General

WHY IT MATTERS

Friend, sometimes, we go outside our brief…

In our Namuwongo project, here are some things we don’t (usually) do that we did last week:

  • Take in pregnant teens
  • Provide food for people not in our program

It’s just a matter of budget – there is SO MUCH NEED among the 30,000 people that live in Namuwongo, and we are one small nonprofit. We have to say no MUCH more often than we can say yes.

But sometimes, you just can’t say no.

A few weeks ago, the LC (local community leader) called about a pregnant 15 year old girl. While it’s in our “one day” plan, we currently aren’t equipped to take in pregnant teens. But we brought Kalunji to the office for counseling, and she has come back and spent all day every day there. She gets 2 meals a day, she’s finally gotten prenatal care and vitamins, and she’s safe.

Last weekend, the team went with her to visit her home, where she lives with her jaja. What they found was an elderly woman near to starvation, in a home where they slept on the bare dirt floor.

When Ronald sent me the video, there was no question. OF COURSE. Buy food. Get charcoal, a mattress, bedding.

OF COURSE. Because sometimes, you just can’t say no.

OUR GUIDING PHILOSOPHY AT TEN EIGHTEEN UGANDA

OPPORTUNITY, ACCESS, COLLABORATION

Ugandans know what Ugandans need.

There, I said it.

Let’s be honest, very many (most?) nonprofits define a mission first, then go do it somewhere. Very often, it’s NOT what the beneficiaries themselves think of as their most pressing need.

I have witnessed this first hand:

  • A group that painted a house — without asking permission — because “it needed it”
  • Groups that distribute clothing, shoes, and/or candy AFTER a presentation, and think all the desperate people waiting for the free stuff cared about the presentation
  • Building a clinic when there was no doctor, nurses, or money to pay for staffing or medicines (The organization wasn’t paying, they were just building!)

Okay, these are needs. (Well, not that first one!) These are “good works.” But they are things done TO people, maybe even FOR people, but not WITH people.

Uganda is poor, yes. Desperately so for most people. But Ugandans aren’t stupid. They can look around their communities and see what the needs are.

What they lack are the things Ten Eighteen strives to provide:

  • OPPORTUNITY – Money, yes. Introductions to fellow Ugandans in other areas who are doing similar work.
  • ACCESS – Again, money helps. So does the technology that facilitates communication and research. Bringing in materials and training that can move their programs forward.
  • COLLABORATION – By forming strategic partnerships, instituting regular video meetings (and audio ones when the speed of the internet doesn’t allow video!), and taking advantage of our own life experiences and education, we can collaborate on programs that bring huge success without a huge financial investment.

In order to create lasting change, we focus on the change Ugandans truly want. We all know how being forced into change feels — who wants to be forced to give up caffeine, or live without power thanks to a hurricane, or put on bed rest?? We want choices, and we want to buy in to the changes. We’ve been able to achieve so much with so little over the last 12 years because we’ve trusted our Ugandan partners — and because you’ve seen the impact and wanted to make an difference!

HOW DOES 100% OF YOUR DONATION GO TO THE PROGRAM?

Since we started in 2008, we have used 100% of our donors’ money for the programs.

YES, 100%!

Surprisingly, people have argued with me (at length) as to why and how that can’t be true, even while our books and statements clearly show it is. So I thought I’d explain how it can be so.

  • I work from home.
  • We have no paid staff in the US.
  • We do not pay for ads on social media, unless someone donates specifically for them.
  • When I travel to Uganda, we personally donate to cover those expenses (flight, transportation, accommodations, food).
  • We receive in-kind donations that cover our website, accounting and donation software, and business cards.
  • We use an app called SendWave that lets us use mobile money on MTN and Airtel phones in Uganda to send money without any fees on our end. (There is a small tax on their end, which we figure in.)
  • Our donation platform lets donors choose to pay the fees for their card processing.

BUT WHY AREN’T YOU PAID?

I started this as a labor of love, and, to be honest, until 2020, it was a part time (sometimes VERY part time) job. When I’m in Uganda, which was twice a year until we moved to Nicaragua in 2016, it’s 70-80 hour weeks of working, but at most that’s 5-6 weeks a year. Even when I restarted in 2019, the work was less than 4 hours a month.

