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Welcome Summer 2014 Interns!

U-TOUCH welcomes Vanessa Roy and Grace Harter to the U-TOUCH team for Summer 2014!

Vanessa

Vanessa Roy was born in Missoula, Montana where she earned her BA in Social Work from the University of Montana in 2009. After graduation, she workedas a case manager at a YWCA domestic violence shelter and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine. In 2013 Vanessa began studying for her Masters in Economics and International Development at Johns Hopkins SAIS. This summer she will be interning at U-TOUCH working on curriculum development.

 

 

GraceGrace Harter was born in Washington, DC and received a BA in International Studies from Washington College. Soon after graduation, she joined the Peace Corps and served in Ukraine. Currently, she is studying for her Masters in Economics and International Development at Johns Hopkins University. She is excited to work on monitoring and evaluation at U-TOUCH this summer.

 

Compassion to Passion!

Deborah Plotkin speaking at  TEDx San Diego in February 2014

Deb Plotkin: Born and raised in New York City, with the tragic loss of her father early in life, Deborah learned to be strong at an early age, turning hardship into resilience and opportunity. Through her work, she established her path and passion for giving a voice to those in need and a way to fulfill their dreams. Deborah initially became an advocate to give that voice to children with autism. After she and her husband spent years facing challenges trekking mountains in the US, the Himalayas in Nepal, Ecuador and Tanzania, Deborah’s drive and determination to help others only grew. The lessons on the way to the summit were adding up. After facing unexpected storms and avalanches, yet conquering the peaks, it was time to give back. Deborah was instrumental in the fundraising efforts and building of three schools in the Himalayas. Her determination, purpose and meaning in life grew exponentially. Learning about atrocities in northern Uganda, Deborah developed a student sponsorship program for orphans in the region.

 

Jennifer

Jennifer
“U-TOUCH HAS TOUCHED AND CHANGED ME” ~ JENNIFER

I am Amaa Jennifer from Pader Town Council. I am currently working as a Secretary to the office of District Registrar Electoral Commission Pader District. Additionally, I care take the same office in the absence of my boss.

Prior to joining U-TOUCH Pader Center, I was working as Manager Posta Uganda Pader branch. I had no knowledge of computer then.

On the 5th January 2012 after learning of the free training ICT trainings at U-TOUCH Pader Center. I enrolled for the training. My expectation was to obtain the relevant computer skills to enable me acquire a good job with an attractive salary.

At U-TOUCH center Pader, I acquired skills in word processing, editing, formatting, and working with spreadsheets, presentations in powerpoint and web search using Google. My communication also improved because of access to internet.

After three months of training, I was confident that my expectation would soon come to pass. In April 2012, I saw a job advert for Office secretary, Electoral Commission Pader. The job description was just what I was trained on. It was like the job advert was looking for me. I applied and I was shortlisted for interview along with other candidates. Days later, I emerged the best person for the job. This was not by accident but because U-TOUCH had empowered me to be competitive enough for the job.

At work, I apply the skills I learnt from U-TOUCH, to achieve my day to day roles which among others include data entry and management, making PowerPoint presentations for community sensitizations and receiving/sending e-mails from head office, Kampala.

I am happy to share with you my gratitude to U-TOUCH for enabling me achieve my dream. I am hopeful that I will get a promotion in my new job as I continue working hard. Finally, to supplement my salary I intend to start a business in Pader.

Interviewed and compiled by:
Francis Bodo, Project Asst,
U-TOUCH Pader.”

Simon

SimonMy name is Komakech Simon, 23, from Pader Town Council, Northern Uganda. Before Joining U-TOUCH, I was at an impasse. My chances of continuing to the higher Institution were uncertain. I was financially constrained to move further with my education. Then I got relieved when I heard an announcement about the free ICT training at U-TOUCH Center. I had no prior knowledge on computer. On receiving this good news, I began to dream of success because I knew that after attaining that training, I would find something to do and save money to further my education. I enrolled for the free ICT training on 4th February. My ambition was to attain working knowledge in Computer to prepare me for a job.

