Teen Pregnancy

False Alarm… Quick Update on Sylvia

Sylvia’s labor stopped and the hospital sent her back to the Ross House with “exercises and advice to walk” to induce labor. She’s one week overdue now, according to estimates, and they’d rather the baby not get bigger.

We’ll keep you posted!

Webele nyo!


PS We do have a project up for the birthing kit we have to provide for all the pregnant girls to take with them to the hospital. It’s 22% funded (but 100% already paid for!) so we’d love for you to consider a $25 donation.

Sylvia’s birthing kit

Sylvia’s in Labor!

Jennings with Ross House teen moms, June 2022

Sylvia, right in front of me in the striped skirt and top, is in labor. She was still 15 when I was in Uganda in June – very young!

Nurse Sherry took her to Amani, which is a charitable organization that helps teen mothers and will do deliveries if it isn’t high risk. Unfortunately, they have referred her to a hospital because her age and physical development mean she may not be able to deliver naturally.

They’re on their way to Naguru Hospital as I type this… Of course, everyone is a little concerned for both Sylvia and the baby.

We’d appreciate your thoughts and prayers today for a safe delivery for both, and, if she needs a c-section, for a skilled doctor to be on shift.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks so much!


Two Emergency Admissions in 4 Days…

Brenda, above, is just barely 16. (I know, she looks about 12…) She was admitted in the middle of the night when the local authorities brought her to us with her ONE WEEK OLD baby.

Brenda has been living with her mother, who recently lost her job. On Saturday night, she beat Brenda severely and threw her and the baby out of the house and into the street.

Fortunately, we have a very good relationship with the police and local governmental authorities and they brought her to Touch the Slum. She is now living in the Ross House and receiving food, clothing, medical care by Nurse Sherry, and lots of love and attention from Mama Santa.

I’d love to say this kind of thing is uncommon.

Unfortunately, it isn’t, and the very high inflation and cost of food has caused an increase in domestic violence, child abuse, and teenage pregnancy in the slum.

We are the only program of our kind in Namuwongo, which is home to over 30,000 people. Fortunately, we had room to take in Brenda and another 16-year-old, Leticia, over the last week. And that’s because of YOU.

Your dollars are working 24/7 to keep girls like Brenda safe and to provide them a way out of this cycle of pregnancy and homelessness.

We are so grateful that you choose to partner with us so that we don’t have to turn these girls away. Webele nyo!



PS Of course we have projects up on DonorSee for Brenda and for Leticia! When girls like this come to us, they literally have the clothes on their backs and nothing else, so we provide an entry packet with toiletries, sheets and towels, clothes and shoes, diapers, and other items for the baby. We’d love for you to help support one of these girls as they get back on their feet!

Brenda’s Project

Leticia’s Project

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!

15-Year-Old Sylvia – Emergency Intake

Sylvia is 15-years-old and 5 months pregnant. She’s been in our Literacy class since January, so she is aware of our work with teen moms.

Recently, Sylvia and her roommates, who were living together in a one-room home, were evicted for not paying rent. She was temporarily rescued by a lady LC (local community leader) who brought her into her own home, but that only lasted for two days. The LC’s husband kicked Sylvia out, and she was homeless.

After a couple of days of not having food, she came to the office to explain her situation. While we didn’t have any beds available in the Ross or Suubi Houses, we do have an empty room that we’d planned to convert to a dorm later this year.

We were able to get a mattress, bedding, a mosquito net, and some toiletries delivered before the shops closed for the night, and Sylvia was temporarily placed in the daycare room during the nights.

Now she is safe, fed, Nurse Sherry is keeping up with her progress, and she will stay with us until she delivers and then after.

All this came out of our regular operating budget, so we have a project up on DonorSee to recoup the costs. (FYI: We always give the girls the option to NOT have their faces shown, and Sylvia made that choice so her face is blurred.)

Sylvia’s Emergency Intake

We are also going ahead and preparing the room for four girls, since we have two more teen students (not pregnant!) who are in imminent danger of homelessness. We’ll do a little shuffling around of our current residents so all the new moms are together and Sylvia can begin to learn all the things she’ll need to know in a few more months.

You can help with that project with this button:

Dorm project

I’ll be in Uganda this time next week! More on that next time. Thank you SO MUCH for your support — we really couldn’t do our work without you!

Webele nyo!


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.



15 Years Old and a New Mom – Kalunji

Kalunji came to our program when she was 5-months pregnant. She was living with her grandmother (jaja) in a terrible wooden shack in the slum. They didn’t have enough food, but her jaja insisted that Kalunji eat to nurture the baby.

Our team, with help from our donors at DonorSee, provided food, a mattress, bedding, a mosquito net, and a water filter for this small family. Kalunji began spending her days at the compound, even though she wasn’t enrolled in any of our programs. We fed her two meals a day and got her enrolled with Amani, an organization that helps teen moms with prenatal care and childbirth.

In January, Kalunji began learning reading, writing, basic math, and English in our new Literacy Program.

A month ago, Kalunji presented to our nurse at the Haven Clinic with severe malaria. She began an IV treatment and went into labor (about 3 weeks early) that evening.

Unfortunately, Amani was completely full! We also hadn’t purchased the required birthing kit yet. But our nurse, Sherry, called all around Kampala and finally found Kalunji space at the KCCA Hospital, where she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, Kareem.

Kalunji moved into the Ross House, our residential program for teen moms in crisis, from the hospital. Two weeks later, her jaja died.

