social work

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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What Does Rain Do To a Mud and Stick House?


Wycliff, above, is our newest social worker. He started with us as a volunteer and then intern while he was at Makere University. He is not from the slum, one of the few staff members who isn’t, so the fact that he wanted to come work with us when he graduated is huge. The slum isn’t an easy place – not an easy place to live, visit, or even find your way around, much less work day in and day out.

The house of one of our girls, where Wycliff visited yesterday, is made simply of mud and very thin sticks. The roof is rusty corrugated iron. You can see from the sides of the house that rain — you notice those dark clouds, right?! — and mud don’t really go together that well. It leaks, and eventually, sooner rather than later, the walls will begin to fall down.

This mama makes her living selling sugar cane. They buy it from a truck coming in from the countryside, haul the long stalks home, then use a machete to strip it and cut off lengths to sell. People buy and chew sugar cane when they don’t have much money because it’s cheap and curbs hunger pains. It’s not a very profitable business.

Over 30,000 people live in the Namuwongo slum, which is Uganda’s largest. An estimated 75-80% of them are children or teens.

Our Touch the Slum project is the only NGO in Namuwongo working with teen moms, the only one offering completely free education for teen girls, and the only one offering a free residential program, a free clinic, and free daycare. The only one.

We can’t serve all of the thousands of teen girls there, but we can serve the 75 who come to us every day with the promise, the hope, of CHANGE. Of a life that they can control. Of literacy and English and learning a skill that will last them a lifetime.

We can do that because of you.

Mwebele nnyo,


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Big Day In the Namuwongo Slum

Tuesday was “day 1”, and I had a short office day as I fought sleep deprivation and a 7 hour time difference.

I slept well, and Wednesday was a full and busy day. In the morning, we went down into the Namuwongo slum and visited about a half dozen families/guardians of Skills for Life students to see how they felt their girls were doing. The feedback was amazing!

Without exception, they had seen positive changes in their girls. Better behavior. Less hanging about with questionable friends and getting into trouble. More respect at home.


Traditionally, parents want their kids to go to school and become one of four things: teacher, doctor, lawyer, or nurse.

There is no room in the traditional thinking for musicians or artists, for mechanics or electricians. The way Ugandan schools are set up, to even go to a trade school you have to complete Senior 4.

This leaves most kids behind, especially since the covid lockdowns.

But parents are SEEING now. They see that girls with little or no schooling can still be excellent students in a vocational program.

They see that girls who had no direction or HOPE for the future were headed for disaster, but that those same girls are now focused, working hard, and setting themselves up for future success.


But it’s working. And THAT is changing the culture, slowly by slowly. (mpola mpolo)

THANK YOU for your support and encouragement! YOU are changing not only the lives of the girls in our program, but the hearts and minds of the community. That is a huge step forward.

Webele nyo!


PS Our food restocking project on DonorSee is 84% funded. Prices are going up every day, so we’d really appreciate your support to complete it! Click the link!


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