General

Thank You So Much – Mwebele Nyo!

It’s hard to believe that I got back from Uganda 2 1/2 months ago… Time has flown by!

But one thing has remained constant: YOU!

Our monthly donors give month in and month out so we can continue our work.

You have funded 156 projects on DonorSee, with a total of $53,200 raised.

You have allowed us to purchase land for the farm, fence it, clear it, put in a latrine, and given so we could plant bananas and get ready to plant beans.

We have weathered crazy inflation because YOU have given to make up the difference.

You have funded our free clinic and daycare all year long.

You have allowed us to create a safe place for at-risk girls to be cherished and loved and educated and supported.

YOU!

We honestly can’t thank you enough, but here’s a short thank you video we made for you.

Blessings!

Jennings

Self-Sufficiency In All the Ways

I’m kind of an old fashioned gal. I like to garden and can and use things in ways their creators didn’t intend to solve a problem. I love being self sufficient.

The girls in our program have been largely bypassed by their community. If there is lowest-rung on the social ladder in the slum, it’s teen girls.

But not at Touch the Slum!

We believe in self sufficiency, sustainability, and personal responsibility. They go hand-in-hand: if we teach a skill that allows a girl to make an income, they then have a sustainable way to continue to earn that income and can be responsible for their own lives.

In short, it’s HOPE.

This week we made liquid soap, thanks to a generous donor. It’s MUCH cheaper to make the soap than to buy it, and we get to do a mini-workshop for the girls on how to do it. Then they can make and sell it while they’re learning a bigger skill.

Win-win.

Every program we have and every program we think of having is within this context. We don’t want to create dependency, we want to create opportunity for IN-dependence. Always.

Thank you for always standing with us – we can’t tell you how much your support and encouragement mean, and how many lives you touch every day because of it!

Webele nyo,

Jennings

PS Teen Jackline was in the Literacy class last term, and will be starting hairdressing on the 15th. The project for her supplies is almost 65% funded – we just need $95. We’d love to have your support!

Jackline’s Supplies!

Thank You For an Amazing June!

June has been a big month — and it seems like it was both long and short simultaneously. It feels like a long time ago I was there (and I’m trying to block the travel from my mind!), but the month has also flown by with a handful of truly heartbreaking situations.

And yesterday, we crossed $30,000 in donations made to us through DonorSee! THANK YOU for your support and encouragement that have made this possible.

I hinted at a large project coming soon, and that’s still on deck. Due to the emergencies we handled over the last couple of weeks, we moved the launch date to July 11. You’ll be hearing more about that next week — it’s a GREAT project that will really change a lot of things at Touch the Slum.

Exams started for all our Skills for Life classes this week. All the students get to show their skills and their creativity, creating unique hairstyles and clothing designs to impress their teachers. Many of the girls will start internships when exams are over, which is an awesome way for them to get real life experience and hopefully set them up for outside employment.

Skills for Life will be taking a month off, from July 15 to August 15. The residential girls will continue in their computer class and our Neema Development entrepreneurship training will continue during this time, but otherwise we will be repairing and restocking, planning and tweaking the curriculums, and generally taking a rest from the crazy busy first half of 2022.

Of course, our clinic will remain open and the daycare will be operating for the residential girls and staff.

In short, the first half of 2022 has been AMAZING, and we couldn’t be more grateful to you for your support. If you know anyone who would be interested in our work, please feel free to forward this email and direct them to our social media (and DonorSee!). We’re working on some things for the 3rd quarter of the year, and are always looking for ways to grow our supporter base.

Blessings,

Jennings

When the Ship Hits the Span

When I was in grad school in Pensacola many moons ago, a big ship ran into the bridge going over to the beach and broke it. It caused huge issues, since many people commuted to work. Ferries had to be set up, etc. But the “best part” was that, within 24 hours, some bright lad or lass was selling tee shirts that said, “I was there when the ship hit the span.” Brilliant – I’m sure they made a killing!

That phrase has stuck in my head in the nearly 40 years since, as the “nice way” to say, well, the other phrase about bad events.

The last 10 days have been one slow-moving ship aiming at the span.

  • the 16 year old girl raped and impregnated by her father
  • one of our Literacy program students becoming homeless and living in a church with her family
  • another Lit student whose aunt is trying to prostitute her to bring in money for food
  • Now, our landlord didn’t pay his property tax bill in conjunction with a broke KCCA desperate for money which has suddenly “reassessed the value.” The gate to our compound has been sealed and the water turned off until we pay a month’s rent 2 months in advance so he can pay off the debt

My staff is exhausted, Ronald is frustrated, and I am ready to head to the beach and stay there! And then there’s the state of the economy in general, both here and there… Which is better not thought about, to be honest.

In our 13 1/2 years working in Namuwongo, this isn’t the first crappy week. We’ve had people’s homes bulldozed in the middle of the night. Two years of incredibly harsh (and even more incredibly harshly enforced) lockdowns. Primary school girls sold off as brides. Fathers shot and killed for poaching to feed their family.

It’s HARD.

