John Steies

John Steies (Gulu Disabled Persons Union – GDPU): John received his Bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from Minnesota State University. At the time of his fellowship John was pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy degree at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs where he also served as president of the student group Dialogues in International Security and Peace (DISP). After his fellowship, John wrote: "I can’t speak enough about the power of people from different backgrounds, and those thousands and thousands of miles away from one another, coming together to collaborate on such a wonderful and worthwhile cause."

Week 1 @ GDPU

06 Jun

Greetings! This post marks my first from the offices of the GDPU here in Gulu, Uganda. After traveling from training in Washington D.C. to Cairo for a brief 4 day stay, I arrived in Kampala last Friday and stayed the night there. Saturday morning I departed on a bus trip from Kampala to Gulu on what turned out to be an 8 hour trip that included a 15 minute thunderstorm that soaked the bottom of my backpack, and a brief 20 minute breakdown of the bus which actually provided us some time to walk around and stretch our legs while I took some photographs. An event filled trip to Gulu to say the least!

On to the important stuff…

Today I met Patrick Ojok, Program Coordinator for the GDPU. Patrick explained some important information regarding GDPU and its subsidiaries. The GDPU is an umbrella organization that works with and advocates on behalf of those with a variety of disabilities and not just those that require wheelchairs to accommodate. GDPU supports groups that work for hearing and vision impaired individuals as well. All of these offices are conveniently located in one area for easy transmission of information between the groups.
We discussed the daily activities at GDPU and they have a well-organized plan. At the outset of each month, the staff gathers to devise a work plan for the ensuing month. These plans include a combination of days spent at the office doing work, days in the community speaking to those who have been in touch with GDPU, and time reviewing facilities such as the aforementioned handicap accessible toilet facility which still needs work to be completed that is near the bus park here in Gulu. Later in the summer there will be tours provided to GDPU donors and an activity which I am particularly excited about, an Olympics for youth with disabilities. The GDPU is involved in athletic rehabilitation for people with disabilities, an important aspect of social inclusion that I became interested in when discussing it with an advisor of mine back at the University of Minnesota.

I look forward to sharing the stories of people with disabilities here with you including one of an inspiring young man named Okello Charles, who communicates via sign language, was taught the skill of carpentry which is now how he makes a living. In addition, he makes toilet seats that are handicap accessible which GDPU purchases from him to distribute to those in need in the community. This is just one of the many instances of GDPU making a difference in people with disabilities lives here in Gulu.
All in all, it sounds like a very busy and productive summer is ahead. The GDPU has great goals for itself and the people it advocates for and I am excited to get to work. I promise my future posts will not be so dry! I am just trying to lay a good foundation and understanding of the organization before I start sharing the stories of the people here and the work our organization is doing.

Posted By John Steies

Posted Jun 6th, 2013

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