I’ve spent a lot of time with my Ugandan friends trying to explain the concept of seasons. (I haven’t been that successful!)
In Uganda, there are just rainy and dry seasons – two of each per year. We are coming to the last few weeks (we hope!) of this fall’s rainy season, which has been brutal.
At least 24 were killed in flooding in Eastern Uganda in August
Thousands were displaced by flooding and landslides in Western Uganda in September
Our own programs have been affected, as you can see from the picture above of Hopeland Primary School in Mbarara. Wells of Hope and the surrounding village in Rwakobo have had even more significant flooding. The work on the farmhouse was delayed significantly by rains.
You may not know it, but Kampala is about 3000 feet above sea level. I’ve only had one trip in 14 where I was hot — often I’m wearing jeans and a sweatshirt! And few windows have glass in them so the damp cold is hard to get away from when it never seems to stop raining.
We’ve had several girls struggle to control their asthma during this time, and about three times the usual number of respiratory illnesses. We’ve even had some cases of dysentery due to all the contaminated water girls have to walk through to get to class.
So… Did you know that you can sign up as a monthly sponsor of our Haven Clinic? It’s true! We are at 40% right now. There’s no minimum to be a sponsor, and it really helps us keep all our teen moms and teen girls healthy by paying Sherry’s salary and restocking the medications we use daily.
Here’s what going on at Touch the Slum (and Wells of Hope Primary School) already this month:
Our biggest-ever graduation happened on Saturday and it was amazing! I’ll be making a video to put on our YouTube channel this week, but for now, you can see the joy in the girls’ faces above as 35 graduated in Literacy, Tailoring, Advanced Tailoring, and Hairdressing. We had quite the fashion show thanks to the Advanced Tailoring girls — you’ll have to wait for the video or check out the Reel I posted on Sunday on Instagram.
The project for graduation funded 100% on Sunday, which was wonderful! We ended up having to rent a tent because of the weather, and the regular costs add up, too. So we’re really grateful for the support!
HUGE thanks go out to Board member Mikkel Thorup and his Project Manager Dom Alves (who lives in Brazil!) for a complete re-do of our website. We’d been on SquareSpace for a long time because, well, it’s easy! But it lacked functionality, and we were ready to be able to do some new things with it. It launched this past weekend, and we’re SUPER happy and grateful — check it out and let us know what you think!
Some of you will remember from my last visit that Wells of Hope had gotten a loan to build a second brick building, but didn’t have the money for the concrete floors, blackboards, windows or desks. We’ve been chipping away at that on DonorSee, funding the blackboards, and going one class at a time for desks and windows.
A local donor funded the cement floors, which was amazing. Then last week, we got the first 5 windows put in. That so inspired someone that Gideon knew that they donated the remaining 19 windows! Now all we need is 12 sets of the glass inserts, and we’re rain-proof.
We also funded the 3rd classroom’s desks! The order went in for those yesterday, so we’ll be installing them in a week or so. Then on to classroom #4.
This is HUGE for the incredibly poor village of Rwakobo – who didn’t have a school EVER until Wells of Hope opened in 2019. (And then closed for 2 years thanks to government pandemic policies.) Gideon and everyone out there is amazed by the generosity shown to their little school, and we really are so grateful.
And y’all – it’s only October 4th!
Thank you so much for following along with us on this great journey.
PS We are planning our holiday cards EARLY this year! (I know, it’s a shock!) If we don’t have your physical address, we’d love to add you to our mailing list so you can get the occasional greeting from Ten Eighteen. Just hit Reply – we won’t share, spam, or visit, we promise!
This is Francis. We’ve known Francis since early 2010, when he was living at the children’s home run by some friends. We stayed there during all of our trips through 2015 — two a year — and got to know Francis really well.
He’s a WONDERFUL young man who has had a very difficult life. He was orphaned at the age of 8 when his village and the surrounding fields were consumed by fire. He wasn’t in the village at the time but saw the fire and rushed home to try to save his family. He couldn’t, and suffered significant burns in the rescue attempt.
