If you follow us on social media (and if you don’t, please do!), you saw our partner and team profiles in November and December. But every once in awhile, I want to introduce myself to anyone new, and let you know the WHY behind Ten Eighteen.
My mom and grandmother were both lifelong volunteers. My grandmother didn’t stop until was 85, and even after that, did flowers at church for many more years. (She lived to 106 1/2!) My mom is still on boards and committees at 79. While my children were younger and we homeschooled, I had this vague idea to start a nonprofit, although I didn’t really know what that nonprofit would do exactly. For about eight years, the idea percolated in the back of my brain.
In the fall of 2008, I felt like it was time, and filed the paperwork — still without a hugely clear idea of what exactly we would do beyond help some missionary friends in Thailand and Zambia. I got the 501(c)3 designation in December, and around Christmas reconnected with a friend I hadn’t seen in almost 15 years, who was living in Uganda.
The first thing Ten Eighteen ever did was rent an office space for an NGO that my friend had been working with in the slums of Namuwongo. My daughter went over to visit in May of 2009, and my son and I in September. By the time we’d spent a couple of days there, we knew that Uganda was where were meant to be!
There are a lot of things I love about Uganda (and yes, some things I’m not so fond of!). But the big WHY, besides just knowing that’s where we were called to go, is this: NO ONE CAN DO EVERYTHING, BUT EVERYONE CAN DO SOMETHING.
The problems are much too big for one small nonprofit. And for the first 44 years of my life, looking at huge problems like the Namuwongo slum, three million orphaned children, HIV/AIDS decimating the 20-40 age group, devastating poverty, lack of basic necessities and services, would have completely overwhelmed me. And, to be honest, it is still overwhelming somewhere in the back of my mind. But somehow, when we were there in the slum, visiting women and children and picking our way through indescribable filth, I knew: We could do SOMETHING. Not everything… but something. And that was enough.
In our 12 years, we have actually done a lot of things:
- Given out over 50 microbusiness grants and loans for women to start small businesses
- Sponsored over 100 children in school, vocational training, diploma courses, and university
- Paid for all the fuel Hospice Jinja needed to serve all their patients in the district for 3 years
- Built the Arise Africa Primary School in Bukaleba
- Provided over 200,000 meals to school children; and to the elderly and teen moms during the covid19 lockdowns of 2020
- Opened the Ross House, a training center and halfway house for teen moms and other youth from the Namuwongo slum
- Funded a covid19 awareness campaign for Namuwongo that reached over 20,000 people
- Built a kitchen and cistern at the Wells of Hope School in the remote and vastly underserved village of Rwakobo in Lake Mburo National Park
All with very little funding, and a lot of hard work and effort by our Partners, Team, and Donors.
I’ve been to Uganda 13 times now, and pray I’ll be able to get back sometime in 2021. My heart is there, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity I’ve had to work with such amazing people.