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As always, THANK YOU for all you’re doing to help vulnerable teen moms and teen girls in the Namuwongo slum!
I wanted to send this off-cycle announcement because it’s so exciting!
We have a new large project on DonorSee:
We are going to move our 12 residential girls to a new compound, just for them!
We opened the Ross House first, in October 2020, for teen moms in crisis. Since then we have added 2 more residential dorms, five skills, and have over 100 people in the small compound every day. It’s fun, loud, chaotic, and wonderful… but it makes it difficult for the residents to find any quiet time or splace, especially when they first come to us and are in crisis.
The project is $11,500 and will pay for the house, staff (Mama Santa and a security guard), utilities, food, furniture (living and kitchen), and everything else we’ll need for ONE YEAR.
We already have 10% funded — we’d love you to check out the video! Just click the button below.
I don’t know about you, but when I go shopping for clothes, I browse, scrutinize, reject, make piles, sort, try on… it’s exhausting! (And let’s not get started on bathing suit season…!)
Did you ever stop in the middle of TJMaxx and think, “Wow, this is quite a luxury?” Yeah, me neither.
When girls who join our residential program get to the point where they are in crisis and come to us, they have nothing but the clothes on their backs. And those are almost always infested with bed bugs, so into the fire barrel they go.
From Day 1, they have to rely on us for literally everything from a toothbrush to shoes to sanitary pads to clothes for their children. Choice, as a concept, is pretty limited — but that’s true for everyone living in the Namuwongo slum.
Donations have been slower this year, and inflation and wars make people justifiably afraid. Some of our larger projects, like clothing for the babies, have been slow to fund.
As you always do, you came through with much-needed clothes for our babies yesterday (hence the belated newsletter). And let me tell you how they shop:
Call a vendor on the phone.
Tell them we have a dozen babies and toddlers who need clothes.
Wait a few hours.
Receive a (literal) vacuum sealed brick of clothing in a tightly wrapped bundle.
Team up with friends to even lift it off the boda and carry it inside.
Carefully cut open the clothes from the UK and see what surprises wait inside. (You can watch the video on our Instagram page!)
It was like an early Christmas, and the clothing spread out everywhere gave the girls plenty of choice for their little ones. We also have some put aside for later needs.
Not every “win” is an exciting gotcha moment, but for girls who have learned to expect nothing from life, what you provide by supporting their basic needs as well as their education is HOPE. In humanity, in their futures, and for their children.
I don’t usually do bullet-list updates, because I love to tell stories. But sometimes we just have so much going on that you should know about… Today is that day, so here we go!
Ronald is doing training with Plan International and one of their partner organizations, and has repeatedly been told that they can’t believe there isn’t a “hidden mzungu” somewhere funding everything because we get SO MUCH DONE on such a small budget. Y’all can take a bow, because that’s all YOU!
Ronald has also been asked to do a guest lecture at Mkerere University on our work with teen girls and children in the slum! Way to go, Ronald!
We had two sewing machine projects funded this week on DonorSee, one for resident teen mom Harriet for her new life in the village, and one for Husinah so she can support her family in the slum. It was all done in one day and both girls were so excited! Harriet is holding the sign, in the black and white strips. We’ll sure miss her!
On Sunday, Betty boarded a bus for a week-long intensive training with Neema Development, the provider of our Entrepreneur Training Course. This is going to enable us to expand this course to more girls, and also add the second half of it. Because you all have supported our Literacy program, we can move deeper into the training. Mwebele nnyo!
Our new nurse, Brenda, completed her time learning our compound Haven Clinic with Nurse Sherry and is now our full time nurse. We will miss Sherry so much, but we’re excited to welcome Nurse Brenda to the TTS family.
And last but definitely not least, we have now had 275 projects funded on DonorSee!That’s over $113,400!If you haven’t checked out our page there, just click here. We always have 10-12 projects up, and we have a new large project in the works which is super exciting. (Yep, that was a teaser… more to come!)
You all are the lifeblood of Ten Eighteen Uganda and Touch the Slum, and the only reason we can do so much to change lives and culture in the Namuwongo slum. We honestly can’t thank you enough for your generosity and support. (Really, take that bow!)
PS Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram where we have daily video of all that’s happening. When you get 100 people in a small compound every day, there’s always a LOT going on! We also have a YouTube channel with some fun video.
What do you think of when you hear the word “entrepreneur?”