He stayed at the home for about 8 years where he got an education and played football. Unfortunately, one of the other boys tried to stab him to death one night before fleeing, nearly killing Francis and causing significant injury. He spent a lot of time in hospital but made a full recovery.
Not long afterwards, the home closed down and the older kids were just left to fend for themselves. Most had some family somewhere in Uganda, but Francis did not. He had nowhere to go and no one to help.
Being smart and resourceful, he worked day labor and rented a small place. We were able to reconnect thanks to a messaging app in 2020, and Ten Eighteen has been helping him since then. And that’s where YOU come in!
We posted a project on Monday on DonorSee to pay for the certificate Francis had earned in computers. It was funded in a day! Yesterday he got the funds to the school, and should have the certificate in hand by the end of the week. We are working with him to finish his secondary education, find all the lost records from the children’s home, and figure out next steps.
We also had a project for windows at Wells of Hope Primary School in Rwakobo village funded this week. It’s the first of 5 that will be needed to get all the windows completed in the new building, so we’re really excited to be making progress there. The windows will be in by Saturday!
Most of our donations on DonorSee are between $10 and $25 – sometimes we have 20 donors involved in funding a project. And we LOVE that! We love that you all are coming together, giving what you can, and making a huge and immediate difference in people’s lives.
We are so grateful for your support, whether it’s a donation, a reply to an email, a Like on a social media post, or a text or call of encouragement. We don’t take any of it for granted, and really can’t thank you enough.
As a general rule, I’m not a big fan of institutional schooling. Our family homeschooled for 13 years, and the pandemic years certainly taught us a few things about the state of education.
In Uganda, and especially in terribly poor, remote areas like Rwakobo Village, schools are critical. Especially schools like Wells of Hope that operates on a pay-if-you-can tuition system, with no mandatory uniforms, no testing fees, no “bring a broom, a case of toilet paper, and paper or you can’t come” rules.
For 40 years, this village’s children either didn’t go to school at all, or had to WALK nearly 10 miles each way to go. (It takes a half hour in the car to reach the closest town!) If they were lucky and had relatives in a town with a school, they could attend more easily, but for most, school was not even a remote possibility.
I absolutely believe that reading, writing, math, science, and geography (they learn American geography in primary school – for some reason no one knows – and don’t learn Uganda’s geography until secondary) are important. It’s a key to MORE in their lives.
But even more than that, for these village children, it’s a safety net.
They get food at school. For many, it’s the only food they get in a day.
They have advocates in their teachers and the administration, who are able to spot abuse and illness.
Gideon, Gilbert, and the other staff regularly visit the homes — even those that are 2-3 miles’ walk from the school — to check on families, to see why children have missed days, to try to help the families prioritize education.
For the girls, being in school has at least stalled childhood marriage practices. (We lost a handful of girls during the lockdown closure to this practice, and it’s heartbreaking.)
I know that many people, especially those familiar with the overall abysmal academic performance of schools in countries like Uganda struggle with the idea of helping them. For our newest board member Mikkel, the social and welfare aspects of supporting schools was new — and a game changer.
Because of the overwhelming demand when schools started back up after the 2-year break at the end of January, Wells of Hope took out a loan to build a second “real” building. (The photo above is the current P2, very overcrowded classroom!) We have been fundraising on DonorSee to get blackboards and furniture. The first classroom’s furniture project is over halfway funded — we just need $175 to complete it.
Back in August, we got invited to chat with DonorSee to see about becoming one of their partner organizations. I’d never heard of them before, but Mikkel (our newest board member) had done a podcast with DonorSee’s founder Grett, which led to the connection.
Long story short, we did our trial private project, got that funded, and launched site-wide in September. It was a pretty steep learning curve, but we were determined to figure it all out — and here we are!
TO DATE, we have:
Had 117 projects funded
Raised almost $29,000 (at the time of this writing)
Seriously, maybe I need to go away more often because just in the time I was on my trip, we raised nearly $4000 on DonorSee!
FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS! Wow. I’m blown away!
What did you accomplish?
blackboards for the new Wells of Hope Primary building
a substantial start on part 1 of desks and chairs for the building
orphan Miriam’s medical care after she was hit by a boda
almost 60% of the transportation for Kellen to her father’s burial
medical care for teen mom Mabel’s two sick children
a metal crutch for Emmanuel, who was born with one leg
help for Clare, the teen mom living in the chicken coop
an exit package for teen mom Gloria, to set her up for independence
restocking food for our teen girls
mosquito nets for 25 students in Skills for Life
an emergency intake for 15-year-old pregnant teen Sylvia
a 4-bed dormitory for homeless students in Skills for Life
medical treatment for Jen’s UTI
Y’all, I was only gone 2 1/2 weeks! THIS.IS.AMAZING!!
Your support while I was gone, beyond this amazing giving, was so appreciated. I got emails and messages on social media, and it was so encouraging. Because it’s hard over there…
Great. But hard. Thanks to all of you, the trip was a success in every way. I really can’t thank you enough!
PS Becoming a monthly supporter is a GREAT way to help our work! As little as $10 a month makes an impact — $10 can provide food for a teen mom and her child for a week! Just click the button to get started —>
Emmanuel (Manuel for short) is in Primary 3 at Wells of Hope, and so happy that school started back in January after nearly two years of closures. He loves running around, playing football, and being a regular kid.
There’s just one difference: Manuel has only one leg.
He was born this way, and watching him move you would never really connect that one of his “legs” is actually a crutch. He uses that crutch as easily and naturally as can be — it’s pretty amazing.
But Manuel’s crutches have always been made out of wood, and as a typical, active boy, that wood breaks. When that happens, Manuel can spend a week out of school while another one is located, and funds figured out.
This means he not only loses a valuable week of education and food, he also has no means of movement outside sitting on his bum and scooting around. His family couldn’t afford a wheelchair, but also, his home and the surrounding village aren’t really places a wheelchair can go easily. So he waits.
We have a project up on DonorSee to buy Manuel a metal crutch, so he can play football and run to his heart’s content. We’d love your help to give this amazing kid an amazing gift.
After our “fun with food” at Hopeland School last Wednesday, we spent Thursday out at Rwakobo Village and Wells of Hope School. This photo is the home of one of the parents from the school, who has 3 kids there.
This village is, essentially, “a refugee camp without the UN.” (Per Gilbert, the Assistant Director at the school.) It was planted inside the then newly formed Lake Mburo National Park forty years ago, when the government needed something to do with refugees from the Rwandan genocide. They put them in the middle of this game park with no well, no clinic, no school, and lots of rules. That was pretty much the last time the government has done anything for the people there.
Anyway, we combined our planned 2-day visit into one because Director Gideon’s wife was suffering terribly with gall stones and they were going to have to go to Kampala on Friday. It meant a long day, a 2 mile walk, a lot of sun, and a lot of these kinds of houses.
We toured the school, which has come a long way since our last visit, with one real brick building in service and a second nearing completion. (DonorSee project on the way for the floors and blackboards soon!) There are 340 students in buildings that would legitimately hold 150, but it’s pretty hard to turn them away.
In the West, this classroom would hold *maybe* 10 students, with desks and chairs. There are 40+ children in it now. All the old mud and stick classrooms look like this, so a move to the new building will be a huge help.
I’m a huge fascination out in Rwakobo — a mzungu is rare out there! So I wore my hair up, long sleeves (to cover up my tattoos which caused MUCH interest last visit!), and long pants. Still, they all wanted to touch my hands or feet, and kept surging forward to be ever-closer to us. haha It was a bit intense, but I always love to visit them.
It’s Sunday and I leave in THREE DAYS! Thank you all for your encouragement and support while I’ve been gone. We’ve funded a lot of DonorSee projects over the last two weeks, so THANK YOU!
