May 2022

The Girl In the Chicken Coop

On Monday, we were alerted to a teen mom in a very desperate situation. 

Two years ago, Clare left her village (some 15 hours away by bus) and came to Kampala to work as a house maid. As happens more often than not, she became pregnant. She was fired, and the baby’s father disappeared.

Her family would not pay for her to come back to the village because of the baby.

Now, Clare and her 1 year old son live in what is basically a chicken coop. It’s about 4’ off the ground, and has about 4’ of headspace between the “floor” and the ceiling. The total size is 4’x6’, and someone is raising rabbits in the space underneath her.

When she can, she takes in clothes to wash for 1000 or 2000 shillings. (Her rent is 30,000 shillings.) She can go several days with no customers and no money. 

The social workers visited her in the morning and reported back on Clare’s situation. We took a bigger team and bought some emergency food to get them through a week or so. (Prices have literally doubled in the last two months, which is a whole other post!) 

I have seen some bad living situations in my hundreds of visits to the Namuwongo slum, but I have really never seen anything like this place that Clare has been living in. The only good thing you could say about it was that it is just one home off the open space around the railway, so it isn’t as closed in and awful as many places are. But otherwise… it really was horrifying.

We spoke at length to Clare. When we discovered that her family would take her back with the baby (many Ugandan families won’t) but they wouldn’t assist her in getting home because of the baby, we determined that the best solution was the temporary food, a mosquito net, some soap, and transportation back to the village.

In the next several days, our team will purchase the ticket, escort Clare and her son to the depot and get her safely on the bus with her belongings, and contact her family to let them know she will be arriving and when. We will follow up to make sure she arrived safely.

We have a project on DonorSee to reimburse our budget for this expense — we’d love your help to fund it. It’s already 25% funded! As with all our emergency projects, we solve the problem FIRST, and then seek to repay our budget.

We thank you for helping us continue working with teen moms in the slum!

Send Clare to the village!



One Week Down – How It’s Going in Uganda

Happy Memorial Weekend from Uganda! I hope it’s as beautiful where you are as it is here today. I’ve been reading and sketching outside all day, and enjoying my day off… it’s been wonderful!

I’ve sent a couple of other updates, so here’s how the end of the week went:

  • I led a 5 hour retreat/workshop with all but 2 of our staff yesterday. (I’ll meet with Mr. Aziz and Mama Santa separately about facility issues.) It was a new experience for most of them, but we had a fun and productive time of games, discussion, problem solving, and laughter. Oh, and chicken and chips, of course!
  • Friday was both the Strong Minds group and Teen Talk. I didn’t know I was speaking at Strong Minds until I was introduced (!), but we had a good session on self-worth. Many of our girls are called “prostitutes” or “worthless” because of their past, but that’s not who they are now. They are learning to change their self-perception and it’s beautiful! (The baby at the top is one of the teen mom’s girls.)
  • We had a (probably temporary) emergency admission on Saturday, a late-teen (she’s not sure of her exact age) with a one year old daughter. Both were very malnourished. Esther had been referred by a European woman who found her sleeping in front of a church. Nurse Sherry discovered she is pregnant again, and that her “husband” has been violent and abusive towards her. We will be in the community tomorrow trying to locate her auntie; in the meantime she’s staying temporarily in the dorm.

We’ve got a busy 2 days ahead, then on Wednesday we leave at 7am to travel 4ish hours west to Lake Mburo and Wells of Hope Primary School. We’ll be out that way until Sunday — more to come on that part of the trip!

Thank you all so much for your encouragement and support!



Big Day In the Namuwongo Slum

Tuesday was “day 1”, and I had a short office day as I fought sleep deprivation and a 7 hour time difference.

I slept well, and Wednesday was a full and busy day. In the morning, we went down into the Namuwongo slum and visited about a half dozen families/guardians of Skills for Life students to see how they felt their girls were doing. The feedback was amazing!

Without exception, they had seen positive changes in their girls. Better behavior. Less hanging about with questionable friends and getting into trouble. More respect at home.


Traditionally, parents want their kids to go to school and become one of four things: teacher, doctor, lawyer, or nurse.

There is no room in the traditional thinking for musicians or artists, for mechanics or electricians. The way Ugandan schools are set up, to even go to a trade school you have to complete Senior 4.

This leaves most kids behind, especially since the covid lockdowns.

But parents are SEEING now. They see that girls with little or no schooling can still be excellent students in a vocational program.

They see that girls who had no direction or HOPE for the future were headed for disaster, but that those same girls are now focused, working hard, and setting themselves up for future success.


But it’s working. And THAT is changing the culture, slowly by slowly. (mpola mpolo)

THANK YOU for your support and encouragement! YOU are changing not only the lives of the girls in our program, but the hearts and minds of the community. That is a huge step forward.

Webele nyo!


PS Our food restocking project on DonorSee is 84% funded. Prices are going up every day, so we’d really appreciate your support to complete it! Click the link!


