Travel

We’re Back! Hello from the USA

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Dear {{contact.first_name}},

Hello from NC! I’m looking out of my sunroom at the bright green new leaves of spring, fighting off cats who are so happy to see me, and feeling enormously grateful to be home!

Our travels went well and Susan and I both slept “normal” hours, so we are hopeful that we won’t be jet lag casualties for more than a day or two. (You can’t recover from 28+ hours of travel overnight, no matter how much sleep you get!)

I got the above photo from Ronald while I was in the Brussels airport and I *love* it. There are a lot of things to love: the traditional gomesi that the Tailoring class made for me as a surprise, the uber successful 4th graduation of our biggest Skills for Life group yet, the fashion show where I was showing off the dress and my (questionable) Ugandan dance moves, Peace dancing in the background.

But what I love the most is that it captures why Touch the Slum has been so successful.

Genuine respect and partnership. Friendship. Fun and laughter. Hard work. Collaboration. Gratitude. Celebration. Cross-culture.

The whole team did a phenomenal job putting together the graduation. (You can see some videos at Instagram, icon below.) The speakers — the local Council Chairman, a pastor friend, a bishop, parents, students, and teachers — all spoke of the profound innovation and real changes they have seen. There were a lot of happy tears.

There’s a lot more to come. We have new challenges all the time, an unlimited stream of teen moms and teen girls who need help, the usual constraints and obstacles any nonprofit faces.

But we have YOU. We have the support of the local community. We have all the things that photo above sums up.

We can’t wait to see what’s next!

Blessings,

Jennings

PS We’re going to be posting our new Large DonorSee project this week — a deep well for the Rwakobo/Wells of Hope Primary School community, which will serve 3,000 people with clean, fresh water every day. We’ll need to get to 10% quickly so it is visible to the wider DonorSee audience. We’d appreciate you thinking about what you might be able to give over the next couple of days so we can hit the ground running. If we can fund the well quickly, the students and residents of Rwakobo Village will have a deep well by dry season!

This photo is one of the “seasonal wells” (aka large puddle) where they currently must get water to survive – yeah, it’s as bad as it looks!

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Graduation Is Coming Up

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Yesterday was our first full day of work, and it included my mom modeling the cap and gown that the tailoring class makes for graduation. Since this is our biggest ever graduating class (33 girls!), they’ve been busy making more, along with doing their exam work.

We also walked several miles in the slum to visit the families of many of our Literacy class girls. Through very narrow alleys, across (disgusting) trenches, over broken bridges, and along the polluted canal we walked and slid. Trust me when I tell you that the slum in rainy season is even worse than normal!

A group from a new small community organization came to chat with the staff as they solidify their mission to work with girls and women.

My mom met with the social workers for a couple of hours, chatting about how they do what they do, what resources they feel like they need, and getting to know the challenges they face.

I met with staff about our media needs on this trip, budgets (always budgets!), and the upcoming staff retreat on Saturday.

In short, we had a long day!

Today, my mom will be teaching art classes to the Literacy girls while the rest of the girls continue with their exam projects. We’ll have another meeting on the retreat, eat Mama Santa’s delicious food, and maybe shop with her at the local produce market.

And tomorrow the farm!

Many of you have emailed and messaged me your well wishes, and we so appreciate it. It’s so great to be back at work here!

Mwebele nnyo!

Jennings

PS We saw Jenifer yesterday, who has started her own small business but is still struggling. I’ll be bringing back 6 bags to sell in the States, and will send her the proceeds. A lot of you have fallen in love with Jenifer and ask after her often, so stay tuned for photos of the bags to claim yours!

Choice Greetings from Uganda!

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As they say here, choice greetings from Uganda!

No matter how you cut it, the travel is LONG, but it went as well as could be hoped for: on time (and early!) flights, being the first off the plane and second in immigration, quick (undamaged) bags, and the only thing slowing us down on exit was having to feed the bags through the x-ray machine (which no one was looking at!).

