Explaining Hurricanes to Ugandans


Well, it’s Friday, and Hurricane Idalia has wobbled off to sea. We had the “perfect storm” of king tides (full moon) and storm surge, but thankfully the water didn’t get too high. Eighteen hours of 50mph wind gusts was exhausting, but we now have sunshine, a morning temperature in the sixties, and no damage. We’re thankful!

So yesterday, I was trying to explain a hurricane to friends in Uganda. As a lifelong resident of hurricane alley, I’d never really had to explain one before.

It’s a big storm going around in a circle with an eye.

Well, the eye is hole.

Okay, not a HOLE hole, but a… hole.

I’m sure I cleared it right up!

There are a lot of things like this that come up when you work in a vastly different culture that’s on the Equator. Etiquette and witch doctors and fried ant balls and seasons and why our sunset is at 5:00pm sometimes and 9:00pm others. How people here actually drive in their own lane and stop for stop lights.

But some things are universal, like the wide grin of a girl whose family are refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is learning English and having fun and changing the trajectory of her life.

Skills for Life and all of our programs at Touch the Slum are deep dives. Girls are with us for a year or more, learning skills and healing from past trauma. We believe that changing lives in ways that will trickle down to the culture is vastly more important than being able to say that we “served” a very large number. Changing lives, changing culture is slow and hard and sometimes frustrating.

But it’s lasting, and that’s what we’re doing, every single day.

Thank you for being part of this work with us — we couldn’t do it without you!

Mwebele nnyo!


PS We have three projects that are over 70% funded on Donorsee: the water tank at the farm, the food budget gap at Hopeland Primary School, and 14 year old Neema’s project for food and supplies. $15 will go a long way for any of these projects, and we have more to choose from, too! Check them out here


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Where the Boys Are


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!


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.


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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,


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!

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Teen Moms and the Culture Problem

I’ve been working in the Namuwongo slum for a long time — since 2009. One of the most ubiquitous things that you see when walking through the slum is men drinking moonshine, smoking, and playing pool and cards in speakeasy, while women are hawking goods on the street, carrying jerrycans on their heads, and managing a bunch of children.

And yet, it’s the girls who get sold off for brides, who get denied schooling if funds are limited, who aren’t given sanitary pads to manage their periods with dignity, who are told as (often young) teens that “it’s time to find someone to take care of you.” Meaning a man.

Culture is a hard thing to change.

A man can find a desperate girl to live with him in exchange for food and a roof over her head. She’ll call him her “husband,” but as soon as she’s pregnant he’ll kick her out and likely disappear. No one takes responsibility for the babies except for the girls.

Culture is a hard thing to change.

But we are doing it, slowly by slowly. (Mpolo mpola in Luganda.)

We have young men volunteering with us who have sisters who got pregnant because of desperate circumstances. They have seen the desperation and downward spiral that starts with a pregnancy, and they have begun to see that their sisters, their mother, their female friends have VALUE. They are worth protecting and respecting.

Culture is a hard thing to change, but we can do it. Mpolo mpola.



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