AND THEN COVID…

When we visited last January, I did feel strongly that we had the groundwork in place to grow. In February, I started getting Ten Eighteen ready to apply for grants. And then Covid arrived on the scene, and all the best planning went out the window. Grants pivoted to all things covid. Uganda locked down in a draconian way, and people began to starve.

So all the “formal” stuff went out the window, and we worked many many hours a week, just trying to keep people alive, provide meals, solicit donations, explain what was happening, and keep going by faith. The aftermath of the lockdowns, school closures, destroyed businesses, and starvation took months to fully realize and to begin to sketch out a way forward.

MEANWHILE, ALL OF YOU STEPPED UP WITH DONATIONS EVEN WHILE YOUR LIVES WERE IMPACTED SO GREATLY!

WE ARE GREATLY BLESSED…

One day, and thanks to (we pray) grants, we do hope to pay people — that will mean that the work has grown to the point that our impact in Uganda is where we envision it. But our belief is that YOUR hard earned money should go to the programs that you believe in. To the work, to feed children in devastatingly poor schools, for vocational training to teens in the slums who have nowhere else to go, to the teen moms at the Ross House, to clean water for Rwakobo.

I am blessed – we are blessed – that life in the US, while difficult over this last year, has let us offer our skills and work as volunteers. I’ve been to Uganda 13 times — we’ve been 29 times as a team — and we understand how great the needs are there and how far even a small amount of money can go.

NO ONE CAN DO EVERYTHING, BUT EVERYONE CAN DO SOMETHING.

PROFILE OF FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, JENNINGS WRIGHT

Arise Africa Babies Home, Bukaleba

If you follow us on social media (and if you don’t, please do!), you saw our partner and team profiles in November and December. But every once in awhile, I want to introduce myself to anyone new, and let you know the WHY behind Ten Eighteen.

My mom and grandmother were both lifelong volunteers. My grandmother didn’t stop until was 85, and even after that, did flowers at church for many more years. (She lived to 106 1/2!) My mom is still on boards and committees at 79. While my children were younger and we homeschooled, I had this vague idea to start a nonprofit, although I didn’t really know what that nonprofit would do exactly. For about eight years, the idea percolated in the back of my brain.

In the fall of 2008, I felt like it was time, and filed the paperwork — still without a hugely clear idea of what exactly we would do beyond help some missionary friends in Thailand and Zambia. I got the 501(c)3 designation in December, and around Christmas reconnected with a friend I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years, who was living in Uganda.

The first thing Ten Eighteen ever did was rent an office space for an NGO that my friend had been working with in the slums of Namuwongo. My daughter went over to visit in May of 2009, and my son and I in September. By the time we’d spent a couple of days there, we knew that Uganda was where were meant to be!

There are a lot of things I love about Uganda (and yes, some things I’m not so fond of!). But the big WHY, besides just knowing that’s where we were called to go, is this: NO ONE CAN DO EVERYTHING, BUT EVERYONE CAN DO SOMETHING.

The problems are much too big for one small nonprofit. And for the first 44 years of my life, looking at huge problems like the Namuwongo slum, three million orphaned children, HIV/AIDS decimating the 20-40 age group, devastating poverty, lack of basic necessities and services, would have completely overwhelmed me. And, to be honest, it is still overwhelming somewhere in the back of my mind. But somehow, when we were there in the slum, visiting women and children and picking our way through indescribable filth, I knew: We could do SOMETHING. Not everything… but something. And that was enough.

In our 12 years, we have actually done a lot of things:

  • Given out over 50 microbusiness grants and loans for women to start small businesses
  • Sponsored over 100 children in school, vocational training, diploma courses, and university
  • Paid for all the fuel Hospice Jinja needed to serve all their patients in the district for 3 years
  • Built the Arise Africa Primary School in Bukaleba
  • Provided over 200,000 meals to school children; and to the elderly and teen moms during the covid19 lockdowns of 2020
  • Opened the Ross House, a training center and halfway house for teen moms and other youth from the Namuwongo slum
  • Funded a covid19 awareness campaign for Namuwongo that reached over 20,000 people
  • Built a kitchen and cistern at the Wells of Hope School in the remote and vastly underserved village of Rwakobo in Lake Mburo National Park

All with very little funding, and a lot of hard work and effort by our Partners, Team, and Donors.

