Why do we do Christmas at Touch the Slum?

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There are a lot of things that make Touch the Slum different from other NGOs and community organizations in Namuwongo, but the main one is simple.

We believe in FUN.

When I say that to people, they are often skeptical. Sort of the, “Wait, I thought you were a *serious* organization!”

We ARE serious. We are also striving for something better: cultural change.

Uganda as a whole has a very clear social hierarchy. There are the village and the city people. There are the chiefs and the educated who run things, and the poor and uneducated underneath. There are the connected and the forgotten.

It is “common knowledge” that anyone living in a slum (and there are more slums in Uganda than just Namuwongo, which is the largest) deserves to be there. “Those people” are drug addicts, thieves, prostitutes… in short, they’re written off.

And guess what? “Those people” rarely get the chance to experience the full breadth of human existence. They get a heaping plateful of sorrow, struggle, starvation, and sickness. The only fun or hope they get is a few sprinklings here and there.

We reject that.

We acknowledge that life in the slum is often catastrophically hard. Our primary mission is to create opportunities for teen moms and teen girls to build a sustainable — ie less hard — life for themselves.

But we also want them to have a reason to make difficult changes in their lives. Something worth fighting for on hard days.

Love, laughter, dancing, joy, good food, an outing, pizza, chicken and chips, ice cream, new shoes… These things give dimension and color to an otherwise black-and-white monotonous existence.

So we believe in fun. We believe in dance parties. We believe in Santa Clause (hats) and Christmas trees and Thanksgiving feasts and roasted goat for Christmas Eve. We believe in game days and art and books.

In short, we believe in hope.

Blessings,

Jennings

PS We have a dedicated “year-end” page on DonorSee now, with a goal meter and everything! You can check it out below — it shows you our progress and all our open projects. It’s pretty cool! (And we’re already more than 40% of the way there!)

YEAR END GOAL PAGE

PSS I did a fun podcast with Donorbox about writing newsletters (and really, writing advice in general). Thanks, Cara! You can check it out here:

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THANK YOU for your generosity on Giving Tuesday!

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Tweyanzizza nnyo, tweyanzeege — we are so grateful, thank you very much!

Giving Season is just starting, but you’ve helped us start with a bang! If you didn’t get a chance to give yesterday (we still have some of the $5000 matching grant we can capture!), just click here!

Y’all rock!

Jennings

PS We’d love for you to share Ten Eighteen and Touch the Slum with your family, friends, and coworkers to grow our family over this next month!

PSS Today is my grandmother Ross’s birthday – she would have been 109 if she hadn’t passed away in 2020. (For the math-challenged, she lived to 106 1/2!) She’s my inspiration and the reason we started the Ross House two years ago, which led to all of our programs at Touch the Slum. I was very blessed to have had her for so long!

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It’s Giving Tuesday! (woohoo!)

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Jackie is a 16-year-old teen mom in our Literacy class. Sometimes she leaves her daughter in our free daycare, and sometimes she takes her to class. She’s not the only one – every class averages one baby or toddler every day!

But Jackie has never been to school, didn’t know how to read or speak English, and never dreamed she would have the chance to learn. Whatever she has to do to be in class she does.

We have 75 students at Touch the Slum. We are the only organization in Namuwongo that focuses on teen girls, offers free literacy and vocational training, has a residential program, and does community outreach.

How do we do all that?

YOU!

This year alone we have:

  • had over 140 completely projects funded on DonorSee,
  • seen our farm 3/4 funded,
  • increased the number of monthly donors by 50%,
  • received hundreds of pounds of donated clothing, diapers, and sanitary pads,
  • and had the privilege of speaking to several hundred people in person about out our work.

Most of this has happened because you gave, you told people about our work, you invited me to speak, or you thought of the girls while cleaning out closets or shopping.

This year, we have a generous donor who has offered to match all gifts up to $5,000!! That means every dollar you give is doubled!

Can we count on you for a year-end gift?

As always, 100% of your donation goes to the program. You can make sure we’re ready when the next teen mom like Jackie comes to us for help! Just click below, or mail a check to Ten Eighteen, 3500 Rock Creek Drive, Raleigh, NC 27609.

Tweyanzizza nnyo, tweyanzeege â€” we are so grateful, thank you very much!

Jennings

YES, I want to donate now!

PS I’ll be doing an Instagram Live today with Ronald at 12:30pm EST – pop over and say hi!

Tuesday is, well, Giving Tuesday!

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I hope your Thanksgiving was filled with family, friends, fun, and zero-calorie food! Jackline and the teen moms in the Ross and Suubi Houses celebrated too, just not with turkey. (There actually are turkeys in Uganda, but trust me, you wouldn’t want to eat them!)

Giving Tuesday is coming up and we’ve got a matching grant! This is the kickoff to Giving Season and a great time for you to make your year-end donation to Ten Eighteen – especially since your money will be doubled up to $5,000! You can also choose to become a monthly donor through DonorBox or a monthly sponsor for a project on DonorSee. (As I used to say when I had my bakery, I’ll take everything but wampum!)

2022 has been a HUGE year for Touch the Slum. Thanks to you we are now housing 12 teens and their children, we have 65-75 students at the compound daily, and we are growing all kinds of things at our farm. In our wildest dreams, we wouldn’t have thought that you would get us this far this fast.

Yesterday, what we were most thankful for was you.

Your support is truly astonishing!

Webele nyo,

Jennings

PS If you’re not already following us on Instagram, it’s a great way to see your support in action. We post videos every day! You don’t have to have the app or have an account – you can just visit on the web and check it out.

Who do you know?

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Back before the social media days — and yes, there were days before social media! — there used to be a lot of talk about networking. In my (few) months of a misguided attempt to be a Real Estate Agent in the ’80s, it was alllll about networking.