And yet, it’s these hard things, these TIA things (This Is Africa), these frustrations and set backs, that make all the GOOD things so sweet. All the laughter more joyous. All the accomplishments more amazing.

I’m incredibly proud of our team, our work, and how far we’ve come. I’m incredibly grateful for all of you who have come alongside to help us — in the hard things and the great things. We really can’t thank you enough!

Webele nyo,

Jennings

PS We have a lot of “hard things” projects up right now on DonorSee, and we’re close to our June goal of crossing $30,000 raised on the platform. Even $10 goes a long way — please click below to see the projects! 100% goes to the program.

Click Here for Projects!

When Culture Gets You Down

I’ve been traveling to Uganda for a long time — 13 years now. And I’ve spent a lot (a LOT) of time in the slum. So I’m pretty used to the culture, the difficulties, the injustices.

But this week…

We have just had an emergency admission of a pregnant 16 year old who was raped by her father.

I’ll pause while you throw something… I know I wanted to.

Of course, most of us are immediately screaming things like, “LOCK HIM UP!” But no. He isn’t going to be locked up. He isn’t even going to be arrested.

Why? Because the GIRL is the one who will be blamed. The GIRL is the one whose life will be ruined if it is made public. We aren’t even telling more than a few people in our own staff because we have to protect her.

She and her sister are terrified. Of the father beating or even killing them. Of others if they find out.

The mother is leaving them in the slum — to the mercy of their father — and going back to the village.

I’ll pause again for you to throw something else…

So we’re doing our best to protect both girls, deal with the extreme trauma through counseling, and find a safe way forward for them.

We’d all appreciate your thoughts and prayers.

Webele nyo,

Jennings

PS We’ll have a project up for this once we can figure out how to do it and create a safe situation and protect anonymity. Meanwhile, you can become a monthly donor or make a one-time donation to help us with this and similar situations. We’d really appreciate your support!

I want to donate!

Wow, You Really Came Through!

YOU GUYS ROCK!

Seriously, maybe I need to go away more often because just in the time I was on my trip, we raised nearly $4000 on DonorSee!

FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS! Wow. I’m blown away!

What did you accomplish?

  • blackboards for the new Wells of Hope Primary building
  • a substantial start on part 1 of desks and chairs for the building
  • orphan Miriam’s medical care after she was hit by a boda
  • almost 60% of the transportation for Kellen to her father’s burial
  • medical care for teen mom Mabel’s two sick children
  • a metal crutch for Emmanuel, who was born with one leg
  • help for Clare, the teen mom living in the chicken coop
  • an exit package for teen mom Gloria, to set her up for independence
  • restocking food for our teen girls
  • mosquito nets for 25 students in Skills for Life
  • an emergency intake for 15-year-old pregnant teen Sylvia
  • a 4-bed dormitory for homeless students in Skills for Life
  • medical treatment for Jen’s UTI

Y’all, I was only gone 2 1/2 weeks! THIS.IS.AMAZING!!

Your support while I was gone, beyond this amazing giving, was so appreciated. I got emails and messages on social media, and it was so encouraging. Because it’s hard over there…

Great. But hard. Thanks to all of you, the trip was a success in every way. I really can’t thank you enough!

Webele nyo!

Jennings

PS Becoming a monthly supporter is a GREAT way to help our work! As little as $10 a month makes an impact — $10 can provide food for a teen mom and her child for a week! Just click the button to get started —>

And So It Ends… Leaving On a Jet Plane

I leave tonight (Wednesday) at 11:30pm. I’ll check out of the hotel at 10:30 in the morning, grab some of my son’s favorate Kamulali hot sauce, spend several hours at the office, and then go on to Entebbe and the airport. There’s a good lounge in EBB, and honestly, what else is there to do when you’re just sitting around anxious to be on your way?!

The trip has been GREAT. Really great.

After 2+ years away thanks to the pandemic response, I am thrilled to see in person all that we — and YOU — have built.

The Touch the Slum compound is thriving, with 12 residents, 60 students, a clinic, a daycare, 20 staff, and so much enthusiasm.

The Literacy class went even better than we expected, and those girls are ready to sit in on vocational classes and get a feel for what they’ll be doing next term.

Our photography and videography team — which started as a vocational class, too — has been producing the really great work we use in social media and on DonorSee. Their short film was part of the Ugandan Film Festival. They’re also getting outside gigs, and are now “influencers” on TikTok and getting paid just to mention businesses!

We’re reaching even more teens with Teen Talk and Turning Point each week.

And out west, schools are back in session FINALLY, and the students are doing well. The school building at Wells of Hope Primary in Rwakobo Village is almost usable. We’re going to put an ecobrick water tank at Hopeland Primary to help them have enough — and free — water.

Spending time with all the wonderful people we’ve been able to gather to Ten Eighteen Uganda, Touch the Slum, and the two schools has been inspiring and motivating. I’m headed back with renewed energy (okay, maybe renewed AFTER I get over jet lag!).

I’ve been really grateful that we’ve video chats and messaging over the last two years. But there is nothing like sharing meals, walking the slum or village, laughing, chatting, and watching in person. The former will let me come once a year and still be 100% “in the know.” The latter lets me truly KNOW. I’m grateful!

