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.
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.
SKILLS FOR LIFE –
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.
RESIDENTIAL PROGRAMS –
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.
FOOD FOR CHILDREN –
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!
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!
First, let me apologize for not blogging in so long! I honestly had no idea it had been 6 weeks… I have sent out a good number of short email updates during that time (less than one per week), so please feel free to subscribe there to not miss anything!
WHAT’S HAPPENING WITH THE LOCKDOWN?
While schools are still closed for at least another 2 weeks, the country has been gradually opening in a “partial” lockdown scenario. There are still a 7:00pm curfew, capacity limits, and other SOPs in place, but life in the slum (where few authorities wanted to go even during the most strict part of the lockdown) is getting back to normal.
Skills for Life Term 2 is in week three, with the classes having been divided between Advanced and Regular on Monday to better facilitate everyone’s learning. We have 20 girls working very hard to take advantage of this opportunity!
On the dark side, mass evictions – halted for a short time during the lockdown – have begun again. Of course people in the informal economy can’t pay… they used their business capital for food, and have no way to earn back that capital to restart a business, nor to pay the landlord. Landlords are businesspeople too, I know, but it would be easier to have sympathy if slum landlords weren’t (as a general but not universal rule) well, the epitome of slum landlords. There was also a tax increase on landlords on July 1 from 10% to 30%, and of course they must pass that on. The end result is that we are seeing a huge number of homeless and pregnant girls.
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Our landlord – who is actually really great! – has been working on the buildings at the back of our compound during the lockdown. We spoke to him, and were able to secure not only a lot more space for our programs, but also a promise that he would only rent to women who he has thoroughly vetted. We didn’t want to move, but also didn’t want to expose girls who had undergone sexual trauma to strange me. (Men aren’t allowed in the Ross House at all.)
What that means:
We are moving the Ross House to a large apartment, which will allow us to double our capacity for teen moms. The apartment has a bathroom and kitchen.
We are taking the whole lower section of the new building, which adds 5 rooms plus a kitchen and bathroom. We will convert one room into a dormitory for S4L girls who have become homeless and have no family; one room will be the new Advanced Tailoring class; and one room will be a classroom where the S4L girls can learn basic reading and math. We’ll see how we grow with the other two!
We were able to secure this space for not-quite-double our existing rent, which is amazing given the increased tax the landlord is paying to the government. We are so thankful!
MORE TO COME!
We are so excited how far we’ve come in the last 10 months, and excited to see where we are in 2022. If you’d like to partner with us to give teen girls and moms the skills to be self-sufficient, we’d love to have you join the Ten Eighteen family!
To say that things are bad in Uganda is a pretty serious understatement. People are already starving and facing eviction, and because of a new 20% tax on landlords starting July 1, they are being made to pay increased rents even while making no money.
We had a very scary incident today. One of our girls, Brenda (not her real name), 17, answered a call from a man she didn’t know who offered her a housekeeping job. Brenda’s family is out of food and desperate, so she went to find out about the job.
The man locked her in a room and tried to rape her. His plan was to keep her imprisoned in the house, forcing her into sex and trafficking her to others.
Fortunately, Brenda fought her way out and escaped being raped. She was beaten up and covered with bruises, but because she wasn’t actually raped, the police just filed the statement along with the hundreds of others just like it that they’re getting.
HUNDREDS OF OTHERS. And we’re 10 days into a 42 day (minimum) lockdown.
We held an emergency meeting when they got back to the office. OF COURSE, Brenda is traumatized. And there are many more girls who are facing this and who maybe won’t be so lucky.
We have a total of 40 teen girls who have either completed Skills for Life or are on the waiting list and who had just had orientation for term 2 when the lockdown came. There are another 15-20 who are involved in other ways in our Namuwongo program. They are ALL extremely vulnerable.
SOLUTION: WILL YOU ADOPT A GIRL (AAG) FOR ONE MONTH?
For $50 we can feed a family of 5 (the average number in the slum) for a month. FOOD INSECURITY is the #1 driver of voluntary or forced prostitution for teen girls. Through the AAG program, we can remove that burden, we can protect these precious girls and get their families through the lockdown.
We have also relaunched the Ndoto cooperative, which we ran in 2014 and 2015. Teen girls from our Skills for Life Term 1 who are at particular risk of trafficking, mental health issues, and/or homelessness will be working at Skills for Life to design and create products that we can sell once the lockdowns are over. These girls will make a salary on top of an AAG allowance of food for their family.
SUUBI HOUSE – WHERE HOPE LIVES
We finally got the keys for our transition house this week!! The painting is done, the beds and mattresses are in, and most of the necessities will be purchased this weekend. The power will get hooked up (eventually).
