Author name: Jen

When going blind is normal


Rose is 16 years old and a student in our Literacy program. As you can see from the photo, something is going on with her left eye — she is having pain and losing her vision.

While in Western terms, getting Rose seen by a doctor and diagnosed is a very minimal cost (under $200, including transportation to the specialty clinic across Kampala), to Rose and her single mother it has been an unrealistic dream. Her mother gave up because there was no way to raise the funds.

Fortunately, a regular donor on DonorSee funded 100% of the project yesterday and Rose, her mother, and Monica from our team will go to the clinic today (Thursday). Hopefully we will get a good treatment plan and prognosis.

Rose’s case is more severe than most, but vision/eye issues are endemic in Uganda and Africa. One of the most common causes, besides parasites, is vitamin A deficiency. We have three staff members who have eye problems from this, and it’s a tricky one to solve due to the diet and potential toxicity of supplements. For the most part, sufferers just get prescription glasses that dim the light and suffer with it.

(For those who have asked, we have contacted the Lion’s Club in Kampala, but their focus is not really on blindness and other eye issues anymore, at least with this club.)

So I will keep you posted on Rose, and hopefully we will get some good news. If not on the diagnosis, at least on the treatment.

Why tell you this, you might ask.

Well, it’s because of YOU, and donors just like you, that we can get Rose seen by a clinic and arrange for treatment. It’s because of all of you that our clinic is open every day offering free medical care to girls who otherwise would literally never see a doctor or nurse. It’s because of you that we can have hope for Rose and other girls. And we really can’t thank you enough.

Mwebele nnyo!


PS Just heard from Ronald in time to write this post script – Rose was seen at the eye clinic and referred back to IHK (a private hospital near our compound), where she now has an appointment at mid-day tomorrow. I’ll report on that in next week’s email!

PSS We are buying a second Purifaaya water filter and replacement clay filters for our current one, and only need $115 to fully fund the project. With over 100 people at the compound daily, we go through a LOT of water, and clean water is vital for our girls’ health. Just click the button to contribute – as always, 100% goes to the project!

Purifaaya – Clean Water!

When going blind is normal Read More »

June? Already??


It’s June! J.U.N.E. Holy cow.


Just a quick note to apologize for missing this week’s newsletter. I’m out of town for my brother-in-law’s memorial (he passed away in December), and time got away from me.

Lots is happening at the compound, including all the kids getting new clothes thanks to donors on DonorSee.

We are finalizing a “summer school session” on farming for a test group of girls during the term break.

And — something I always forget — we have shirts and bags at our Bonfire store, which is a great way to outfit yourself for summer AND support Ten Eighteen Uganda. There’s a sale for the whole month, 10% off with the code SUMMER24.


Back to regularly scheduled programming next week.



June? Already?? Read More »

Joy comes in the morning


May has been a challenging month for many at Touch the Slum. We’ve had:

  • Multiple incidents of flooding in the area where the Congolese refugees live, including last night with Neema’s family, who wasn’t effected in the floods last week.
  • A 14-year-old girl in our Literacy class being sexually abused by a relative.
  • Our managing director, Ronald had a systemic rash of some kind, plus two days of migraine. (He’s fine now!)
  • Both of our large charcoal stoves quit working properly and needed repairs at the same time, so Charity and Mama Santa had to start cooking lunch at 4am to feed everyone.

That’s not just TIA (This Is Africa) – life just comes at us all sometimes, and getting through every day is a big achievement.

But what is essential — and one of the most noticeable things about our program — is the JOY. Visitors universally comment on it. In the midst of lives that are at best challenging and at worst dangerous and terrifying, our girls laugh and dance and dive into creativity and hug enthusiastically.

Never underestimate the power of joy!

Thank you so much for your ongoing support and encouragement of our work at Touch the Slum. We couldn’t do it without you!

Mwebele nnyo!


