General

Why do we do Christmas at Touch the Slum?

image

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:

Apple Podcasts

Spotify

YouTube

Amazon Podcasts

THANK YOU for your generosity on Giving Tuesday!

image

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!

image

It’s Giving Tuesday! (woohoo!)

image

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 — 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!

image

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.

Say Happy Birthday to Ronald!

image

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.

Do You Have a Minute to Leave a Review?

In 2020, we got connected with GreatNonprofits online. At the time, we didn’t even realize people could give through the platform — we were just happy to be able to be listed in a way that people could find out about us.

Then, thanks to you all, we got this award!

For a small nonprofit, that’s a pretty big deal. And it brought in more than $1000 in donations over the past year.

Now we only have 3 more weeks to get the award for 2022.

Will you help?

It only takes a few minutes to leave a 4* or 5* review, but it means a lot to us for the upcoming year. Just click the button below now, and let the world know what you love about Ten Eighteen and Touch the Slum.

YES! I’LL LEAVE A REVIEW!

Webele nyo!

Jennings

YOU Are the HOW at Ten Eighteen Uganda!

I’m from Florida, as were six generations before me. I have been accused of having “thin blood”, because I start wearing long sleeves in early September, and have been known to wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is below about 78 degrees.

I also do NOT like to sweat. That led me to have a young life filled with swimming pools, diving boards, sailboats, water skis, and canoes. No tennis or (heaven forbid) cross country running for me!

All that to say, I was never part of a TEAM. Yes, swimming and diving means you’re on a team, but they are individual sports at heart. You can win a First when the team comes in last. Really, you just need a ride to the pool!

I’m also an introvert, and could (honestly) probably be a professional hermit.

But THIS, Ten Eighteen Uganda, is truly a TEAM. It’s way beyond me, and that’s wonderful!

Our team in Uganda is 22 paid staff and another handful of full time volunteers who work tirelessly with and for our teen mom and teen girls. They are all from the Namuwongo slum themselves, and live there or nearby still, so they are well aware of the circumstances in which the girls live.

Our team outside of Uganda — me and our small board — does all the communications, fundraising, technical stuff, and project development. For free.

But NONE of that would have produced the incredible program we have now if it wasn’t for YOU. Every single donation, no matter the size, is put to work immediately. 100% of it. Day in and day out, you come through.

It’s not because I’m such a great communicator, or that the media team produces such great content, or that Ronald is an extraordinary administrator. It’s because, for some or all or none of those reasons but also because our mission lit a fire in you, you saw the need, you saw that you could do something, and then — most importantly — you took action.

Trust me, most people get hung up after that second one! They don’t think $5 or $10 or $100 can “do anything” so they end up not doing anything. But hundreds or thousands of people doing something equals an incredible movement that can shift a culture.

That’s what you’re doing. Shifting a culture!

I wish we had the budget to send you all… something. A hat or a shirt or fly a banner over your house to thank you. This will have to do.

We really can’t ever thank you enough…

Webele nyo!

Jennings (and the team!)