Touch the Slum

Community Cleanup (By Coercion)

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This year was our third “invitation” to join a community clean up by the local government. They do it by zone, so this year’s event was in a neighboring one. Our team spent from 8am to 2pm doing what Sarah is doing above – raking out muck from ditches (you REALLY don’t want to know what’s in there!), hauling and dumping wheelbarrows full of filth and trash, and trying not to breathe.

The first year, when we were newbies to this endeavor, the LC asked us to chip in shillings the buy the equipment and supplies, then show up to help. It was obvious that the amount of money given was… under represented in the amount of stuff bought. This is called “facilitation” (otherwise known as a bribe).

We got wise after that, and now buy our own supplies and equipment — which we are “asked” to “donate” to the “community” after the event. In short, we pay 350,000 shillings a year, spend a day in filth, and add the bonus points to our “making people in government happy” tally.

TIA. (This Is Africa.)

In spite of the various levels of government and bureaucracy, Touch the Slum continues to thrive. As I reported a month or so ago, we are the #1 Youth Led Organization in the city of Kampala. Because Ronald and the team are from the slum community, they know how to play the game(s) and make friends that matter and — most importantly — make a difference.

Because that’s what Touching the Slum means… making a difference, within the system that exists for both us and for the vulnerable teens girls in our program. We can not like the system (we don’t) while still being able to work within to create personal and cultural change.

I’m so grateful for Ronald and the team, and their willingness to ALWAYS go the extra mile. Touching the slum means touching the lives of those within it, and I couldn’t ask for a more dedicated group to carry out that mission.

Blessings,

Jennings

PS We currently have 5 projects that are between 20-50% funded, including the new water tank for Mikisa Farm, a food budget gap project for Hopeland Primary school, 14 year old Neema’s project for food and household supplies, art supplies for the Literacy class, and the August sanitary pad project. Even $10 makes a big impact – to choose one today, just click the button!

Choose a project today!

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Uganda Welcomes All Refugees. But…

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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!

Help Neema’s Family!

Mweble nnyo!

Jennings

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!

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300 kg of Maize! What a Harvest at Mikisa Farm!

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Most have you have followed us since we started fundraising for what is now Mikisa Farm over a year ago. You saw the shell of a brick house, the weeds, and two acres of land with nothing else. You gave, you cheered when we bought the land in August 2022, you’ve supported our projects since then, and have sent many comments here and on Instagram.

Now you can celebrate a huge milestone: our first maize harvest!

Ronald went to the farm on Friday with 3 others from the Touch the Slum team. They were joined by four of our teachers on Sunday. And this is what they did: pulled dry maize off the stalks, bundled the hundreds of cobs into bags, hauled them to the farmhouse, then helped bag the 300 kilograms (that’s 660 pounds!) of maize kernels as they came out of the thresher.

WOW!

This maize will be milled to posho, and will feed our girls (and cut our grocery budget!) for many weeks. We could not be more excited, grateful, and (speaking for the team) tired!

All of us make up the Ten Eighteen Uganda team — you, me, our Board, our staff, our students, their parents and guardians, and the community in Namuwongo who has come alongside our mission to change the culture for teen girls in the slum.

We did good, y’all!

Mwebele nnyo!

Jennings

PS We still need funds for the second irrigation tank at the farm. We’re 25% there, and just need $960 to get it purchased and installed, with the solar and piping. It’s dry season now — that’s why we could dry the maize on the stalks — so it would really help Derrick to have more irrigation to help him every day. Just click below!

FOR WATER!

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Why Kampala City Authority Wanted Us for a Last Minute Meeting…

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Yesterday, Ronald was all set to go to the farm with three other members of our team to help Derrick process the dried maize when Sarah called from a meeting with KCCA and an organization called Plan International saying they needed HIM at the meeting, too.

So the farm trip was postponed and off Ronald went on a boda.