After the 3 month training, I realized that my life had been totally transformed. I had acquired the skills necessary to create or look for a job. While I was looking for capital, another opportunity presented itself. Gemex Sport Betting Pader wanted competent Ugandans to fill the position of Tellers. Key among the requirements was candidates were required to have excellent computer skills. Equipped with a U-TOUCH certificate of completion, I confidently applied for the position and went through with a lot of ease. I strongly attribute this success to U-TOUCH Pader because they made me emerge the best. At my work place, my roles include entering goal predictions for clients into the system and issuing printed receipts. The software we use is an online spreadsheet application similar to the ones we were trained on, from U-TOUCH center Pader. I plan to raise enough money to enable me continue with my studies at University. I also intend to open up a Video library in Pader Town. Finally, U-TOUCH Digital Library Center Pader has transformed me from nobody to somebody, I would like to convey my appreciation to U-TOUCH for the good work she has done to the jobless youths of Pader.

U-TOUCH PADER

The Catalyst For Long-term Social And Economic Transformation

Pader district, like other districts of Northern Uganda has been a victim of the civil war orchestrated by Lord Joseph Kony. The two decade old war has led to untold suffering of people especially children and youths of school going age. Even when the war ended more than 7 years ago, Pader is still grappling with problems such as high illiteracy rates especially among girls, unemployment, gambling, and disease. Alcoholism and lack of information due to absence of public libraries and internet services.

U-touch-paderIn 2010, U-TOUCH opened its center in Pader with the aim of reversing some of the problems highlighted above. To date, more than 650 youths have been trained on basic ICT Skills. Using the free internet provided by the center, Youths have been empowered with the knowledge and skills to search for jobs online, obtain academic materials online, obtain health information related to Sexual and Adolescent Reproductive Health, Water, Sanitation, Tropical diseases among others. Those with access to capital have started or created jobs for themselves, others have gotten new jobs, and many others have enrolled back to Colleges and other higher institutions of learning in pursuit of academic excellence and employment. The in-school youths are using the internet in their institutions to compare notes. U-TOUCH has transformed the lives countless youths directly and indirectly. Below is a story of one of the many lives touched and transformed by U-TOUCH.

Case Study

My name is Atim Berna Prisca. I joined U-TOUCH Pader on the 1st October 2010 and completed on the 5th February 2011. Before Joining U-TOUCH, I was an English /Literature teacher at Bishop Flynn Secondary School, Pader District. On joining U-TOUCH, My goal was to obtain knowledge and skills on computer usage, to enable me improve my work output at the school. I also wanted to use the internet to create connections to rest of the world through e-mail.

After the 12 week training, I got a promotion as the Deputy Head teacher besides my teaching roles. My output at work increased tremendously,

“Today I type my work on computer, edit, format and print handouts and assignments for my students. This has implified my work at school. I also use the internet to search for news, connect with friends locally and internally, search for phrases on web dictionary and online encyclopedia. The spreadsheet application helps me manage student data with a lot of ease”

My future plan is to upgrade from teaching secondary level to University level and also establish a computer center where people also get access to computer skills and internet.

Finally, I am calling upon all the youths to embrace the free computer skill training U-TOUCH, in order to be competitive for jobs. Most jobs today require computer knowledge. Anybody without ICT skills is disadvantaged and cannot compete for a job. I would also love to see the Resource centers extended to hard to reach areas. To crown it all, great thanks goes to U-TOUCH Pader and all the U-TOUCH community for transforming my life, May you continue touching more lives.

Interviewed By:
FRANCIS BODO – Project Assistant Pader”

Gulu Street Parade & Concert

Earlier this month the U-TOUCH Gulu community decided that they would like to come together to share with the world that theStreet Parade people are so very happy with what U-TOUCH is doing on the ground. We also just so happened to have Bosmic Otim, an incredible Northern Ugandan singer songwriter on our team. We decided to host a street parade and concert to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of the U-TOUCH community and invite others to join the movement. It was incredible to see the large team of volunteers working so hard to organize the event. Sylvia Latim, Maria A., Bosmic, Williams, Patricia and many more were all instrumental in making the event a huge success! Bosmic Otim invited other talented singer songwriters including BS Labong, Pretty B, Joe Emrold, Maria A., and a group he has worked with named “Nile Republic”.

