Martha, like so many teen girls, got pregnant during the pandemic lockdowns in 2020 at 16 years old. She moved to the Namuwongo slum to get a job to try to support her family, but was taken advantage of instead.
Now she’s learning Hairdressing at Touch the Slum and looking forward to a sustainable future.
This is her story.
PS Martha’s education at Skills for Life costs us $35 a month. By donating today or Tuesday — on Giving Tuesday! — you help us keep Martha and the girls like her in the program.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!
Growing up, my family farmed citrus. I remember going out to the groves with my dad or grandfather, running around the barn, afraid of the ponds because alligators lived in them. One time I had a face to face encounter with a Florida black panther… Fortunately we stared at each other down the dirt road, me terrified and him deciding if I was a snack, and then we went slowly in separate directions.
Even growing up on the Indian River, out of town, the groves were special. Quiet, peaceful, beautiful, full of life.
Four of our staff girls are learning that about Mikisa Farm. These young women are all from the slum. While full of life, the slum is anything but quiet or beautiful. It’s certainly never peaceful.
We have a dorm room set up at the farm to accommodate groups. Right now, we’re taking staff and volunteers out there because we’re in the final “set up” phase: Hoeing, spreading manure and fertilizer on the bananas and other trees, getting beds ready for seeds.
It’s a labor opportunity, not so much a learning opportunity at the moment!
But everyone LOVES it. They didn’t want to leave! I had a meeting with Ronald yesterday and he said, “It’s so quiet, there’s a breeze and fresh air, and you can see so many stars!”
We started the farm as a way to grow food for Touch the Slum. We knew we’d open up opportunities for any girls in the program who wanted to learn about farming, or who grew up in the village and missed it. But we were thinking in practical, problem solving terms.
We forgot the value of peace and quiet. Of space to think and look at the stars and laugh over a fire on a chilly night. Of pride in a physical job well done. Of the healing that happens under the wide Ugandan sky.
I can’t wait to get there next month…
Thank you all for your generous donations to our farm over the last 7 months! Tomorrow is the last day that the farm project will be up on DonorSee. If you can make a donation today to help us with these final infrastructure costs, we’d so appreciate it. 100% goes to the program!
Oh, and visit our Instagram to see videos of the work at the farm this week and the girls smiling and dancing their way through their work. Link below!
Last week was a big one! The team was at the farm Monday afternoon til Sunday without much internet, so I got a LOT of video today (check out Instagram over this week for those!). Monica and Fauza, who head our media team, went with Ronald and some of the lads. Everyone had to work hard to earn their keep. (It must have been fun, though, because they’re going back on Wednesday!)
Now we’re in the final stages. I have the irrigation budget in hand, which will be a big help during the Ugandan dry seasons. The gate and sign will be ordered and installed. And we’re discussing the addition of livestock.
There’s a lot of differences in livestock raising methods between the West and Africa, so we’re working out how to do it that (hopefully!) brings in the best of both worlds. We’ll start with a few dozen hens, using the garage as a coop. It will take a few months until they lay, but that will give us time to make sure we have a healthy setup and happy chickens.
We’ll follow later this year with goats, which we will use mostly for milk for the girls at the compound.
I’ve always wanted a farm — I would like one a little closer to home one day! — and am so excited to get out there NEXT MONTH and dig in the dirt. My gardening gloves are already on my “to pack” pile.
Thank you all for your donations for the farm over the last 7 months! As I mentioned last time, this project will be retired on the 15th, whether or not we reach our full funding goal. If you haven’t shared it, we’d so appreciate your word-of-mouth introduction to friends and family who may want to help as we establish Mikisa Farm for Touch the Slum.
PS I became a Jaja for the second time on Friday, which is wonderful! Congrats to my daughter and Board member Ryan and her husband Eric on their beautiful new boy!
After the lull over the holidays, things have exploded into laughter, light, sounds, dancing, and music at Touch the Slum — and we couldn’t be happier! While everyone enjoyed their time off and it was much needed, having the girls back in the compound causing controlled chaos every day is magic.
Last week also brought us two new residents in the dorm. I wrote previously about 15-year-old Helen, above, who was sent from the village to work as a housemaid in Kampala. She wasn’t paid, fed, or allowed a phone, so it was several months before neighbors became aware and concerned enough to involve us and the authorities.
It turns out that the auntie sent her to Kampala to keep her from being married off by her guardian, and if she were to return to the village, this is what would happen to her. The auntie has agreed for her to stay with us and learn a skill, which will at least delay any marriage. Hopefully, it will instead allow her to stay in Namuwongo at a job or her own business.
Our second new resident is 16-year-old Evelyn, also an orphan, who came to Kampala and the Namuwongo slum from the North of Uganda at the urging of friends who thought they’d find a better life. (Spoiler alert – they didn’t…)
After not being able to find a job, the friends turned to sex work. Evelyn was being pressured into prostitution but says she didn’t go that far. (We usually find out they did but deny it out of shame — either way, she’s safe now.) One of our teachers, Linda, found her and brought her to the compound. Evelyn’s guardian in the village has agreed for her to stay with us and for Teacher Linda to be her temporary guardian while she is at Touch the Slum.
