We Leave Friday, Mama Santa’s Surgery, and More


I can’t believe it’s time to go back to Uganda already! Yay!

As you know, this time there will be 5 of us on the team: 2 artists, 1 writer, 2 nurses. But the artists have other skills, so we will all add chef and licensed mental health professional. Plus my problem-solving superpowers… Well, you get the idea! We’ll have a lot going on!

Anyway, 3 of us will start traveling Friday, one on Saturday, and one nurse is Ugandan and will be traveling from NE Uganda on Sunday. We’d appreciate your thoughts and prayers for safe travels!

Obviously, I’ll be updating on our work but won’t send many more emails than usual so as not to spam you. However, you can follow along on Instagram (even if you aren’t on that platform yourself) where I’ll be posting daily.

Secondly, Mama Santa is having a surgical procedure today after feeling sick for several days. I expect she’ll need a few weeks to recuperate. In the meantime, her daughter, Charity, who is also a cook, is filling in for her. The cost of the surgery is 850k shillings, and the cost for the scans and bloodwork was $250k. All that is a total of about $315 — if you’d like to help us with those expenses, we have a project up on DonorSee, or you can make a donation via Donorbox. (see below).

As always, THANK YOU…. You can’t imagine how much your support means. Without your ongoing help, situations like Mama Santa’s wouldn’t be resolved and would result in a much more unfortunate outcome. That’s life in the slum.

But for YOU.

Mwebele nnyo!


PS To donate for Mama Santa:

DONORSEE for Mama Santa


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Eight Days To Liftoff!


We’re officially 15!

It’s so exciting that I’ll be in Uganda EXACTLY on the anniversary of our first work there, January 15th. Wow, time flies!

So speaking of the upcoming trip… We leave on January 12th, arriving the night of the 13th. And that’s SO CLOSE!

We will have a team of four coming from the US, and will be joined by a Ugandan nurse, Harriet, who lives in the northeast Karamoja region. This is the first team I’ve taken to Uganda since October 2015, and we’ve got some great stuff planned: painting, drawing, clay and glass art, writing, hygiene workshops in the community, and more! I’ll be posting on Instagram, so make sure to follow us there. (Icon at the bottom!)

In other news…

We exceeded our year-end fundraising goal by 21%! I know times are tough and donations for all small nonprofits were down in 2023. So seriously, you all are THE BEST! You’re the fuel that makes everything we do in Uganda possible.

Some housekeeping…

If you donated via Donorbox or DonorSee, you always have access to your giving records and receipts via your account there. I have already sent year-end receipts to everyone who gives on Donorbox – check your spam folder or just download it again from the site if you didn’t receive it Tuesday.

If you gave via check, I will be sending you a receipt by email for 2023 before I leave on the 12th.

We really can’t express how much all your support and encouragement have meant to us, and how confident you make us feel going into this new year.

Mwebele nnyo!


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Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday!


Tomorrow is Giving Tuesday, one of the biggest days of the year in the life of a nonprofit. Will you join us in making an impact tomorrow?

We have easy ways to give:

  • Find a project you can get behind on DonorSee. We have projects for around $125 up to our newest large project, moving the residential program out to a new house.
  • Donate directly with Donorbox, either with a one time donation or by becoming a monthly donor.
  • Prefer to send a check or make a donation through your Charitable Giving Fund? Hit REPLY and I’ll give you the info you need! We are already registered with several!

And will you do us a favor and share Ten Eighteen and Touch the Slum with friends and family? Word of mouth is the #1 way we grow, so we greatly appreciate you sharing your enthusiasm for our work with those you care about.

As always, THANK YOU for all you’re doing to help vulnerable teen moms and teen girls in the Namuwongo slum!

Mwebele Nnyo,


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Happy Thanksgiving!




The happiest of Thanksgivings to you and yours.

Mwebele nnyo,

Jennings, Ronald, and all the Touch the Slum and 1018 team


PS We have a 15% off Giving Tuesday sale on our 15th Anniversary and Touch the Slum/1018 2024 shirts/sweatshirts and the TTS tote in our Bonfire Shop – the code is GIVINGTUES23. The sale goes through November 30th!

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What Does Rain Do To a Mud and Stick House?


Wycliff, above, is our newest social worker. He started with us as a volunteer and then intern while he was at Makere University. He is not from the slum, one of the few staff members who isn’t, so the fact that he wanted to come work with us when he graduated is huge. The slum isn’t an easy place – not an easy place to live, visit, or even find your way around, much less work day in and day out.