“Choice Greetings From Uganda!”

You know you’re in Uganda when there’s a tree growing through your room! To be honest, by the time I got to the Kampala Forest Resort (one of my favorite places to stay anywhere!) at 1:30am, I didn’t pay the tree that much attention. It had been a VERY long, frustrating day of bad weather, flight delays, and the “new normal” of travel (which doesn’t have much to recommend it). But waking up to the tree, and coming out for COFFEE and breakfast and seeing Lake Victoria in the distance were worth it.

I’m not heading to the compound until 12:30, and it’ll be a fairly short day. But I have ALL THE GOODIES that I was able to bring from donations over the past 2 years:

  • a tactical laptop
  • iPad Mini
  • iPhone 11 ProMax
  • 2 suitcases full of baby clothes
  • 1 suitcase full of women’s clothes
  • 66 sets of reusable sanitary pads
  • a full bin of disposable sanitary pads
  • medical equipment from MDS
  • books, toys, and games

In short, it’s going to be an *amazing* Christmas-in-May!

When my son and I were here last, Touch the Slum was working out of a cramped 2-room office in the slum.

Now we have a full compound, 12 resident girls, 60 students, 18 staff, and 30+ babies and children every day. To say that’s a big change in the last 2 years is an understatement, and it’s all thanks to YOU and your support.

I’ll be adding a 3rd weekly email for the 2 1/2 weeks I’m gone, since the schedule is full and I want you to see all that we’re doing.

Webele nyo!


15-Year-Old Sylvia – Emergency Intake

Sylvia is 15-years-old and 5 months pregnant. She’s been in our Literacy class since January, so she is aware of our work with teen moms.

Recently, Sylvia and her roommates, who were living together in a one-room home, were evicted for not paying rent. She was temporarily rescued by a lady LC (local community leader) who brought her into her own home, but that only lasted for two days. The LC’s husband kicked Sylvia out, and she was homeless.

After a couple of days of not having food, she came to the office to explain her situation. While we didn’t have any beds available in the Ross or Suubi Houses, we do have an empty room that we’d planned to convert to a dorm later this year.

We were able to get a mattress, bedding, a mosquito net, and some toiletries delivered before the shops closed for the night, and Sylvia was temporarily placed in the daycare room during the nights.

Now she is safe, fed, Nurse Sherry is keeping up with her progress, and she will stay with us until she delivers and then after.

All this came out of our regular operating budget, so we have a project up on DonorSee to recoup the costs. (FYI: We always give the girls the option to NOT have their faces shown, and Sylvia made that choice so her face is blurred.)

Sylvia’s Emergency Intake

We are also going ahead and preparing the room for four girls, since we have two more teen students (not pregnant!) who are in imminent danger of homelessness. We’ll do a little shuffling around of our current residents so all the new moms are together and Sylvia can begin to learn all the things she’ll need to know in a few more months.

You can help with that project with this button:

Dorm project

I’ll be in Uganda this time next week! More on that next time. Thank you SO MUCH for your support — we really couldn’t do our work without you!

Webele nyo!


Off To Uganda – Finally!


My son, Zeke, and I went to Uganda in January 2020, returning on February 8th. Little did we know that the world was going to go mad soon after!

But finally, I am headed back — on SUNDAY.

Since I was there last, we have built a complete program from the ground up: the Ross House for teen moms in crisis, the Suubi House for teen moms transitioning to independent living, Skills for Life vocational school, Teen Talk, Turning Point, an on-site clinic, a free daycare, and more.

In 2021 we grew 70%. SEVENTY PERCENT!

Since 2009, I have often been asked about the WHY of going to Uganda:

WHY do you go when you could spend that money on the programs?

WHY do you go when a two or three week trip “doesn’t accomplish that much?”

WHY do you go when [insert “there’s no power” or “there’s no internet” or “you spend so much time driving on terrible roads”]?

Well, why do you get together with your family at the holidays, or go across the country to visit your best friend?

There are just things that happen when you are together, in person, sharing a meal or a laugh, enjoying a sunset, or simply sitting and watching children play that CANNOT happen otherwise.

It’s connection. Community. Relationship. Family.

So FINALLY, I am leaving on Sunday. I’ll be in Kampala working with our Namuwongo project for about 10 days, then heading west to visit our schools in Mbarara and Rwakobo. I’ll be taking Ronald on his first-ever safari (our “one fun thing”), then spending another three days in Namuwongo.

It’ll be BUSY. I’m leading a full day retreat, meeting with staff to do trainings on various things like learning styles and working with learning disabilities, meeting with the local Rotary club to establish ties with our wonderful Olde Towne Beaufort Rotary who has been so very generous to us over the last couple of years. And yes, I know enough to take a bit of time off.

I AM SO EXCITED! Uganda is my heart-home, to be honest. I may never live there full time, but my heart is always longing for it. You’ll see why in the photos I share.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and now Twitter. I’ll also write our twice-a-week newsletters as long as I have power and internet.

