once the training got started they blew me away with their interest, sensitivity and participation. Both schools had a really dedicated staff and its clear how much they want to support their students.


A dedicated teacher who had to care for her child but was motivated to learn

The training consists of a lot of activities that promote empathy in order to break down barriers and stigma. Much like seeing a successful person with a disability in front of you conducting a training, activities that allowed the teachers to put themselves in the shoes of a person with a disability and think about their feelings really seemed to help make a connection.

Here is a  video of the  “closer” of the training called “Game of Life”, an  exercise is to help the teachers visualize the gap that exists for people with disabilities in in Uganda.




Posted By Amy Gillespie (Uganda)

Posted Aug 8th, 2016


  • Rachael Hughen

    August 9, 2016


    Great work, and the best part of this is to hear that the teachers are so eager and receptive with these trainings! That will certainly make GDPU’s work go much more smoothly, and its obvious they care about all of their students. Good luck with your last few weeks!

  • Amanda Reis

    August 10, 2016


    So glad to hear training went well! It seems you’re making great use of your time in Uganda and the impact of your fellowship will be a lasting one. Really looking forward to the video!

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