PS. We are spending some of the funds that have some in for the flood victims’ project (on and off the DonorSee platform) in the morning for another round of food, adding Neema’s family to our list of recipients after last night’s flooding. (Fortunately, they were able to move their mattresses and personal items higher, but unfortunately lost all their food.) To help these families, please click the button.


Joy comes in the morning Read More »

When there’s no ark


Here are some facts about Uganda:

  • There are 2 rainy and 2 dry seasons a year.
  • The Namuwongo slum has areas that are built on the swamp.

These two facts lead to one very unfortunate conclusion… FLOODING.

Sunday night, the rains caused extensive flooding in the area of the slum where the Congolese refugees have settled. The water came up — quickly — the armpits of the adults. Everything in the houses was destroyed or contaminated with dirty water.

We have four Congolese girls at Touch the Slum enrolled in the Literacy class. All of their families are now displaced, living with friends or extended family. All have lost virtually everything they owned.

We have an urgent project up on DonorSee to help these families with household items — mattresses, clothing, food, household goods. They need literally everything.

We will not be waiting until this project is fully funded to act. We will be helping these families as we can, as they funds come in. The cost is $1800 to help them, and we’d so appreciate your support of any amount to try to get them back on their feet. Here’s the link:


We so appreciate you – and would really appreciate if you shared this one with friends and family so we can get it funded quickly.

Mwebele nnyo!


When there’s no ark Read More »

Fun Times, Strong Minds


What’s your idea of fun? Everyone’s is different, of course, but for most of us it involves joy, laughter, maybe being scared (if you’re one of those haunted house/scary movie people), maybe the excitement of a big game, maybe a family outing for bumper boats… (One of our funniest family stories involves that last one!)

When life is hard, we often look for something fun, even if it’s just a 2 minute video we can watch on our phone for a laugh.

The girls at Touch the Slum live in a desperate place full of desperate people who are just barely hanging on. Caregivers are stressed beyond the breaking point, siblings are hungry or sick, the only ways to make money are dangerous or degrading.

There’s no laugh track in the slum.

But at Touch the Slum, one of our most fundamental beliefs is in the healing power of fun, of laughter, of dancing, of joy. It doesn’t matter if you have shoes or not when you’re dancing. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t had dinner or breakfast. It doesn’t matter — in those moments — that your father has died or your mother is sick.

I just found this quote on a quick internet search. This is universal among humans; you can find a lot of quotes saying the same thing:

Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain.

Joseph Campbell

We can’t change the girls’ circumstances. Coming to class day in and day out to learn to read or sew a gomezi or braid hair isn’t a quick fix. A father killed in the war in the Congo or an auntie dying with HIV/AIDS can’t be forgotten.

But joy — laughter and hugs and dancing and a face turned towards the sunshine — helps our girls weather the pain they live in, and see that there is something worth working for, even in their hard world.

Anyone who has visited our compound — or Wells of Hope and Hopeland Schools, where they are beginning to understand the profound power of fun — will tell you first hand: the joy helps burn out the pain.

We thank you for all you do to keep the laughter and healing going!

Mwebele nnyo!


PS We are in need of diapers for all our (many!) babies. This project just needs $175 to be fully funded. We’d so appreciate your support!


Fun Times, Strong Minds Read More »

The 1st is for food


The first of the month is always for food restocking, at Touch the Slum and our two Primary Schools.

For about $1550, we give approximately 830 meals every week day, plus 125 on weekends. That’s a LOT! (About 4500!)

Not only do we have to buy it, but since all the dried goods are purchased at once, we have to have it delivered, carried, stored, protected. Produce like matoke, greens, tomatoes, and onions are bought weekly and kept fresh. Our cooks start very early cooking up breakfasts, move right on to lunch, and then, at Touch the Slum, get cracking on dinner for the residential girls and night staff.

Whew! I makes me tired just thinking about it!