The event began at 10am and we paraded through Gulu with all nine singers and thousands of supporters playing U-TOUCH music. Bosmic led the parade by speaking about the benefits of U-TOUCH in his home town. Students paraded through the streets of Gulu inviting the community to this one of a kind, unparalleled concert with so many fabulous singers who danced, sang and entertained an uproarious crowd excited about our organization.

ConcertThe Concert was held at Kaunda Grounds and began at 1pm and continued well into the night. I was humbled by the opportunity to speak to the crowd of 5000 people singing, dancing, and laughing. Gloria and Grace Kyallo along with Sylvia Latim, a good will ambassador from the UK, spoke. Bosmic and Joe Emrold shared with the roaring crowd the U-TOUCH songs they had written. District officials attended and all were overjoyed with the thousands of supporters cheering and dancing the night away with incredible artists.

It was a perfect day, and I am overjoyed to see that the Gulu Community is in tremendous support of U-TOUCH. I want to say a special thank you to all who volunteered to make this event a reality. Without your hard work the parade and concert would not have been such a huge success. Thank you to Bosmic Otim who has inspired us with his beautiful music and incredible heart.

 

 

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Gulu Town

Uganda1It feels good to be back in my home away from home, in Gulu town.  Each year I return to receive a warmer welcome and from more than the year before.  Each time I see someone for the first time I am swept off my feet with the greatest loving sincere hug after a year’s hiatus from my family away from family. Both the U-TOUCH and AMREF staff shared their joy and love with my return to the Gulu U-TOUCH Digital Center.

Each year I return to find that U-TOUCH has progressed beautifully and grown in so many dimensions. The staff has become even more dedicated to U-TOUCH and their expertise strengthened. The Center is in full swing; there are 14 desktops and 10 laptops in action here in Gulu with 15 connected to the Internet.  The Center looks great and we will be having a painting party soon to brighten it up!

 Gulu CenterUpon arrival, I walked into a training session at Gulu Digital Center where Charles was deeply involved in training a group of Health Workers from Awach Health Center, about 36 km from the Gulu.  The health workers are delighted to be here and do not want to leave as they are excited about the benefits they will derive from having technology in this remote village. You could hear a pin drop as the trainees intently listened to their trainer’s very important word. By the first day the trainees were drawing as well as typing on the computer. As the class came to a close, the trainees shared that they did not want to leave the Digital Center.  They would need to end their first day of training on a Saturday eagerly waiting to return the very next day.

That is the News from the Field today! I hope it gave you a glimpse into life in Gulu. I will be writing again soon to keep you updated on all the latest from U-TOUCH. Please feel free to comment below or write to me on Facebook if you would like to hear about anything in particular!

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Back to Uganda in 2013

Travel from San Diego to Uganda was a bit challenging with pushing, pulling and storing of heavy baggage, delayed flights leading to a missed flight and delayed baggage and exhaustion.  Reading and sleeping was the pattern over the 24 hours but finally arriving in beautiful Uganda dissolved any and all travel woes. Stepping out from the airport to the cloudless blue sky and warm air enveloping my soul all stress was relieved by the kind and warm welcome back to Uganda.  

View of Lake Victoria from the Guest HouseThe driver and helper from Hellen’s Lake View Guesthouse waited patiently for my delayed arrival and drove me up to an oasis in the hills.  Hellen greeted me upon arrival, a beautiful woman with a warm smile and soon to discover a warm heart as well.  After a brief tour of the guesthouse I showered and crawled into a long awaited comfortable bed while the sun shone, a most unusual experience for me.  Closing my eyes to the music of the melodious Ugandan birds I instantly fell into a slumber where I stayed for five hours.  Much to my surprise awakening at 5:20pm I extricated myself from the cozy environs to enjoy the last of the sunshine before the daylight began to turn its back toward Uganda.