More soon!

Webele nyo!


PS To become a regular, monthly supporter, click the link! 100% goes to the program!


Teen Moms and the Culture Problem

I’ve been working in the Namuwongo slum for a long time — since 2009. One of the most ubiquitous things that you see when walking through the slum is men drinking moonshine, smoking, and playing pool and cards in speakeasy, while women are hawking goods on the street, carrying jerrycans on their heads, and managing a bunch of children.

And yet, it’s the girls who get sold off for brides, who get denied schooling if funds are limited, who aren’t given sanitary pads to manage their periods with dignity, who are told as (often young) teens that “it’s time to find someone to take care of you.” Meaning a man.

Culture is a hard thing to change.

A man can find a desperate girl to live with him in exchange for food and a roof over her head. She’ll call him her “husband,” but as soon as she’s pregnant he’ll kick her out and likely disappear. No one takes responsibility for the babies except for the girls.

Culture is a hard thing to change.

But we are doing it, slowly by slowly. (Mpolo mpola in Luganda.)

We have young men volunteering with us who have sisters who got pregnant because of desperate circumstances. They have seen the desperation and downward spiral that starts with a pregnancy, and they have begun to see that their sisters, their mother, their female friends have VALUE. They are worth protecting and respecting.

Culture is a hard thing to change, but we can do it. Mpolo mpola.



Mother’s Day Was a Hit!

Do you think Christine had a fun Mother’s Day?! Wow, that grin!

Our residential teen moms come from extreme, grinding poverty. Most have been homeless for a time. No one EVER celebrated them, that’s for sure!

When Christine came to the Ross House, her baby didn’t even have a name. During the first few days, she chose Suubi Zoei — Hope (in Luganda) and Life (in Greek). Those were things she now had, for the first time ever.

So for Mother’s Day, the “one fun thing” was a special outing. The girls walked to a restaurant in their new (to them) clothes, and feasted on their favorite things: pizza, chicken & chips, soda, and ice cream on the way home.

I know this seems small. No husbands or children gave them flowers and chocolate. But these small celebrations add bricks to the foundations of VALUE.

They are learning that they have value. They have talent. They have drive and dreams and now they have hope.

And it’s all wrapped up in pizza and chicken & chips.



Mother’s Day Is a Day To Celebrate

I’m a mom, although all my kids are adults now. It was great when they were at home! It was also ALL THE THINGS: loud, too quiet (what are they up to now?!), hilarious, emotional, frustrating, wonderful, joyous, instructional, mystifying, magical… Being a parent will certainly expand your emotional repertoire!

This weekend, we celebrate the courage, love, dedication, and hard work of all our girls who had babies too soon.

Who are just kids themselves, but who are dedicated to providing a better life for their children.

Who go to class with a baby strapped to their back, persevere through bouts of crying, stay up all night with a sick baby but get to class the next day anyway.

Being a mom is, well, all the things. We hope that, for our teen moms, it’s mostly joy.

Thank you for your support of the Ross and Suubi Houses, as well as Skills for Life. You are changing lives every day.

Webele nyo,


Help Gloria move!

PS Gloria is a 17 year old teen mom who has lived at the Ross and Suubi Houses for over a year. She is saving money to be able to move out on her own soon. We’re so proud of her! You can help us give her a leaving package to help with her independent life.

Inflation Hits the Slum Hard

Just before I sat down to write this, Ronald sent me today’s quote from President Museveni on the food crisis happening in Uganda right now:

“Africans really confuse themselves… If there is no bread, eat cassava. I don’t eat bread myself. The issue of skyrocketing commodity prices, like petrol and fertilizers, is man-made by our friends in Europe.”

That was it. Don’t eat bread. (For what it’s worth, most Ugandans never eat bread. They do make chapati from wheat flour, though.)

So anyway…

Our food budget in January of this year, which included other items like office stationery and detergent, was about 4 million shillings, or $1100. For May, it’s 4,480,000sh for just the food, and another 1.3 million for the supplies, soap, detergent, and toiletries. That’s $1585. Nearly a 50% increase.

We do have a project up on DonorSee to help with some of this cost, and we’re working on some other ways to increase fundraising around food costs. One thing we AREN’T doing is not feeding our girls, their kids, and our staff.

If you’d like to help, there are buttons at the bottom of this email where you can either give a one-time donation to the DonorSee project or become a monthly donor in any amount to help us with our ongoing costs. We’d so appreciate your support!

I am also attaching a link to a new video that Bob Ditty’s assistant helped us make from the footage they shot in March at our compound and in the community. It’s really great! Click this button. (Yeah, I know there are a lot of buttons today… Sorry about that!)

Let me see the new video!

Thank you so much for your ongoing support! I know things are challenging everywhere right now, and that you have a lot of places you could invest your money. We really appreciate that you choose to invest in the future of teen moms and girls in the Namuwongo slum. Webele nyo!



Take me to the DonorSee food project!

I want to be a monthly donor!