This means that Sharon and Shadia and their babies will be able to move from the Ross House soon, making room for us to take in emergency cases of teen moms in crisis. For the duration of the lockdown, the girls at the Suubi House will still eat and bathe at the Ross House, which is only a 5-minute walk away.
While we knew we needed this house before the lockdown, the current situation means that we will get many more cases of teen moms in crisis referred to us that ever before. Making space at the Ross House to bring in these precious girls and their babies is crucial!
YOU CAN HELP SAVE TEEN GIRLS TODAY!
100% OF YOUR DONATIONS GO TO THE PROGRAMS – WE TAKE NOTHING OUT OF IT. AND OUR AVERAGE TURN-AROUND FROM DONATION TO THE TARGET PROGRAM IS 5 DAYS. YOU CAN TRULY CHANGE A LIFE TODAY!
THIS WEEK WE LAUNCHED THE GATE – FOR A REALLY GOOD REASON!
Uganda is a developing country with the world’s youngest population. Unemployment numbers are a joke* — even young people with university degrees can’t find paying jobs and usually “intern” (work for free, even for the government) for years before possibly getting a paying job.
In our programs, we are dealing with the extreme poor, the uneducated, the orphaned or abandoned, the homeless. Unemployment, other than informal self-employment, is literally 100%.
So outside of our regular budget, we have regular problems come up, like three babies in two weeks getting pneumonia. Transport to the clinic or hospital, medical treatment, daily transport for IV antibiotics… All that adds up. And while it’s very small compared to US standards, our budget is pretty small too!
By joining our passionate supporters together in the Gate, WE get a stable revenue flow, and YOU get to really see the IMPACT of your donations on a monthly basis. We want you to know exactly what your money is doing, who it is benefitting, and how we go about our work.
By joining the Gate, you get:
Monthly updates with behind the scenes information, stories and photos
Quarterly LIVE video meetings with our US and UG staff where you can ask any questions and get to know us
For the first 100 members, you’ll become part of our Founding SUUBI ALLIANCE with extra perks
Nothing changes on your end — you choose your monthly donation and set it up on Donorbox. But you get all the access above so you get to know the people whose lives you are changing and be part of our life-changing community!
JOIN THESE SMILING FACES!
CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO WITH ALL OUR PROGRAMS – WE’D LOVE TO HAVE YOU JOIN US IN CHANGING LIVES TODAY!
*Unemployment numbers for Uganda are all over the place, depending on who is reporting it. Government numbers can be as low as 1.84% (an absolute farce which anyone who has ever been to Uganda knows), to as high as 80% – a much more likely number. The truth is, MANY millions of Uganda’s 43 million population have no employment, no way to gain employment, and no safety net to help them.
Gloria is 16. Her son Imran is 6 months old. Before she got pregnant, Gloria was using drugs and alcohol, and trading sex for basic necessities like sanitary pads. She lived in a one-room home with 5-6 other girls, who have all now had babies, where the rent was paid by one or other of the girls’ boyfriends.
UNTIL IT WASN’T. NOW THEY’VE ALL BEEN EVICTED, AND GLORIA HAS NO FAMILY, AND NOWHERE TO GO.
Since January, Gloria has been participating in Guardian Angel and Skills for Life programs. She has been in the morning hairdressing class, working extremely hard. She has practiced during breaks and days off, coming in to learn not only hairdressing but also basic reading and writing in Luganda and a little English. She was the subject of our first documentary-style film.
When Ronald messaged me, we were able to have an immediate video meeting – man, do I love modern technology!
These are the daily challenges of working in a slum that has a HUGE population of teen moms who are largely uneducated and unemployed. And let’s be honest, it’s tough.
It’s tough to turn away girls in need. We get multiple calls a week from authorities and other organizations about teen moms in crisis. It’s just HARD. But we could have a house the size of a city block and still have to turn people away…
We do as much as we can and make sure to really invest in each girl we CAN take, making them a part of our family.
So we did the only thing we could do: we moved Gloria into the Ross House.
SO THAT BRINGS US TO THE “QUARTERWAY” HOUSE.
A couple of weeks ago, we realized that Sharon and Shadia, our two Ross House residents, had no family to go to when their stay was complete. Many (most?) of the teen girls in the programs don’t – they are either orphans, were kicked out when they got pregnant, were raped or abused by a man in their home who is not their father, or their family is in a village and unwelcoming. Our previous residents didn’t have this issue, though, so we hadn’t yet figured out the next step.
But by mid-June, we MUST have one! And now Gloria has come to the Ross House, and the need for “the next thing” (we’ll call it TNT) is even more urgent.
