Just before Christmas in 2008, I got the news that my 501c3, called Ten Eighteen Inc., was approved by the IRS. To be honest, I didn’t have a really clear idea what I was going to do with 1018… We had missionary friends in India and others in Zambia, so I had a vague idea that I would help them raise more money.
I got sick over Christmas and was on bedrest — which is SO boring and most especially at Christmas! But I reconnected with a friend who was living in Uganda and also homeschooling her kids, so we chatted a lot on Facebook. (I mean, how many times can you watch that movie with kid with the glasses and the air rifle before you just can’t take it anymore?!)
In mid-January, she sent me a message and asked if I could help a community organization in the Namuwongo slum called Ray of Hope to rent a building and pay for a full year up front. My American mind said, “Uh NO!” because that sounded like a LOT of money.
But it was only about $1200 — as long as Suzanne didn’t negotiate and get the much higher mzungu price — so we did it, and I started learning more about Ray of Hope and Uganda and Namuwongo.
We visited for the first time in September 2009 — the photo above is of my then 13-year-old son getting his first slum experience. I say “first time” because that became obvious in hindsight. But when we were planning the trip, we assumed it would be a “once in a lifetime” trip.
On that trip, we started sponsoring kids’ school fees.
On the next trip, in late February 2010, we began working with Hospice Jinja and ended up paying for 100% of their fuel costs for four years.
On the next trip, in July 2010, we began working with Arise Africa and ended up building a primary school in Bukaleba.
And so it went until 2016, when my husband and I moved to Nicaragua. There had been some changes in management in the organizations we had been working with, and had found some financial irregularities, so I had a strong suspicion that we were done in Uganda.
But surprise again!
Fast forward to 2018 and we were back in NC, and I had a bakery. I started a Pound for Pound program with our granola, helping fund food at Hopeland Primary School run by a long-time friend of mine.
In January 2020, my son (now a lot older!) and I went back to Uganda, thinking we might be saying goodbye for good. Instead, we came away with a new purpose and a new focus… and a new partner in Ronald, who we had known for 10+ years.
Here we are, sheltering in Mama Santa’s stall in the slum during the rain.
And that’s how Touch the Slum was born. We moved to the current compound to start the Ross House in October 2020 and have grown from there. Now, we focus on our work at Touch the Slum and the two schools in the west.
We’ve grown exponentially thanks to YOU – your donations, your encouragement, your engagement, and your love. We can’t thank you enough for getting us to 15 years!
PS Like all nonprofits, we depend on year end giving for about 30% of our annual budget. If you haven’t given yet, will you please give today? 100% goes to the program!