For most of us, it’s tech startups and Elon Musk and a new coffee food truck in your town. Things that have a pretty hefty start up cost, and are reserved for the rarified few who are brave enough to enter “nothing ventured, nothing gained” territory.
According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, Uganda is the 2nd most entrepreneurial country for women in the world. And I’m sure you’ve gathered from these newsletters that these women aren’t getting multi-million dollar venture capital investments and renting entire floors of office space in Austin and Raleigh.
But the extremely high unemployment (over 60% when you only count “jobs” with the government or businesses) and very low number of available paid jobs (many do multi-year free internships before ever getting paid!) means that women (and girls) are forced by default to become self-employed entrepreneurs.
Today, I sent the funds for two such young ladies in our program.
Harriet is a teen mom who has been with us for a year and a half. Her mother has decided to move back to their village, and she needs Harriet to go with them because Harriet is the only one with any skill to make money. In short, 16 year old Harriet is about to be the sole breadwinner for her family of 6.
Husinah, also 16, was in our first Literacy class, where she learned incredibly fast. She moved on to Basic and then Advanced Tailoring, where she was a shining star. She graduated when my mom and I were there in April and, as always, her smile was 1000 watts. Her single mother has been sick and unable to make any money for some time, and the family has really struggled.
Harriet is getting an exit package with a manual sewing machine, the supplies she needs to start a small tailoring business in the village, and money for transportation. We are also working with her to make sure she always has a working phone — we want to make sure that if she gets sick, she has a way to contact us. (We are all still grieving Kalunji’s death…)
Husinah is getting a semi-industrial electric machine which she will use at our compound. Our former in-house tailor, Vivian, has gotten a job elsewhere, so Husinah will take her place to fill special orders for items such as aprons and bags that come in. She will receive a small salary for that, and also be able to take special orders of her own for income. Additionally, being at the compound every day means regular food and a safety net for her.
Culture change is slow and requires flexibility and out of the box thinking. It’s very easy to look out at the sea of humanity walking around in bright gomesi dresses and American knockoff shirts and feel that it’s just too big of a job.
When I worked with Hospice Jinja at the very beginning, they had a motto:
Do what you can, where you can, for as long as you can.
We don’t have to do everything. We don’t have to solve Uganda’s problems (thank goodness!). We don’t have to shift from our go-deep philosophy. We just have to do what we can, where we are, for as long as we can.
And we CAN do that because of YOU!
PS Harriet’s project still has $25 left to be fully funded, although we are getting the items today. Her mom wants to leave for the village this weekend, so we went ahead and funded it and trust the remaining balance will come in soon. If you want to help, just click the button!
Meet Neema, a 14-year-old in our Literacy class. She and her family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has been war-torn for some time.
Uganda has a long standing policy of accepting refugees from neighboring countries, which has led to permanent refugee camps and UN offices in Western Uganda. Rwakobo Village, where we just put the well, was founded by Rwandan refugees that the government resettled there — and promptly forgot about.
Neema, her mother, and her 8 siblings live in a mud and stick house in the Namuwongo slum. Her mother has a hard time getting work because she speaks French but very little English, and none of the Ugandan languages but a little Swahili. None of the children have ever been to school.
You can see the problem…
So people are welcomed in, but to unspeakably hard lives. Less hard, perhaps, than their native lands in war, but desperate nonetheless.
Thanks to you all, Neema is learning to read, write, and speak English. This will not just help her, but it will held her mother learn English and be able to get more work. Neema is learning basic math, which will allow her mother to understand Ugandan shillings and know she isn’t being ripped off. When Neema moves to a vocational skill, she will have the ability to help her family buy food and pay rent and all the other things a family of 10 needs every day.
That is life changing for the whole family!
Every day, we can face challenges like Neema’s because we know that you all have our backs. You’re donating, encouraging, giving suggestions, sending people our way… You’re making the difference in entire families, which leads to change in an entire culture.
In short, you’re doing an amazing thing! We can’t thank you enough!
To help Neema’s family with some household items, food, and toiletries, you can donate to her project on DonorSee. Just click the button!
PS I am opening up my January trip to Uganda to 3-5 people. If you are someone with a skill or talent that wants to go to Touch the Slum and help teach kids, teach our staff, work with Nurse Sherry, or do social work in the slum, just reply to this newsletter and we can chat further!
This picture may be our Photo of the Year for 2023 – Monica captured the unadulterated, absolute joy in this family when we surprised them with food, mattresses, household goods, and shoes.