The house of one of our girls, where Wycliff visited yesterday, is made simply of mud and very thin sticks. The roof is rusty corrugated iron. You can see from the sides of the house that rain — you notice those dark clouds, right?! — and mud don’t really go together that well. It leaks, and eventually, sooner rather than later, the walls will begin to fall down.

This mama makes her living selling sugar cane. They buy it from a truck coming in from the countryside, haul the long stalks home, then use a machete to strip it and cut off lengths to sell. People buy and chew sugar cane when they don’t have much money because it’s cheap and curbs hunger pains. It’s not a very profitable business.

Over 30,000 people live in the Namuwongo slum, which is Uganda’s largest. An estimated 75-80% of them are children or teens.

Our Touch the Slum project is the only NGO in Namuwongo working with teen moms, the only one offering completely free education for teen girls, and the only one offering a free residential program, a free clinic, and free daycare. The only one.

We can’t serve all of the thousands of teen girls there, but we can serve the 75 who come to us every day with the promise, the hope, of CHANGE. Of a life that they can control. Of literacy and English and learning a skill that will last them a lifetime.

We can do that because of you.

Mwebele nnyo,


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Rescued Puppies, Rescued People


The Friday we were in the west, we were supposed to go to Rwakobo Village and do a walking tour of the several surrounding miles. This village is the poorest I’ve ever seen in Uganda, and is where Wells of Hope Primary School is located.

The best laid plans do go awry, and it POURED down rain that morning. The unanimous decision was to cancel the time at the village and go on to the lodge to start our “safari weekend” early. Cold rain, terrible roads, and herds of cattle trying to keep their feet out of the mud by standing on any hills in the roads made the drive take twice as long.

Then we came to a herd that just would not move. They stared at us, those huge Ankole horns pointed our way, and then William saw why: there was a small puppy in the middle of the road!

The puppy was huddled up and crying and very young, its eyes barely open, and there was no way I was leaving it. I hopped out of the car in the rain and the cows let me pass. I picked up the puppy but heard more crying – and there were two more in the ditch, completely soaked and shivering. Soon all three were in the car and they quickly found the warmest spot! And the cows parted for us to pass.

Even in a culture where dogs aren’t “man’s best friend,” the staff at the lodge jumped into action, started making phone calls, and found the owner of the puppies. Everyone thanked us for rescuing them. And of course we did — no one could have left them there to die of exposure.

Every day at Touch the Slum we rescue girls who are dying of exposure – exposure to exploitation, to malnutrition, to neglect.

Thanks to you, we can offer them a warm place, safety, food, reconnection with lost family, training and education, and — most importantly — HOPE.

We can’t thank you enough! Mwebele nnyo!


PS Our clinic restock project on DonorSee is 78% funded and we just need $85 to complete it! We’d love your help to make sure we have the medication and supplies Nurse Sherry needs to keep our population healthy. Click below!

Clinic Restock

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Choice Greetings from Uganda!


As they say here, choice greetings from Uganda!

No matter how you cut it, the travel is LONG, but it went as well as could be hoped for: on time (and early!) flights, being the first off the plane and second in immigration, quick (undamaged) bags, and the only thing slowing us down on exit was having to feed the bags through the x-ray machine (which no one was looking at!).

Now we’re enjoying a cool, cloudy (but not rainy!) morning over delicious Ugandan coffee, playful white faced monkeys running across the roof, and the same white tabby cat as last June asking for eggs.


It was 30 hours from when I left my house to when I got the hotel, with 3 hours of sleep, so this is a short (hopefully coherent) newsletter. This afternoon we’ll go to the compound where I’m sure I’ll have to dance (!) — I’ll try to stand in the back, but tune into our Instagram page to see how it goes. (Touch the Slum has one, too, and they are probably more likely to post slightly embarrassing video of yours truly trying to do African dancing… Not that you’d want to see that…)

More coming soon. For now, I’m thankful for safe travel, begging cats, goofy monkeys, a view of Lake Victoria, and hot Ugandan coffee.

And you!



PS Just click the icon below for Instagram. We’ll have a lot of great content once I wake up!

Choice Greetings from Uganda! Read More »

Ask Me Anything!