Now we’re enjoying a cool, cloudy (but not rainy!) morning over delicious Ugandan coffee, playful white faced monkeys running across the roof, and the same white tabby cat as last June asking for eggs.

Perfect!

It was 30 hours from when I left my house to when I got the hotel, with 3 hours of sleep, so this is a short (hopefully coherent) newsletter. This afternoon we’ll go to the compound where I’m sure I’ll have to dance (!) — I’ll try to stand in the back, but tune into our Instagram page to see how it goes. (Touch the Slum has one, too, and they are probably more likely to post slightly embarrassing video of yours truly trying to do African dancing… Not that you’d want to see that…)

More coming soon. For now, I’m thankful for safe travel, begging cats, goofy monkeys, a view of Lake Victoria, and hot Ugandan coffee.

And you!

Blessings,

Jennings

PS Just click the icon below for Instagram. We’ll have a lot of great content once I wake up!

Three Weeks Til I Get to Uganda!

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Ronald and I at Lake Mburo National Park, June 2022

WOW, in just three weeks I’ll be in Uganda!

The time has gone so fast since the last trip (and in other ways really slowly…), and I can’t wait to get back to hands-on work. Zoom is great, but it’s not THERE. And this time my mom will be joining us, which should be a great new adventure for her.

On the agenda:

  • Staff retreat where we will have the theme VISION, PASSION, SACRIFICE
  • At least one, and probably two, trips to the farm
  • A trip west to Mbarara and Rwakobo to visit Hopeland and Wells of Hope Primary Schools
  • Graduation (the first I will be there for!)
  • Art lessons for the Literacy class girls by my mom (who is an artist)
  • Community visits
  • Staff meetings
  • Dancing
  • And, of course, a short safari stay in Lake Mburo (above)

We so appreciate your ongoing support!

Webele nyo!

Jennings

PS I just launched our next Large Project on DonorSee, a 10,000 liter ecobrick tank for Hopeland School. The tank is constructed using “bricks” made from recycled plastic drink bottles! We put in a similar tank at Wells of Hope in 2020 and it has helped enormously. Please visit the link and watch the video to see what it’s all about! The project is just $2,800 and we need 10% before it’s made visible to the wider DonorSee audience — we’d love your help to get us there!

Ecobrick Water Tank Projec

And I’m off to Panama!

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I love to travel. I’ve been to over 60 countries and lived in several. Pre-pandemic days, I was averaging 4-5 international trips a year. (And I miss it!) While all the fun has been sucked out of air travel over the last decade, traveling itself never gets old.

Tomorrow morning, I head back to Panama!

Some of you know that our Board member, Mikkel Thorup, lives in Panama City where he runs his businesses for the worldwide expat community. My husband and I were down there in March for Mikkel’s birthday party and really had a good time. (We like the country and beach more than the city – and Panama City has a whole lot of very tall, very skinny buildings that make me nervous!)

For the Expat Money Christmas party, Mikkel is hosting a silent auction to fundraise for Ten Eighteen. I’ll say a few words and answer questions. Last year, the Expat Money community raised over $8000 to launch our Literacy program!

This year, our goal is $16,000 to launch Literacy 2.0 to triple our reach.

Expanding Literacy to more girls will help them throughout their lives, and more immediately in Skills for Life. Reading, writing, and speaking English will allow them to get jobs or have small businesses that cater to people from other tribes who live in Namuwongo – there are 60 tribes in Uganda and all have representatives living in the slum. English is the common tongue. It will also give them knowledge and skills they can pass on to their own children, giving those kids a head start.

I’ll be gone from tomorrow until the 14th – you can find daily updates on social media (links below) to see who I meet and what I’m doing.

I’m really grateful to Mikkel and the Expat Money community for their ongoing commitment to Literacy for girls who’ve never had the chance to go to school!

More soon!