14-year-old Rachelle, one of the students in our Literacy program, lives with her aunt and 7 cousins in a pretty bad part of the slum. (Yes, there are bad parts even in the slum!) While it’s nicer in dry season because they have a little bit of space, it floods in rainy season, and the house is mud-and-stick and not secure or made to last.
The family has virtually nothing to their name. (You can see some videos on Instagram – click the icon below.)
But thanks to a quickly-funded project on DonorSee, we were able to get them things they need – NEED, not just want – and able to surprise them after Rachelle got home from Touch the Slum.
This project was only $375 – to bring food, mattresses, household goods, and shoes for 9 people.
And to bring JOY.
Tears. Running to the team with open arms, shouting thanksgiving, children dancing and crying and laughing all at the same time.
This is what you all do. I know you can’t feel it like my team, or see or smell or experience it. (I so wish you could!) But this is the WHY that you share with us, the simple yet profound ways we can join together to change lives.
PS We have a large project up for another irrigation tank at the farm. With large projects, they have to be 10% funded to show to the wider DonorSee platform. We’re at 5% — the project total is only $1274 total, so small for a “large” project! Can you help? $65 will get us full exposure so we can get the tank in to help with this dry season.
“There’s a great joy in my giving. It’s thrilling. It’s exhilarating. It’s important to be a part of sharing.” W. Clement Stone
Well, the well adventure is complete!
It may have taken Ssewak Engineering longer than they said to actually get out to the site to dig, but boy, did they hustle once they got there! Here’s the timeline:
Thursday, June 29 (a national holiday), they arrived at 2:00, ate lunch, set up, and started to drill. Drilling went on until 8:30pm, after dark.
Friday, June 30, they hit water! After letting the water run until it was clear, they stopped to let the bore hole dry.
Saturday, July 1, they built the bore, attached the filtration box and pump, and started the cement pad. My team didn’t leave the site until 11:30pm!
Sunday, July 2, we woke up a sign painter who created the sign. The cement pad and small adjacent wall were finished, with the sign cemented into the wall.
Monday, July 3, the well was officially handed over to the community! (And the LC asked Gideon if, since we’d built a well, we could now build a good road! hahahaha NO.)
Y’all… this was truly miraculous. As you can see from the photo, Gideon, the Wells of Hope students and staff, and members of the Rwakobo community celebrated and danced, even under the blazing dry-season midday sun.
WE DID GOOD!
All of us! The donors who made it possible, the supporters who sent prayers and encouragement and declarations of celebration, my team who walked the project all the way though despite the obstacles and setbacks, and everyone who has encouraged us on social media as they’ve seen the progress videos.
It was a team effort, and we all deserve an atta boy! We truly can’t thank you enough!
PS Yes, stuff was still happening at Touch the Slum, even while Ronald, Fauza, and Ritah were in Rwakobo documenting the well. We’ve got a number of important projects up on DonorSee, including a new irrigation tank for Mikisa Farm, some of our Literacy girls who are in truly dire need at home, and more. You can check out all our projects on DonorSee — as always, 100% of donations go to the program!
We (YOU) have funded the deep well for Wells of Hope Primary School and Rwakobo village in FIVE WEEKS. That’s $10,134 raised with only 9 donors in 5 weeks.
You know that word “gobsmacked?” Well, that’s what we are, especially Gideon.
I texted him last night after I got the email that the project had funded, read it about 6 times to make sure I wasn’t dreaming, and then cried a little. (True story!) Here’s what he said:
“Crazy crazy! It’s unbelievable! Thank yooooooou [yes, all those o’s!] so much, I didn’t see this coming through, I thought it was way too expensive. This is the biggest project we have done here, I’m super excited — I hope I get sleep!”
After that, he actually called the engineer in Kampala (11pm local time)! The engineer has sent a surveyor to Mbarara already (writing this on Tuesday). He will arrive tonight, and will start surveying the area Wednesday and talking with the local leaders tomorrow about where to place the well.
Y’all, this is SO amazing! This is what happens when people see what a difference they — YOU — can truly make in this world. This project will bring water, year-round, to over 3000 people. Three thousand people who currently have to collect water from ditches, compete with animals for it, and who get sick and die from typhoid on a regular basis.
It doesn’t take big corporations or big nonprofits. It just takes all of us, the average, ordinary people, coming together to accomplish something we could never do alone.
I’m so, so grateful!
PS If you didn’t see the project and original video with footage of the school and village, you can visit it by clicking the button. It was filmed in April when we were staying at Rwakobo Rock.