Blessings,

Jennings

PS. We have 2 projects up on DonorSee to allow the Wells of Hope building to open – one is for floors and blackboards, the other for desks and chairs (part 1). (That one is almost 20% funded already.) We’d so appreciate your support to move the kids from the overcrowded mud-and-stick classes to the spacious new ones as soon as possible!

One Week Down – How It’s Going in Uganda

Happy Memorial Weekend from Uganda! I hope it’s as beautiful where you are as it is here today. I’ve been reading and sketching outside all day, and enjoying my day off… it’s been wonderful!

I’ve sent a couple of other updates, so here’s how the end of the week went:

  • I led a 5 hour retreat/workshop with all but 2 of our staff yesterday. (I’ll meet with Mr. Aziz and Mama Santa separately about facility issues.) It was a new experience for most of them, but we had a fun and productive time of games, discussion, problem solving, and laughter. Oh, and chicken and chips, of course!
  • Friday was both the Strong Minds group and Teen Talk. I didn’t know I was speaking at Strong Minds until I was introduced (!), but we had a good session on self-worth. Many of our girls are called “prostitutes” or “worthless” because of their past, but that’s not who they are now. They are learning to change their self-perception and it’s beautiful! (The baby at the top is one of the teen mom’s girls.)
  • We had a (probably temporary) emergency admission on Saturday, a late-teen (she’s not sure of her exact age) with a one year old daughter. Both were very malnourished. Esther had been referred by a European woman who found her sleeping in front of a church. Nurse Sherry discovered she is pregnant again, and that her “husband” has been violent and abusive towards her. We will be in the community tomorrow trying to locate her auntie; in the meantime she’s staying temporarily in the dorm.

We’ve got a busy 2 days ahead, then on Wednesday we leave at 7am to travel 4ish hours west to Lake Mburo and Wells of Hope Primary School. We’ll be out that way until Sunday — more to come on that part of the trip!

Thank you all so much for your encouragement and support!

Blessings,

Jennings

Big Day In the Namuwongo Slum

Tuesday was “day 1”, and I had a short office day as I fought sleep deprivation and a 7 hour time difference.

I slept well, and Wednesday was a full and busy day. In the morning, we went down into the Namuwongo slum and visited about a half dozen families/guardians of Skills for Life students to see how they felt their girls were doing. The feedback was amazing!

Without exception, they had seen positive changes in their girls. Better behavior. Less hanging about with questionable friends and getting into trouble. More respect at home.

THIS IS HOW WE CHANGE THE CULTURE.

Traditionally, parents want their kids to go to school and become one of four things: teacher, doctor, lawyer, or nurse.

There is no room in the traditional thinking for musicians or artists, for mechanics or electricians. The way Ugandan schools are set up, to even go to a trade school you have to complete Senior 4.

This leaves most kids behind, especially since the covid lockdowns.

But parents are SEEING now. They see that girls with little or no schooling can still be excellent students in a vocational program.

They see that girls who had no direction or HOPE for the future were headed for disaster, but that those same girls are now focused, working hard, and setting themselves up for future success.

THIS IS VERY ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT THINKING.

But it’s working. And THAT is changing the culture, slowly by slowly. (mpola mpolo)

THANK YOU for your support and encouragement! YOU are changing not only the lives of the girls in our program, but the hearts and minds of the community. That is a huge step forward.

Webele nyo!

Jennings

PS Our food restocking project on DonorSee is 84% funded. Prices are going up every day, so we’d really appreciate your support to complete it! Click the link!

FOOD FOOD FOOD!

“Choice Greetings From Uganda!”

You know you’re in Uganda when there’s a tree growing through your room! To be honest, by the time I got to the Kampala Forest Resort (one of my favorite places to stay anywhere!) at 1:30am, I didn’t pay the tree that much attention. It had been a VERY long, frustrating day of bad weather, flight delays, and the “new normal” of travel (which doesn’t have much to recommend it). But waking up to the tree, and coming out for COFFEE and breakfast and seeing Lake Victoria in the distance were worth it.

I’m not heading to the compound until 12:30, and it’ll be a fairly short day. But I have ALL THE GOODIES that I was able to bring from donations over the past 2 years:

  • a tactical laptop
  • iPad Mini
  • iPhone 11 ProMax
  • 2 suitcases full of baby clothes
  • 1 suitcase full of women’s clothes
  • 66 sets of reusable sanitary pads
  • a full bin of disposable sanitary pads
  • medical equipment from MDS
  • books, toys, and games

In short, it’s going to be an *amazing* Christmas-in-May!

When my son and I were here last, Touch the Slum was working out of a cramped 2-room office in the slum.

Now we have a full compound, 12 resident girls, 60 students, 18 staff, and 30+ babies and children every day. To say that’s a big change in the last 2 years is an understatement, and it’s all thanks to YOU and your support.

I’ll be adding a 3rd weekly email for the 2 1/2 weeks I’m gone, since the schedule is full and I want you to see all that we’re doing.

Webele nyo!

Jennings