But we do this, 365 days a year, for one reason:

These kids often get NO meals a day at home. In the Namuwongo slum, in Rwakobo village, in the Mbarara slum, parents and aunties and caregivers struggle every day to keep a roof over their heads and even one set of clothing per person on little backs.

This type of poverty — the type with no relief, no outside help, no hope for anything different of better — leads to abuse, alcoholism, abandonment, and even worse.

So one or two meals a day, most days of the week is about more than nutrition or a handout. It’s about kids who can focus on learning, which can lead to a better, self-sustaining future. It’s about a home life with just a bit less stress and tension. It’s about an incentive that keeps kids coming to classes even when their families may want them to fetch water or work in a quarry or help herd cattle.

We can do this because of you and your support. It may seem like a small thing, making a donation… But it means the world to these kids. We can’t thank you enough!

Mwebele nnyo!


PS Our food expenses come out of our general budget. Other than shortfalls caused by inflation, we don’t do DonorSee projects for food. If you’d like to become a monthly donor (or give a one-time gift) to help, just click below!


The 1st is for food Read More »

Spring Fever(s)


So how’s Spring 2024 going for you? In the past 6 weeks over here with the Wrights, we’ve had one broken leg, one ruptured achilles tendon, and one “someone must accompany you and drive” procedure… And it’s not even May yet!

At Touch the Slum, we’ve seen an uptick in malaria cases with recent rains but nothing major. We are reminding our girls of the importance of using mosquito nets. Believe it or not, this is a cultural challenge:

  • Nets are valuable, so families who are given them free will often end up selling them for quick cash.
  • Nets can be used to pen in chickens, fish, and other creative things.
  • To most Ugandans (and others in Sub-Saharan Africa) malaria isn’t seen as a big deal. While it can cause brain damage, other organ failure, and is a leading cause of death in children under 5, the fact on the ground is that they have lived with it and will continue to live with it and they’re ok with that.

Providing a good meal for our day students and three meals a day for our residents, making and using liquid soap to help with cleanliness and prevention of communicable diseases, providing free medical care at our clinic, and regular seminars on health issues are all part of our daily lives at the compound. Our goal is not just that the girls learn a skill that can support them through their lives, but to educate them holistically (which includes health!) so that they thrive.

We can do this because of your support, and we can’t thank you enough!

Mwebele nnyo!


PS As you know, we have several girls in Literacy whose families are refugees from the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. All of them fled with nothing but what they could carry. Merevey’s family is in desperate need of basic household necessities — you can see her story by clicking the button.

Help Merevey’s Family!

Spring Fever(s) Read More »

Update on Farmer Derrick

I don’t normally post off-cycle, but a lot of you reached out after my last email regarding Derrick’s wife’s passing.

I wanted to let you know that the baby just passed away as well, literally minutes ago. I am so, so sad, and I know you will be based on the love you sent his way last week.

If you’d like to contribute to his new burial expenses, please use Donorbox with the box below.

Derrick’s baby

Update on Farmer Derrick Read More »

Life, Death, and Ugandan Health Care


When my son was fourteen, he spent 4 days in the International Hospital of Kampala, a private hospital started by an Irish doctor, for pneumonia. Despite being the premiere hospital in Uganda at that time, it was a pretty hair-raising experience. I’m very thankful for the British doctor who took over the case the second afternoon, and very thankful that we were able to make the daily payments at the bursar’s office to keep him in care.

I’ve also spent a fair amount of time in local and regional hospitals during the three years I worked with Hospice Jinja and Hospice Tororo. These are the kinds of hospitals with 1930’s style metal beds where you have to bring your own mattress if you want one, and a family member has to stay with you, often sleeping under your bed in a 40+ person ward and cooking on a charcoal pile outside so you have food and someone to change your bandages.

Unfortunately, the latter is the norm for most Ugandans. Since the pandemic, even the government hospitals, such as those I visited, charge in advance for care, effectively excluding most before they can even be seen. Maternity care and labor and delivery services are almost nonexistent.