I’ve been to Uganda 13 times now, and pray I’ll be able to get back sometime in 2021. My heart is there, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with such amazing people.

DO AS MUCH AS YOU CAN,

AS WELL AS YOU CAN,

FOR AS LONG AS YOU CAN.

INTRODUCING THE NDOTO COLLECTION ONLINE STORE

It’s here! The online shop is fully stocked, and full of great handmade items from the Ndoto co-ops we had in 2014 and 2015. (See the note at the bottom for a full history there!) These items were made by women living with HIV/AIDS, one in the slum of Namuwongo, and the other in a remote village called Mawanga, in partnership with Rural Orphans and Womens AIDS Network (ROWEN).

You’ll find jewelry, bags, and things for your home. Soon, we will have some sleep shorts stocked as well, in fun local kitengi fabrics. (The shorts don’t have size labels, so we’re trying to sort into best-guess sizes and get some photos.)

Here’s the best part:

100% OF THE SALES PRICE GOES TO THE WORK! YEP, 100%!!!

How?

Well, while the Ndoto co-ops were going, we paid a salary to each woman, as well as providing all the materials. Because of our move to Nicaragua, we closed the online store, but I still had all those great handcrafts. Now, we can put 100% of the price you pay to the work! (Yes, shipping and tax go to others… but you can’t have everything!)

That means you can make a big difference while getting great stuff for yourself and your loved ones. Everything is unique, everything was made with love, and trust me, you’ll love it all!

WHAT A GREAT WAY TO GIVE BACK!

Check out Lotus y la Luna, who used some of our products in their catalog. Awesome, eco-friendly and sustainable clothing from the Crystal Coast.

A Slow Return to Normal

In the nearly 5 months since the Covid19 crisis put Uganda into a complete lockdown, Ten Eighteen has been focused entirely on KEEPING PEOPLE ALIVE. By the end of June, we were feeding, providing charcoal, and hygiene items for nearly 525 people. In that time, we’ve sent nearly $20,000 to our partners.

To be honest, it’s been exhausting, with all that’s going on in the States as well… But what a blessing! Truly, when we talk about it, when we really see what God has allowed us to do during this unprecedented crisis, it blows my mind. We sure didn’t see that coming when we left in February!

So now…. Things are still not “normal,” but we’re easing our way back there. I think it’s important to remember that our philosophy is A HAND UP, NOT A HAND OUT. Additionally, our main mission is for education and food for those who are most impoverished. We’ve had lots of conversations with our partners at Guardian Angel Foundation and Hopeland/Wells of Hope, encouraging them (and reminding myself) that we have all been given a mission and ministry, and we need to get back to where our hearts and talents are.

Home tutoring for our P7 candidate students

As of now, the president has continued to keep schools closed. Supposedly, all homes will get a radio and all classes for all grades will be broadcast. (Yeah, we’re not holding our breaths!) However, the P7 students at Hopeland have critical testing coming up in December, which will determine if they can continue to Secondary school, so we have a team of teachers going house to house to do home tutoring for those students. We are also providing the scholastic materials necessary for this group of 20 students to continue their studies.

The president will made an address tomorrow. If schools are to remain closed, we would like to provide some home materials for the 230 P3-P6 students at Hopeland and Wells of Hope schools. The cost of this is about $600 per term, and not in our budget, but we are confident we can raise the support to allow these children to continue their education in these difficult times.

Receiving micro grants for new businesses

In the slums of Namuwongo, we are transitioning from giving away food to providing micro-business grants for our teen moms. The informal economy has slowly restarted, so it’s the perfect time for these energetic young moms to start on the road to self sufficiency. We are doing 4 grants at a time, with training and mentoring ongoing.