Every once in awhile I do an Intro on social media for our new followers. Since I haven’t done one here in… ever… I thought I’d give you a quick overview and let you ask me anything you want to know (within reason, of course!).

I’m a 7th generation Floridian living in NC, which I love. Having seasons is a beautiful thing, and NC has 4 almost even ones so it’s hard to beat. I’m Mama to three, ages 26 to 36, and Jaja to two, ages 3 and 1 month!

I started Ten Eighteen in 2008, and we did our first work in Uganda in January 2009. Over the past 14 years I’ve had women’s cooperatives, worked with hospice, sponsored kids, and built a primary school. Now we focus exclusively on teen moms and teen girls in Namuwongo, and on the two Primary schools in Western Uganda.

We homeschooled our kids for 13 years, moved to Nicaragua to own and run a hotel in 2016, and I had a bakery (accidentally!) for over three years in Beaufort, NC. (That’s BOW-FERT, not to be confused with BEW-FERT in SC!) I still love to bake – which, for some reason, my family doesn’t seem to mind.

I’ve written 6 novels, a screenplay (seriously…about a plague that wipes out most of the world… don’t blame me!), and 2 nonfiction books. I write a lot, everywhere, all the time!

And I love to teach the things I love doing, like baking and writing.

More questions? Just hit Reply!



PS I leave with my mom for Uganda on March 19, which will be my 16th trip and her first! Interested in visiting Uganda? Let me know!

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Three Weeks Til I Get to Uganda!


Ronald and I at Lake Mburo National Park, June 2022

WOW, in just three weeks I’ll be in Uganda!

The time has gone so fast since the last trip (and in other ways really slowly…), and I can’t wait to get back to hands-on work. Zoom is great, but it’s not THERE. And this time my mom will be joining us, which should be a great new adventure for her.

On the agenda:

  • Staff retreat where we will have the theme VISION, PASSION, SACRIFICE
  • At least one, and probably two, trips to the farm
  • A trip west to Mbarara and Rwakobo to visit Hopeland and Wells of Hope Primary Schools
  • Graduation (the first I will be there for!)
  • Art lessons for the Literacy class girls by my mom (who is an artist)
  • Community visits
  • Staff meetings
  • Dancing
  • And, of course, a short safari stay in Lake Mburo (above)

We so appreciate your ongoing support!

Webele nyo!


PS I just launched our next Large Project on DonorSee, a 10,000 liter ecobrick tank for Hopeland School. The tank is constructed using “bricks” made from recycled plastic drink bottles! We put in a similar tank at Wells of Hope in 2020 and it has helped enormously. Please visit the link and watch the video to see what it’s all about! The project is just $2,800 and we need 10% before it’s made visible to the wider DonorSee audience — we’d love your help to get us there!

Ecobrick Water Tank Projec

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If You’re In the Neighborhood…


Dear {{contact.first_name}},

This week we welcomed Rebecca (Rosie) to Touch the Slum. She got in touch with us by way of an Expat Money friend I met when I was in Panama in December. (Gotta love networking!)

We love having visitors at the compound and get them quite often: students from Makerere University, groups from other organizations working in the area, and a few from the West who want to come check us out, like Rosie from Canada.

In this era of the internet and social media and even electronic missives like this one, it’s really wonderful to meet people in person. We post a lot (a LOT) of video online, and you get this newsletter twice a week, but there’s no way to truly understand the community of Namuwongo or the scope of our work without being there in person.

Obviously, you can’t all hop a plane and visit (although if you do, let me know and I’ll give you all the skinny on where to stay, going on safari, and more!).

My goal for this newsletter and our social media (Instagram mostly) is that you get a sense of our work. That you see where your donations are going and the difference they are making every day in the lives of the teen girls in our program. That you have confidence that we are using your hard earned money to its maximum potential to change the culture and impact individual lives.

If you don’t follow us on Instagram (or pop over there every once in awhile – you don’t need an account), I’d love for you to check it out. I post a Reel every single day (yes,!): the farm, dancing, classes, DonorSee follow ups, visitors, day to day life, and more.

It’s the next best thing to being there!



PS We have a project up for 13-year-old Irene, whose mother makes less than $1/day. She is in our Literacy Program. Irene desperately needs clothes and shoes, and we only have $140 left to fully fund the project. If you can help, remember that 100% goes to the program! Click below —->

Help for Irene!

If You’re In the Neighborhood… Read More »

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