Jennings

PS Our farm project is now 83% funded! We’ve raised $21,540, with just $4,360 to go. Starting the 15th, we’ll be getting the compound ready for a full-time farmer by installing a small solar system for lights, digging a borehole for water, and getting basic furnishings. You can help us get the farm funded THIS YEAR by donating now! Click the button – every dollar counts!

FUND THE FARM!

“Choice Greetings From Uganda!”

You know you’re in Uganda when there’s a tree growing through your room! To be honest, by the time I got to the Kampala Forest Resort (one of my favorite places to stay anywhere!) at 1:30am, I didn’t pay the tree that much attention. It had been a VERY long, frustrating day of bad weather, flight delays, and the “new normal” of travel (which doesn’t have much to recommend it). But waking up to the tree, and coming out for COFFEE and breakfast and seeing Lake Victoria in the distance were worth it.

I’m not heading to the compound until 12:30, and it’ll be a fairly short day. But I have ALL THE GOODIES that I was able to bring from donations over the past 2 years:

  • a tactical laptop
  • iPad Mini
  • iPhone 11 ProMax
  • 2 suitcases full of baby clothes
  • 1 suitcase full of women’s clothes
  • 66 sets of reusable sanitary pads
  • a full bin of disposable sanitary pads
  • medical equipment from MDS
  • books, toys, and games

In short, it’s going to be an *amazing* Christmas-in-May!

When my son and I were here last, Touch the Slum was working out of a cramped 2-room office in the slum.

Now we have a full compound, 12 resident girls, 60 students, 18 staff, and 30+ babies and children every day. To say that’s a big change in the last 2 years is an understatement, and it’s all thanks to YOU and your support.

I’ll be adding a 3rd weekly email for the 2 1/2 weeks I’m gone, since the schedule is full and I want you to see all that we’re doing.

Webele nyo!

Jennings

Off To Uganda – Finally!

FINALLY!!!

My son, Zeke, and I went to Uganda in January 2020, returning on February 8th. Little did we know that the world was going to go mad soon after!

But finally, I am headed back — on SUNDAY.

Since I was there last, we have built a complete program from the ground up: the Ross House for teen moms in crisis, the Suubi House for teen moms transitioning to independent living, Skills for Life vocational school, Teen Talk, Turning Point, an on-site clinic, a free daycare, and more.

In 2021 we grew 70%. SEVENTY PERCENT!

Since 2009, I have often been asked about the WHY of going to Uganda:

WHY do you go when you could spend that money on the programs?

WHY do you go when a two or three week trip “doesn’t accomplish that much?”

WHY do you go when [insert “there’s no power” or “there’s no internet” or “you spend so much time driving on terrible roads”]?

Well, why do you get together with your family at the holidays, or go across the country to visit your best friend?

There are just things that happen when you are together, in person, sharing a meal or a laugh, enjoying a sunset, or simply sitting and watching children play that CANNOT happen otherwise.

It’s connection. Community. Relationship. Family.

So FINALLY, I am leaving on Sunday. I’ll be in Kampala working with our Namuwongo project for about 10 days, then heading west to visit our schools in Mbarara and Rwakobo. I’ll be taking Ronald on his first-ever safari (our “one fun thing”), then spending another three days in Namuwongo.

It’ll be BUSY. I’m leading a full day retreat, meeting with staff to do trainings on various things like learning styles and working with learning disabilities, meeting with the local Rotary club to establish ties with our wonderful Olde Towne Beaufort Rotary who has been so very generous to us over the last couple of years. And yes, I know enough to take a bit of time off.

I AM SO EXCITED! Uganda is my heart-home, to be honest. I may never live there full time, but my heart is always longing for it. You’ll see why in the photos I share.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and now Twitter. I’ll also write our twice-a-week newsletters as long as I have power and internet.

More soon!

Webele nyo!

Jennings

PS To become a regular, monthly supporter, click the link! 100% goes to the program!

I WANT TO GIVE!

What’s My Uganda Trip Itinerary?