Both girls have settled in well and joined the Literacy Program. Neither speak much English and both are illiterate, so a couple of months in Literacy before the next term of Skills for Life starts the next term will stand them in good stead once they are in a vocational class.
We can rescue these girls because of you!
You all gave sacrificially at the end of the year which put is in a very strong position for 2023. Since 1018 is donor-funded, we can’t do it without you, and we are so grateful for your support!
PS One of the best things you can do to help us is to become a monthly donor! This allows us to budget well and plan for the future. You can do that on Donorbox or DonorSee – buttons below.
After a whirlwind giving season, which I actually started in August with a Masterclass through Donorbox, I just sat down and got the books caught up. (Just as an aside, I really hate bookkeeping! Anybody else?!)
Here’s what I discovered – and it was even better than I guessed:
Y’all donated $83,332 in 2021 and $125,367 in 2022….. Um HOLY COW.
purchased a farm
provided desks, windows, and blackboards at Wells of Hope
started a Literacy program, computer lab, Advanced Tailoring program, daycare, and clinic
helped treat countless illnesses
bought water bottles
gave a home to homeless teens with our dorm
provided for funerals and burials
created a safe place for rape victims
provided opportunities for 150 teens in Skills for Life
and allowed us to serve over 25,000 meals!
That’s not even all of it, because your generosity pays for the $1.50 a month trash service, water bills, septic pump outs, salaries, certification renewals, community outreach programs, continuing education, and more. It’s all day, every day, 365 days of the year.
Tweyanzizza nnyo, tweyanzeege — we are so grateful, thank you very much!
We’re so excited to see what 2023 brings and so thankful that you’re on this journey with us.
PS Becoming a monthly donor really helps us with budgeting and it’s very easy! Just click the button!
While everyone needed and enjoyed their holiday break, school’s back and we couldn’t be happier! Laughing, dancing, sewing machines whirring, kids playing, huge pots of steaming posho… We love our jobs!
Of course, we exist because of the problems teen girls face.
Yesterday, concerned neighbors notified Ronald and the team of the plight of the 15-year-old girl in the photo above. (We’ll call her Rachel.)
Rachel is a true orphan (meaning both parents are dead) who is under the guardianship of an auntie. The auntie sent her from the village to work as a maid in a house, where she was supposed to be paid 10,000 shillings a MONTH. (That’s $2.69 at the exchange rate while I’m typing this.) However, she has never been paid anything. She was being abused. Many times she was denied food. And last night the woman she works for kicked her out.
For now, she’s safe with us in the dorm. Today we are notifying the LC (Local Community leader) and trying to find her auntie in the village. The LC may get the police involved, but — let’s be honest — it’s doubtful that the police will do anything.
Because teen girls are the lowest in the culture.
We have a second case, identified by one of our teachers, of a 17-year-old girl who is being forced into sex work by her guardian who lost his job. Teacher Linda is working with the authorities for now, but if we need to bring her into the program as an emergency admission, we will.
This is what we do thanks to YOU.
It’s very easy to look at the world and see so much need that we feel paralyzed and numb. There’s no way that we, by ourselves, can fix it, so we try not to look.
But together, we CAN make a difference, each and every day, for girls like Rachel and the others in our program. That starts the slow process of culture change, and small culture changes ripple out to create a better life for teen girls in the slum and beyond.
Thank you for your support and encouragement – you make it all possible!
PS Thank you for your donations to themosquito net project for Wells of Hope after our last newsletter! The project is 54% funded and we just need $220 to get the first 100 mosquito nets to these impoverished children. If you want to contribute even one net ($4!) that would help us so much! Just click below!
When Ronald found this land, the most noticeable WOW was that it had a home already started. It’s a multi-room brick structure with a garage — the former owner had planned to move there before all the pandemic lockdowns and inflation. That’s a HUGE bonus, as we’d planned to have to build a house for our caretaker from scratch, and while it’s bigger than anything we would have built, we will be sure to maximize all the space.
With the cost of things right now, we won’t be able to finish out the whole building at one time, but our next project is finishing the garage area into a home, with a roof, windows, doors, and floor. We’ll also make another room into a store room for tools and supplies.
Moses, who has been helping us with everything out there, is getting the quote together, and hopefully we’ll be able to start this work next week! And that’s all thanks to YOU and your amazing generosity in funding this project. We’re at 63% now, and would love your help to get us over the finish line soon! There’s a button below.
Meanwhile, look at the cassava in the photo above! Once Moses cleared the weeds and invasive plants out (and sprayed for bugs!), we realized we had a LOT more stuff already growing than we thought. There is a lot of cassava (yuca in Central and South America), and Ronald and Fauza were able to bring some back to Touch the Slum for Mama Santa to cook up. Cassava is great, because you yank it up, harvest the big tubers, then replant it and let it keep going.
We also have mature matoke and mango trees and have planted bananas. Moses is getting us free beans for planting, as well as some small trees from a friend. We’re looking into moringa – we may be able to get some small trees free from the government!
This project already means so much to our team, and now we’ve brought home the first produce… It’s truly amazing, and we can’t thank you enough!
PS I did a one-hour interview with DonorSee for an upcoming Spotlight feature. I edited the footage I recorded on my phone, so if you’re interested in how Ten Eighteen was born and what we’re up to, you can check it out here!