When we first realized we need a TNT, we began to plan. We have a lead on a 2-room place close to the Ross House/Guardian Angel/Skills for Life compound. It’s supposed to be available in May, so we are following up on that today.
We planned the HOW:
a resident social worker
a micro-savings program
continued financial/business literacy training
small contributions to the house to build the skill of budgeting
We applied for a grant to fund it – but with our accelerated schedule, the expenses will come before the money (if we’re blessed with a yes!).
BUT OF COURSE WE HAVE TO DO IT. THERE’S NOT EVEN ANY QUESTION…
Our goal isn’t a pleasant 3-4 month stay for a young, sick mom, and then to push her back out on the street to be in a worse state than before. Our goal is holistic.
Medical care for physical wellness
Psycho-social counseling for mental wellness
Sexual trauma counseling for emotional wellness
Vocational training for financial stability
The girls may not have a family — or a good family — to lean on, but they have us.
WE’RE ALL FAMILY NOW!
To help with the cost to establish the Suubi House , please make a one-time or recurring donation!
We got a call from local authorities in early November about a girl who had just given birth who was living under the small roof of a video shanty. Esther and her baby were very sick.
We got her and her baby to a clinic, where she was diagnosed with a bad infection due to childbirth complications, and the baby was also ill. Both were treated, and we moved them temporarily into a small garage of a now-closed nonprofit who allowed us the space for a short time. Mama Santa visited and brought food several times a day, and made sure that Esther and the baby took their medications.
When we opened the Ross House in mid-November, Esther was one of our first residents.
She cried for an entire week.
After just a month, Esther had gained weight, gotten well, and was full of smiles.
She enrolled in our first Skills for Life, choosing hairdressing. She also learned a “small skill”, how to make samosas, and was given the tools she’d need to start a small business while she learned her “big skill” over four months.
Esther graduated from the Ross House at the end of January, having completed our Sexual Trauma Workbook and our basic financial and business literacy training. When she moved in with her sister nearby, she took a month of food with her for the household, as well as all she would need to run her samosa business in the morning and attend the hairdressing class in the afternoon.
While her brother-in-law eventually decided he didn’t want Esther and Ella living with them (we moved her in with a family from church), Esther continues to thrive. She is excelling in the advanced class, and working extremely hard on her skills and creativity.
ESTHER IS NOW ALMOST UNRECOGNIZABLE!
She’s the one on the left… To be honest, when Ronald sent me this photo, I didn’t realize who was in it!
This is real change, and thanks to S4L, lasting change.
The Ross House family expands with every graduate — and they remain our family, with access to medical care and food, continued counseling, and opportunities.
MAY 26, 2021 UPDATE
On Saturday, Esther taught a skills workshop on how to make and sell samosas to 15 young people!! She did an amazing job, earned some money, and gained a huge amount of confidence. AMAZING!!
THIS IS OUR WHY!
AND THIS IS YOUR IMPACT!
Thanks to you and donors like you, we are able to create dramatic, deep-rooted change that will affect not only girls like Esther, but their children, their extended families, and their community.
AND THAT’S TEN EIGHTEEN’S MISSION: TO CHANGE THE CULTURE OF EXTREME POVERTY FOR THE YOUTH OF UGANDA.
We opened the Ross House, a halfway house for teen moms in the country’s largest slum of Namuwongo, and have our first two residents. The Ross House is also serving as the office for Guardian Angel Foundation; training facility for Skills for Life, GAF’s vocational training program; and counseling center for high-risk youth.
We provided 150,000 meals to the kids at Hopeland and Wells of Hope Schools, the Arise Africa Babies Home, and the elderly and children during the lockdown.
We gifted 30 families with Wonderbags to enable them to cut cooking fuel costs by 4/5.
We built a kitchen and cistern at Wells of Hope School.
We funded a Covid19 Awareness Campaign in the Namuwongo slums that reached over 20,000 people.
We funded the P7 Candidate Class at Hopeland School, even while schools were closed so that those children didn’t lose their chance to pass the exam that determines whether they can continue on with their education.
When we returned to the US on February 9, 2020, no one knew that the world was about to be turned upside down. Lockdowns and fear have caused economic hardship everywhere, but countries like Uganda have been hit hardest, with extreme lockdowns for nearly four months. Hunger and unemployment, as well as skyrocketing teenage pregnancy and forced marriages, caused huge growth in the number of those facing extreme poverty.
Ten Eighteen, Guardian Angel Foundation, our partners at Hopeland and Wells of Hope Schools, and Arise Africa International, all pivoted to feeding people to keep especially children and the elderly from further harm. It was a huge mobilization effort! But thanks to YOU, we have been able to continue.