I came upstairs to the deck of the guest house where Lake Victoria can easily be seen hugging the shoreline.  You can see for miles from the roof of hills between Entebbe and Kamplala, known as Kijansi.  The lake, beautiful homes, tropical fauna, including fruit trees, sounds of birds, goats, and prayer horns, were a palate of color and symphony welcoming my arrival to Uganda. The calm beauty of Uganda wrapped my body and soul warmly melting away all my stress from the Western world. 

Uganda Flowers

As I sat on the veranda Hellen offered me a most inviting delicious freshly picked papaya from her many fruit bearing trees in her beautiful garden.  Beside was a bunch of powerfully packed flavorful miniature bananas. After airplane Asian vegetarian food these fruits were welcome to my healing body. The freshness of Ugandan fruits and vegetables is unparalleled for building both my body and soul for two months to come. 

Shortly, I will take another slumber to arise at 3.am to pick up my friend from the airport to begin his first time welcome to Uganda.       

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Gracious and Denis, ICT Trainer - Pader

Good Hope

Gracious and Denis, ICT Trainer - Pader
Gracious and Denis, ICT Trainer – Pader

My name is Gracious. I hail from Patongo Town Council in Agago District, About 40 Km from Pader. I first learnt of the free ICT training at AMREF /U-TOUCH Center at Pader in January 2012. I then applied and joined it in February and completed in April 2012, I then graduated in May. I had, prior to joining U-TOUCH, unsuccessfully looked for a job but now when I got back home after the training, I asked my father to help me with some capital to start a business of my own. Convinced by my newly attained computer skill backed by a beautifully designed certificate of completion, he gave me funds to start a secretarial and stationery business.

Patongo had been lacking a quality and reliable computer services. Some people have the resources but lack the skill to operate computers. As a result many businesses had in the past opened and closed barely after 4 months of operations. I felt that, I could fill that gap. I then travelled to Kampala and purchased a used photocopier, a computer, a binder and an assortment of stationery and opened the business called Good Hope Stationery in May 2012, a few weeks after my graduation. The choice of name is self explanatory. U-TOUCH is a dawn of Hope in my life. Services offered include Typesetting, printing, photocopying, binding, scanning, sale of stationery and computer training on Office 2007 applications. My clientele range from Schools, NGO’s, Churches, all the neighboring sub counties to individuals.

Achievements

I have operated this business for 8 months now. I feel these are some of my achievements;

• My skill has not only been retained but also enhanced.
• I am self employed, the work keeps me busy and I am not even interested in looking for other jobs.
• I now have enough resources to cater for my basic needs like cloths, housing, education, and Health.
• I have trained 3 people in basic computer applications.

Challenges

• High cost of maintenance for computer. Patongo lacks skilled people to repair and maintain computers. The ICT Trainer Pader has promised to provide support in terms of maintenance of equipment.
• The weather is very harsh and not conducive for the computers. There is a lot of heat and dust in Patongo and this also affects the sensitive parts of these machines.
• Some customers bring jobs but they don’t come back to pay and pick them. This leads to wastage of time and resources.
• I still don’t have a standby generator incase of load shedding.

Future Plans

• I intend to add more computers, provide internet and training services to many people in Patongo.
• I intend to upgrade my studies starting August this year. I want to study accounts from Nsamizi School of Social Works and Social Administration, so that I run my business professionally.

Conclusion

I want to thank AMREF and U-TOUCH for the free training rendered to us in ICT and enrichment programs like entrepreneurship, life skills and job skills. I had not realized their value then, but now I have realized that the best life decision I have ever made in my life was to join U-TOUCH. My life has been totally transformed, I am self-reliant now. I strongly encourage other people, especially girls, to join the training at AMREF/U-TOUCH Center, Pader.

Good Hope Stationery in Potongo
Good Hope Stationery

“Opportunity only knocks once, embrace it.
Thank you U-TOUCH,  for TOUCHing my Life”
~ Gracious

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