Thanks to our generous donors, with the administrative support from Equal Aqua Uganda, and construction by The Ichupa Upcycle Project , our first ecobrick water tank is up and running with harvested rainwater!
Check out this video for the whole story:
Now, the kids at Wells of Hope School AND the residents of Rwakobo Village have access to safe water!
This was the kick-off project for our WASH Campaign. Our 2021 goals are ambitious – but that’s good, right?
Ecobrick Water Tanks
Pit Latrines with Handwashing Stations
Deep Water Well
Ten Eighteen has 3 missions in Uganda: vulnerable girls and teen moms, water/sanitation/hygiene for Rwakobo, and food for three schools. In short, FOOD, WATER, SHELTER, AND EDUCATION.
It’s supporters like you, and our partners in Uganda, that allow us to accomplish this big mission, one small step at a time. We are so thankful!!
Today we welcome Gideon, Director of Hopeland and Wells of Hope Schools, and our liaison to Rwakobo Village. I’ve known Gideon for about ten years when he was a teacher/tutor at Father’s House in Kampala. We’ve been working together on the schools since May 2019, when my bakery began a Pound for Pound program to provide food for Hopeland School and the Arise Africa Babies Home. I’m so glad to have a chance to chat with him about Rwakobo Village!
J: When and how did the village at Rwakobo come to your attention?
G: We visited it in 2018 when our church [Celebration Tabernacle Church in Mbarara] was doing outreaches to the poorest and most needy areas in our region.
J. What was the first thing Celebration Tabernacle did in the village?
G: Together, the church fed the hungry, built a few mud houses with iron sheets for those who slept in grass huts or were basically homeless, and talked to the parents about the dangers of forced child marriages and other associated vices.
J: How many people live in Rwakobo Village?
G: Almost 3,000 now!
J: What is life like for those living there?
G: They live hand to mouth, well below the poverty line [so below $2 per day]. They hardly have any clean water, getting food is a struggle, and they have no health facilities so they depend on herbs for the treatment of illnesses.
J: What impact has the school made on the lives of the villagers?
G: They have seen the importance of education! Forced early marriages have been reduced, as well as the behaviors associated with that [like abuse, early pregnancy and related complications]. The value of girls has been resurrected!
J: How will the new school building and the reopening of the school after the Covid lockdown affect the children who attend Wells of Hope?
G: Their lives were being threatened over the last year! Not only were schools closed, but churches were also closed so they began to lose hope. They fell back in their educational achievements [school had only just started its third-ever term], and were giving up! The news of the opening will be amazing to them!
J: What impact did the Covid lockdowns and the loss of the full school year have on the children. What negative effects did you see during the last year, and what negative impacts do you anticipate because of the “lost year?”
G: Some children were starving and malnourished. Some were abandoned by their parents in their houses and left alone. Others were forced into early marriage, early pregnancy, and some girls were exchanged for food. The girls who were forced into marriage will not be able to return to school [Wells of Hope only goes to Primary 6]. We also anticipate that the little tuition some parents were able to pay will be reduced, as the parents have lost what incomes they had during the pandemic. Additionally, the families had to eat any seeds that they were saving for planting after the rainy season, so there is little income on the horizon.
J: What difference would having access to clean water, as well as good sanitation and hygiene, have on the school and village?
G: If the village didn’t have to rely on seasonal wells [ponds] and had clean water, the incidence of disease and illness would be greatly reduced! Waterborne illness is one of the biggest problems in the village and the school and accounts for many lost days of class. Diarrhea kills many children in the village. Handwashing stations and clean pit latrines would also help a lot!
J: What is the greatest need in Rwakobo Village?
G: A bigger school so all the children can attend, and funds to pay the staff. Clean water and water easily available for washing. And improved homes for the families who live in grass huts or mud homes.
J: Thank you so much for all your work in this village — and for introducing us to it last year! We can’t wait to get back there as soon as Covid allows!