Now days, I think we just assume everyone is connected all the time. And we are, in some ways… But are we really sharing the important stuff or just enjoying cat memes? (I love a good cat meme!)

With the Season of Giving upon us, I’d like to ask you a favor.

Would you “network” the old-fashioned way for us for just a few minutes? Could you:

  • Forward one of our emails to friends and family with a “Hey, I support this great work in Uganda and think you’d be interested?”
  • Like, Comment, and Share some of our social media posts, especially around Giving Tuesday next week? (buttons below)
  • Head to our Bonfire shop and grab a shirt or bag — then tell a few people about us when you wear it?

Word of mouth is THE most valuable tool in growing our work in the Namuwongo slum. There’s a lot of noise in the world these days, and your recommendation helps us cut through that.

We are so thankful for your support and encouragement! You’ve made 2022 such an incredible and impactful year for our girls at Touch the Slum. We can’t do it without YOU!

Webele nyo!

PS Cecilia is getting ready to move out on her own after over a year in our residential program. She’s in charge of our daycare and is going to continue that work plus keep her own small business. We’ve got a project up on DonorSee to bless her with an exit package (mattress, sheets, some household food, and food). If you can contribute $20 that would help her so much! Click the button!

Bless Cecilia with goodies!

Say Happy Birthday to Ronald!

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Over the weekend, Ronald had the flu, so when his 26th birthday came on Monday, he wasn’t ready to celebrate. (We’re so thankful for Nurse Sherry who got him on some meds to help!)

But he’s feeling better now, and we want to make sure he knows how much we appreciate all the amazing work he does as our Managing Director. Need a list? Let me count the ways:

  • He’s an administrative superhero!
  • He manages 22 paid staff, a half dozen regular volunteers, random visiting groups of students from Makerere University, and 100 or so teen girls and their kids every day.
  • He effortlessly (for Uganda!) deals with local leaders, police, and government authorities and has developed an amazing relationship and reputation with all of them.
  • He has a heart as big as Lake Victoria for the suffering of teen girls in his community.
  • He’s from the Namuwongo slum and, while he definitely could get a job that would allow him to move out and forget it, his heart and home are still there.
  • He’s quick to join a dance party!

We literally couldn’t have built the program that we have without Ronald over these last 2 1/2 years, and I am thankful every day for him.

Hit Reply and send a shout-out. I’ll forward it all to him!

Blessings,

Jennings

PS SAVE THE DATE! November 29th is Giving Tuesday! Not sure what Giving Tuesday is? From their website:

GivingTuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of radical generosity. GivingTuesday was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Since then, it has grown into a year-round global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

How Can You Make an Impact Today?

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When she was kicked out of the local councilwoman’s house, 15-year-old Sylvia thought she would be left on the streets to have her baby.

The LC had found her near her office, homeless and 4 months pregnant, and taken her in. But her husband didn’t want Sylvia around. Fortunately, the LC is familiar with our program and brought Sylvia to Touch the Slum, where she has lived for the past 6 months.

Sylvia is the newest teen mom living at the Ross House, having given birth just last month. She came to us with nothing but the clothes on her back, but now she and the baby are safe, cared for, well fed, and Sylvia has done really well in Literacy class.

Teen moms in the slum live on a razor’s edge, with disaster always right around the corner. The Ross House is a residential program for teen moms in crisis, just like Sylvia. It is an entry point into Touch the Slum, where teen girls receive emergency medical care, food, clothing, lodging, and vocational training.

We don’t know when disaster will strike a teen mom, but you can help us be ready! Your donation of $50 can pay for a month of crisis care at the Ross House. Click the button below!

Blessings,

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PS Make your year end donation today to give a safe harbor and a new start to girls like Sylvia!

Save teen moms in crisis today!

What’s Going on with Literacy These Days?

Y’all, this photo made me laugh when I saw it on the bigger screen. Jennifer, in the middle, is that one kid… The one making a goofy face or holding up 2 finger-antennae behind someone’s head or just overall looking fed up with the process. Raise your hand if you’ve ever sent or received a Christmas card with “that one kid” in it! (I really need emojis right now!)

ANYWAY, these are some of the girls from the current Literacy class. Now, you may be wondering what coloring has to do with Literacy, aside from writing their names on the paper.

Let’s call it “anti-traditional” education, and I’ll illustrate it with a story.

In 2014 we did a week-long basketball camp for 40 kids in the slum. We had some great ideas, one of which was to get a long roll of white paper, tack it to the wall in a continuous piece, and let each child write or draw whatever they wanted in a space of their own. We had markers and crayons and finger paints and were really excited to see how it came out.

How it came out was 40 individual spaces that all looked almost identical to each other… Each one had an airplane, a teacup, a house, and a tree. Each airplane was drawn in an identical style. Same with the other subjects. IDENTICAL. The only differences were colors or medium or finesse due to age.

Frankly, it was really depressing. These kids didn’t all go to the same school. They weren’t related. They shouldn’t be drawing the same four things. Yet there it was.

That sums up Ugandan education: rote learning, with no creativity or individuality allowed.

But not at Touch the Slum!

We believe in creativity. We believe in problem-solving. We believe that each girl is an individual and should be able to express herself. Our girls actually have an advantage over girls who have been to traditional schools, because they were never indoctrinated into the cookie-cutter sameness that their peers were.

Launching the Literacy program this year has been one of the highlights of our work in Namuwongo. The joy it brings to these girls when they find out they can learn, they aren’t stupid, they do have value… It’s truly amazing.

Blessings,

Jennings

PS We have a project up for supplies for the Literacy class. We’d love your support to keep them going full steam ahead for the duration! Click below!

SUPPLIES!

PSS You can still get your free ticket to see me speak tomorrow at the Expat Money Summit!

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