When he got there, he found THIS out – we’re the #1 Youth Led Organization in the city!

Plan International is conducting an initiative to make Kampala better and bring more equality for “the girl child”, so they’ve been doing a lot of research into Youth Led Organizations in all the city’s slums. (There are 5, Namuwongo being the largest.)

The next step is to go back today for another meeting (Ugandan’s LOVE long meetings!) to meet different stakeholders and see how we can fit in to this initiative.

I’ve long told you all that our team in Uganda is AMAZING, and it’s true! I’m so proud of them and the work they put in day after day — as well as the love and enthusiasm.

And I’m proud of YOU, because your support and donations are what has allowed us to grow, to deeply impact lives, and to bring culture change for the “girl child” in Kampala.

You’re making a difference!

Mwebele nnyo!

Jennings

PS If you want to join us as a monthly donor (or make a one time donation), we’d love to have you on board! Just click below – it’s easy and quick, and 100% goes to the programs.

DONATE NOW!

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Bringing Joy Never Gets Old

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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.

Mwebele nnyo,

Jennings

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.

Bring the water!

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When the Ladder Has No Rungs

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14-year-old Rachelle, on the left, lives with her aunt and five other children in a bad part of the Namuwongo slum. (Yes, even in the slum there are bad parts!)

Earlier this month, Rachelle started in our Literacy program, the first time she has ever attended any kind of school. As you can see, she is now beginning to read simple books out loud! Hesitantly, with a little embarrassment, but still — she’s READING.OUT.LOUD. in less than a month!

When we were planning our Literacy program, we knew that most of the girls who came through would have never attended school before, and even those that had would have had only a few terms under their belts. Teen girls are not known for their ability (or desire!) to sit still and be serious — as my mom, Susan, said on our trip a few months ago, “They are JUST like giggling teenage girls everywhere!”

But they are consumed with a desire to learn, to speak English, to read and write and know how to use money (and not be cheated). To be MORE.

Without Touch the Slum, the girls in our program will always only be less-than. They are less than the boys in their family, who get to go to school if there’s the money for it. They are less than the younger children, who get food first because the teens should be able to “go out and get money” (meaning from sex work) if they need incidentals like food and sanitary pads.

They know they are at the bottom of the social ladder — and that, without basic literacy and a skill, that ladder has no rungs.

But YOU believe in them, and so they believe in themselves!

And that’s enough.

Mwebele nnyo!

Jennings

PS Our monthly sanitary pad project for June is 87% funded – we just need $44 to get sanitary pads to 250 girls. If you want to help, click the button!

JUNE SANITARY PADS

PSS The well contractors have still not shown up. (Don’t worry, we haven’t paid them anything except for the surveyor who came twice.) Apparently, they’ve been trying to line up multiple jobs in the region to do back-to-back, but didn’t tell Gideon that until Friday. Our Touch the Slum team took the overnight bus back to Kampala Sunday night, and will return once the trucks are ON SITE! This is Africa…

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Where the Boys Are

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Did you know that in Uganda, girls and women still don’t inherit land? While *technically* a father, brother, or uncle can leave a female his land, if there is any male relative living, no matter how distant a relation, he can contest the will and win.

Did you know that in Uganda, polygamy is legal?

Did you know that in Uganda there are still child brides, a “bride price”, and dowries?

That’s why this photo is so important. We are engaging and enlisting young men to stand with us against teenage pregnancy. We are educating them about the value of girls, the dangers of casual sex (Uganda has the highest per capita rate of HIV/AIDS in the world, among other STDs), and the pitfalls of teenage parenthood.

And they’re listening!

I’m not going to tell you that we have changed all 30,000 people in the Namuwongo slum, 80% of whom are 18 and under. But I can tell you that every month we have more young men stepping into our compound and learning. More young men engaging in our community sensitization campaigns. And more young men volunteering at Touch the Slum.