The last time I went to Uganda was January 2020, before the world fell apart. At the time of that visit, I’d been re-starting Ten Eighteen after a several-year hiatus, and our entire project consisted of

  • Providing food for Hopeland Primary School and the Arise Africa Babies Home
  • Funding a soap-making vocational project for teen girls in Namuwongo
  • Consulting on the teenage pregnancy problem

That’s it.

In the two years since, we’ve created the Skills for Life vocational and Ross/Suubi House residential programs; provided well over 300,000 meals; started a free daycare and free clinic; built an eco-brick water tank at Wells of Hope Primary School in Lake Mburo National Park; and grown from zero to 18 paid Ugandan staff.

So… There’s a lot of talk about!

Currently on the agenda for my trip:

  • A full day staff retreat, geared towards problem solving, team building, communication, and growth strategies
  • Several days of training with the Literacy Class teachers to discuss learning styles, learning disability assessment, and teaching modalities that are different than the Ugandan system
  • Formalizing the Digital Literacy curriculum to ensure competency in day-to-day use of needed computer skills
  • Speaking at the various group meetings during the week, such as Strong Minds, Teen Talk, and Turning Point
  • Visiting the families of participants in Skills for Life and our residential program to assess the home-life conditions of the girls in the program
  • Visiting Western Uganda to spend a day each at Hopeland Primary and Wells of Hope Primary Schools where we provide food

AND MORE!

I’m also taking some of the mountain of stuff that’s been donated to us over the last two years. I can’t take it all in one trip, but I’ll be going through and taking the most needed items: clothes, shoes, electronics, medical equipment, books, games, and toys. THANK YOU ALL for your donations — I’ll have photos galore once the items are distributed!

Sometimes I get asked WHY I go to Uganda, with the accompanying expense. The fact is, it matters that I am there, on the ground, getting to know the staff, the girls, representing YOU and YOUR donations, using my skill set of problem solving and “project” mentality to streamline and help make things run more smoothly.

In short, accountability, for all of us at Ten Eighteen Uganda and Touch the Slum.

Thank you for your continued support! If you’d like to help me pay for the extra luggage I’ll be taking, just click the button. Every $100 extra baggage fee will save us $500 or more — that’s huge!

Click Here!

Webele nyo!

Jennings

I’m going to Uganda (finally!)!

FINALLY.

Thanks to our recent global unpleasantness, I’ve had three trips to Uganda cancelled or postponed since our last visit in January-February 2020. What’s remarkable is that we’ve gone from a tiny, claustrophobic 2-room office in the slum with no paid staff to a thriving, bustling compound on the edge of the slum serving 70+ people a day with 14 paid staff!

That’s pretty incredible, and thanks in large part to video meetings being so easy now days. I meet with Ronald, our Managing Director, at least twice a week, and we use Signal to communicate every day. It’s *almost* like being there.

Of course, it’s not actually like being there. My communication is limited to Ronald and a couple of others who work on our videos and photographs. I haven’t ever set foot in our compound. I haven’t personally met most of our staff. I haven’t held the babies living in the Ross and Suubi Houses. We haven’t sat around over a meal and brainstormed.

Those things are so important for CULTURE – that indefinable something that makes Ten Eighteen Uganda + Touch the Slum unique and special and the reason you are reading this newsletter and entrusting us with your hard earned dollars.

I’ll have more in the coming weeks on my schedule and the events we’re working on during my visit. I’ll be gone May 22 through June 9, but will have (mostly) internet to keep you all updated.

THANK YOU for supporting us, sharing us with friends and groups, and sending all the encouragement that you do. We can’t tell you how grateful we are!

Blessings,

Jennings

PS. Of course we have tons of projects on DonorSee – if you Follow us there, you’ll get updates when we post new ones. To be honest, the situation in Ukraine has taken away a lot of fundraising momentum for those of us working elsewhere, so we’d really appreciate you checking out our projects to see if any speak to you. Webele nyo!