One thing that became apparent during this crisis is that there are many, many teen moms in the slums who are absolutely desperate. We were able to help some of them, but we are now planning for an even bigger plan: a halfway house called the Ross House, in honor of my grandmother, Ross Schlernitzauer, who died at the age of 106 in April. She spent her life volunteering, so I am thrilled to continue her legacy with this much needed home for teen moms. Stay tuned for more info as we get closer to our planned mid-November opening.

Finally, at the beginning of the crisis, we funded a lot of plants and seedlings for the babies home in Bukaleba. Now that the big rains have ended, that little farm is growing, and we are praying it will allow more self sufficiency for the babies and children at the home.

There’s a lot more going on, and a lot more to come — we are so so blessed to have you along with us, and so thankful for the donations that have come in during this very trying time. Please join our mailing list if you haven’t, so you get the latest updates. And remember, you can donate once, or set up a recurring donation. Any amount helps SO much, and 100% goes to the programs.

And our long awaited STORE is up! Please head over to shop — more items are on the way. 100% of the price of the items goes to to our programs.

Thanks for everything — y’all are amazing!

Jennings

COVID19 Crisis and Ten Eighteen’s Response

What a long 5 weeks it’s been in Uganda. In mid-March, when the Novel Coronovirus was coming on the scene everywhere, but before there had been any cases in Uganda, we sponsored a campaign with Guardian Angel Foundation to educate people on the virus, and on the basic hygiene needed to try to prevent or slow a spread in the slums. We were able to reach 20,000 of the 30,000 people in Namuwongo, and the campaign was written about in several newspapers and appeared on television news.

On March 29, when the number of cases was only in the low thirties, with no deaths, we received unofficial word that the president was going to order a complete lockdown of the country due to Covid19. We had expected some form of shutting down, but a complete lockdown, including all transportation, was not what we’d expected!

While this was still just a rumor, we felt that there was great risk to the people in our three programs, and immediately reached out to our partners. We sent over $7,000 on Friday to secure two months worth of food for 352 people (which became 368, and then 380…). Due to our quick actions, the food was purchased before crisis-induced inflation kicked in — by Monday, food prices had doubled!

Since that time, we have sent money weekly for charcoal, fresh vegetables, medicines, sanitary and hygiene products. Charcoal prices have gone from 60,000 shillings a bag to 130,000 shillings a bag — about $36 — in Namuwongo, although they have remained under 80,000 a bag so far in Mbarara. To date we have sent nearly $15,000 for almost 450 people.

Uganda is experiencing severe food shortages, people are starving to death, the government isn’t handing out food (as they’d promised to do), and parents are trying to give away, or are killing, their children because they’ can’t feed them. In short, it is a huge crisis, and sadly completely self-inflicted. As of today, Uganda has had 74 cases and no deaths.

We’re also now incurring additional costs for security, because the situation around the country has gotten so dire. However, we have been able to distribute smaller amounts of food around during the night hours, or to individual homes in small packages, so that we have avoided problems so far. We pray that continues to be the case, as there are at least 2 more weeks of lockdown ahead.

Meanwhile, on the positive front, we have partnered with Wonderbag to provide 30 of their Wonderbag non-electric slow cookers to our program participants. Wonderbag has a co-op of HIV+ women out of the Alive Clinic in Namuwongo, just 10 min from Guardian Angel Foundation’s offices. On Friday, we will be able to pick up the bags, buy pots, and distribute 23 of them in Namuwongo, as well as send 7 to Mbarara for our foster families. The cost of a medium Wonderbag plus pot is 140,000 shillings — only 10,000 shillings more than a single bag of charcoal — and will save us a LOT of money over the next couple of months as the country tries to get back on its feet. Check the bags out — they’re really amazing!

So there has been lots going on, and none of it what we’d planned! (of course) We still plan to build the well in the Rwakobo village, and have a donor who wants to fund it once they are back to work. We hope the children can get back to school, and parents back to their jobs in the informal economy that makes up most of Uganda. We’d love to have you partner with us on these projects, as well as the ongoing COVID19 crisis.