Culture change is hard and slow and frustrating. But it can happen! Thanks to you and your support, it’s happening every day in our little corner of Namuwongo – you can be proud of your impact!

Mwebele nnyo!

Jennings

PS We are facing challenging times as the economic woes continue in the countries from which we get most of our donations. Becoming a monthly donor, even $10/month, helps us more than you can imagine. Or you can increase your current monthly donation. Just click below! Sign up is easy and fast, and you’ll be touching lives in the slum every day.

BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR

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Ugandan Water Games

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How many people (and how long!) does it take to fill a glass with water by hand down a line of people? And how much mud does it make?!

When we were in Uganda last month, both Hopeland and Wells of Hope Primary School showed off some fun relay type games to us. A couple of them involved moving water from one place to another, one by hand and the other in the mouth (!). Hilarity ensued and even the observers/cheerleaders had a blast.

So of course we borrowed the idea for Touch the Slum!

We are in the term break now, and have all of May for the girls to engage in creativity, puzzles, learn new skills, dance, and play games. Why?

If they’re out in the community, they’re at risk. Their families can’t afford to feed them every day, and lack of food makes them vulnerable to exploitation. While our graduates from Skills for Life are doing internships or learning additional skills that will help them get jobs, like doing men’s hair, our Literacy girls are still coming to class every day.

They’re safe.

Our core mission is to change the culture where this is a common worry, where teen girls in the slum are expendable and exploitable. We help the girls realize that they have intrinsic value, give them skills, give them strength. We also work with the young men so they see these girls, and others in the community, as people worthy of respect and care.

Culture change is slow, but we’re making progress. We have terrific young men in our staff and program, and their experiences trickle down to their families and peers outside the compound.

It’s thanks to partners like YOU that we can protect these girls and educate the community, and we can’t thank you enough!

Mwebele nnyo!

Jennings

PS The project for baby Alpha’s burial expenses is 43% funded. Sylvia started participating in activities late last week, and is doing pretty well during the day. Nights are still hard, of course, especially since she lives with five other teen moms and their babies. If you’d like to help us with Alpha’s project, just click the button – thanks!

Baby Alpha’s Project

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Hello from Florida – a Quick Update

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I made a quick trip down to Fort Myers and Naples, just Monday to today, so I could speak about Ten Eighteen’s work in Namuwongo to the Fort Myers Rotary Club. It was so fun – I really appreciate the invite from one of our regular donors, Mark!

Today the literacy girls learned to make budgets and shopping lists. It wasn’t as fun as painting pineapples and funky chickens, but they really enjoyed it. We’re really trying to engage the literacy girls with fun projects and new things to learn over these off-weeks of the term break, and they are absolutely soaking up everything thrown at them.

Everyone is getting back to normal life after the tragic death of baby Alpha. We really appreciate all of the emails and comments from you guys — it’s really given a lot of comfort to Sylvia and the team.

So what’s up these days?

  • We are continuing the fundraising for the well at Wells of Hope. We still need about $500 so that the project is visible on the wider DonorSee platform. Since 100% of donations go to the project, ANY amount is helpful!
  • Gideon, the Director of Hopeland and Wells of Hope Primary Schools, became a father for the second time last week. His new daughter, Shalom, is doing great!
  • We are going to teach some of the hairdressing girls how to do men’s hair during the term break. We get asked by salons if we have anyone who can do both men and women, so we are going to try it out with a handful and see how it goes. Any time we can expand and broaden our skill portfolio, I’m happy!
  • I have 3 bags made by Jenifer that I will be selling – I’ve already sold one! If you’re interested, I can send you photos this week. All the money will go directly to her, and will make a big impact for her little family.

Thank you for all your support!

Webele nyo,

Jennings

PS Donations have been very slow this month, so if you’ve been thinking about giving and haven’t yet, it would be a great time!

GIVE NOW

DONORSEE PROJECTS

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Rescued Puppies, Rescued People

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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!

Jennings

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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