Raheem is a month old now, and doing really well! Sherry gives him all his regular checkups, as well as Mama. Kalunji is now back in Lit class, and she’s even rejoined dancing in Teen Talk on Fridays.

Next term, Kalunji will join one of the vocational classes in Skills for Life.


Girls like Kalunji, forced to trade sex just to have food or sanitary pads, are forgotten, shunned, ignored. Illiterate, desperately impoverished, and with no living family to help, her chances of even surviving childbirth were low.

But now she is safe, healthy, cared for, and learning.

There are thousands like Kalunji in the Namuwongo slum, and we can’t help them all. But those we can bring into our program are given sustainable skills, counseling, mentoring, and the life skills needed to not just survive but thrive.

These are hard stories… But they are stories of HOPE. OPPORTUNITY. CHANGE. And they are possible because of you.

Webele nyo!



We currently have 20 girls taking Basic Literacy. Some of them had a small bit of school, so they know the basics. Some were completely illiterate. English is “the common language” in Uganda, but many can’t speak it because they didn’t go to school. With 60 tribes and the slum melting-pot, it can be hard to communicate if you don’t know English.

After less than two months, the un-schooled girls know the alphabet and numbers, can read and write 3-letter words, and have done videos for us entirely in English! The other class, with girls who have had some schooling, are writing out the names of numbers and working with bigger words.

In short, they are flying through the course with amazing passion. They know what an opportunity free education is — it’s almost unheard of in Uganda! They know these are skills they will need once they’ve gone through a vocational skill course in Skills for Life and have jobs or small businesses. They are ON FIRE to learn!

Thank you so much for your support! Because of you, teen moms and teen girls in the slum are gaining invaluable skills for themselves and their families.




photo credit: Bob Ditty Photography

Last Friday, 15-year-old Kalunji gave birth to her son at KCCA Hospital. She was supposed to go through Amani which had been giving her free prenatal care, but she went into labor early and Amani was full.

Our nurse, Sherry, finally found her a spot in KCCA’s private ward, then stayed at the hospital all night. The baby was delivered at 2am, and Kalunji had only minor complications — a real risk with teens giving birth.

Kalunji and baby (no name yet!) are back at the Ross House and being taken care of by Mama Santa, Sherry, and all the other teen moms who are helping, advising, and loving on mama and baby.

This is why we do what we do. A 15-year-old giving birth in a filthy wooden hut is a recipe for disaster. But because Kalunji has been in our program for counseling and the Literacy class, she is being taken care of — for free. She will stay at the Ross House until she’s completed a Skills for Life course in the second term. She will move to the Ross House to transition to self-sufficiency. She will complete the Literacy Class, counseling, have a mentor group, and learn business skills.

And she will be able to sustainably care for herself and her child. Hopefully she will never have to turn to sex work again.

Your support and donations have made this possible. We are just so grateful for your partnership!



PS. We have a project up that was supposed to purchase the birthing kit for Kalunji – but she went into labor early and we didn’t get it in time. However, we do have a project for her Ross House entry package – click the button below!


We’ve been working in Uganda almost 13 years now, and while our programs and focus have evolved, one thing remains the same: we want to create meaningful opportunity and skills so our participants can be self-sufficient.


Mildred is 12, the youngest girl in our Skills for Life Vocational School. She is learning tailoring, so that she will have a skill on which to build a life outside of desperate poverty. She has never been to school before.

We have 20 teen girls like Mildred enrolled in Skills for Life, and a waiting list for the next term. Twenty girls completed Term 1 last year, just before the lockdown happened (which cancelled Term 2). When girls like Mildred learn a skill like tailoring, they can get an actual job, or they can have their own business. SKILL + HOPE = OPPORTUNITY.


During the 2020 lockdown, we realized quickly how many girls were using sex work to survive. That resulted in skyrocketing teenage pregnancies all over the country.

To respond to the need, we opened the Ross House for teenage moms like Gloria, who are in crisis. This halfway house provides medical care, food, clothing, shelter, vocational training, sexual trauma counseling, psycho-social counseling, and childcare education.

As the first moms were finishing the Ross House program, we realized that now we needed a transition house, to prepare them to live in the community and be self-sufficient. We opened the Suubi House to provide oversight through a live-in social worker, financial and business training, and continuing medical care, food, clothing, and shelter as they learn and grow.

When Term 2 of Skills for Life opened after the 2021 lockdown, Cecilia became homeless. We opened a dormitory to house any students in the current term who are faced with the same situation, and provide medical care, food, and shelter for them during their training.


We began providing food for children at Hopeland and Wells of Hope Primary Schools and the Arise Africa Babies Home in May, 2019. The 2020 and 2021 lockdowns have created a lot of disruption, but we continue to provide monthly food to about 75 children even while schools are (still) shut down.

Mama Mary has had 5 foster children for 19 months now! (It was supposed to be 4…) Forty orphaned children from Hopeland School are currently living with 9 foster families. Schools are supposed to begin a phased re-opening in January 2022.

We have two ways you can join us in our work — we’d love to have you in the Ten Eighteen family!

BECOME A MONTHLY DONOR OR MAKE A ONE TIME DONATION – we use Donorbox for our monthly subscribers and to allow you to make one-time donations for our General Fund. 100% of your donations go to the work!

FUND SPECIFIC PROJECTS ON DONORSEE – we have 8-10 specific projects on Donorsee at all times. Donorsee allows us to post videos of the projects, updates, and follow-ups, so you can see exactly what your money has done for the project’s recipient. It’s a great way to really feel involved in Ten Eighteen’s work and in our Ugandan community!