Sadly, yesterday morning our farmer, Derrick, lost his wife in childbirth. The baby girl is healthy, but the mother passed away. I don’t know the specific reason, but it is probably something shocking to our Western sensibilities because it is so easily treated. This is way too common for Ugandan women.

We have a project up to pay for transport and the burial costs. Yesterday was a Muslim holiday so nothing could be done, but today Derrick will begin the process of burying his wife. We’ve already sent the money for his expenses, but this is outside of our normal budget. If you’re interested in helping, the project link is below.

Mostly, I want to thank you for your support of our compound clinic. While the majority of our nurse’s time is spent on things like malaria, typhoid, and pink eye, both Nurse Sherry and now Nurse Brenda have stayed with our teen girls as they give birth, rushed sick babies to the hospital in the middle of the night and made sure they got seen, and taken hurt toddlers to the children’s hospital in Mulago to make sure they get appropriate treatment and care.

YOU are doing that. You are giving a tremendous gift — the gifts of health and of life. We truly cannot thank you enough.

Mwebele nnyo,


PS – I woke up Thur morning and found that you all had already funded this project! That’s amazing!

If you’d like to make a donation to Derrick’s baby’s needs and care, you can still donate to this project (It can go over 100%) and we will purchase baby items and other things the caregivers may need with however much we get in.

Project for Derrick

Life, Death, and Ugandan Health Care Read More »

Real Talk


Raise your hand if you get overwhelmed by all the bad news, prices at the grocery, important things falling off planes, and more happening throughout the Western world. (Me!)

I get that the daily dose of disaster is exhausting.

My goal with this weekly newsletter is to bring you stories of how your money is making a real, tangible, priceless difference to the teen moms and teen girls in our program. While I do make “asks”, I rarely ASK.

Today, I’m asking.

As of this writing on Wednesday, we haven’t had a single donation on DonorSee in 6 days. While January and February were slow, in March, til last week, had seen a distinct uptick in activity. This is a very normal and expected pattern after year end giving season. But I don’t think we’ve ever gone a week without a single donation on that platform.

Why should you donate to Ten Eighteen Uganda and our Touch the Slum program?

  • 100% of your donation goes to the work
  • We are able to run a residential program, Literacy program, Vocational Skills program, and community outreach that reaches over 100 daily and over 5,000 over the course of a year with under $125,000 in donations.
  • I have 15 years of experience working in the Namuwongo slum, and almost all of our staff are from this community, meaning we know the needs and know how to address them in ways appropriate to the culture.
  • We have been recognized by Plan International and added to their “recommended list” — one of only 2 for the District that is home to millions.
  • We were named the top Youth Led Organization in Kampala in 2023.

In short, we are small but mighty, and your donations allow us to transform lives and change a culture that does not value its girls.

Will you consider making a donation or becoming a monthly donor? Your support will ensure that our program can continue to serve the most needy in Namuwongo, and we promise that every dollar will go to changing lives for the better.

You can make a one-time donation or become a monthly donor at Donorbox by clicking the button below:


You can also donate to a specific project, become a sponsor of the clinic or residential program, or become a monthly donor on DonorSee by clicking this box:


If you can’t donate right now, that’s ok! Will you share this newsletter and our work with a friend or two? Your word-of-mouth referral means the world.

Mwebele nnyo,


PS I just had a message from Ronald that we had an attempted break-in at the farm last night. The would-be thieves made a hole in the wall (!) but Derrick discouraged them from entering (with a machete). Apparently they were going after our boda. Ronald and our legal officer, Jimmy, went to the farm then met with the LC and local police, who say they will investigate. (We’ll see…) The cost for the transportation and materials to repair the hole is $55 – you can use the Donorbox button above to help defray this cost. Thanks!


Tags (1)

Real Talk Read More »

Scroll to Top