Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Teaching Under the Trees

Written by Emily, a long term Fount of Mercy volunteer

Today I spent the day in at one of my favorite site locations. Just a preface: I like each site and organization I work for. They all have very distinct personalities, work, and goals. Each day I am excited to see how the day’s work will unfold.

However, I especially enjoy going to one of my schools, located in Bulabandi. After a long taxi ride into the next district (state), and a daring boda ride to the village- which includes avoiding potholes, going over huge dirt piles that remind me of dirt-bike racing, and then through a footpath that is surrounded by fields- I arrive at the school. Before I have a chance to pay my boda driver, the children swarm. They sing songs of greetings, while simultaneously mob me for a hug. After the initial attack of children, the teacher organizes them and they begin to sing a bit more. The ones, who have decided I am their best friend, stick close. There is absolutely no way to describe to you how wonderful these children are. My heart fills with joy- yet I know their lives are not easy. One little girl, Gloria, never leaves my side. She is in nursery (preschool) and is as cute as a button, although incredibly shy. The teachers will tell her to go home (since nursery is only half-day) and yet she silently refuses. It is only when I am done with lunch and we are about to begin our teacher-lesson does she leave. I will take a picture of her sometime soon.

While I enjoy the children, my main role is to work with the teachers. After a lunch of poshu (boiled maize flower) and beans, we dive into the material. Today we talked about learning styles, took a quiz to find out our own learning style, and then brainstormed ideas on how to teach lessons to meet the needs all learning styles. These teachers are very enthusiastic about learning new concepts around teaching and also to improve their classrooms. They are good with the kids, get along well, and are enjoyable to work with. They are still feeling me out, figuring out who I am and what kind of relationship will become of my bi-monthly visits. I hope someday, to be (to some extent) grafted into their school and community.

While our conversation on learning styles continues, I cannot help but look around and be amazed. We sit under a large tree, out of the sun, talking about children and teaching, while the schoolgirls play a version of handball/cricket and the boys play soccer. It is quite picturesque and I truly feel blessed to be here.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Today, I spent the afternoon reading for my literature review overlooking the Nile River and Lake Victoria. It was a stunning view and at times, I was distracted from my reading! Thankfully, I made it right before the rains came pouring down! I really have no words to describe how magnificent it was to see the rain, the water, and the green hills. So instead, I have uploaded a picture that, unfortunately, does not do the view justice. As I sat reading, I could not be more overwhelmed with the fact that I am incredibly blessed. Few people from my country have the opportunity to get a masters degree, even fewer have the opportunity to live in an amazing country that is blessed with a powerful river. I am not sure why I was chosen to be in Uganda this year, or why I have been given the privilege of obtaining another degree, but I am incredibly thankful.

In other news, I spent the week meeting with more stakeholders, avoiding muddy roads, and celebrating the third birthday of a little boy with his family and friends. I am starting to get a feel of this town, the rhythm of life and the work that I have before me.

I spent one day this week, working with Robert (Care and Share), and being introduced to many of the women involved in the baking project. The original goal of the day was to talk about their record keeping and to gain more trust. Lets just say, plans never go to plan here and I ended up on a wonderful, adventurous ride through the village- stopping at the homes of key women in the group. These are strong women who hold their households together, raise their children/grandchildren and manage to still be involved in a baking project. I am excited to work with them as I see so much potential!

Well, I should post this before the internet goes out. Cheers!

Posted By Emily (volunteer in Uganda with Fount of Mercy for the next 6 months)


Today I was invited to attend the 25th anniversary of an organization in Uganda. I went and enjoyed the celebration full of speeches from the most honored, choir songs, and of course- a feast of Ugandan food. Ironically enough, it was my first time eating Ugandan in Uganda. Waves of memories from Kenya mixed with my school group’s outings to the local Ugandan restaurant in Boston came flooding back. This was a huge celebration, in a wonderful location. The view from this compound was stunning, with a wonderful view of lake Victoria and its islands. I wish I had taken a picture!

After sitting through the program, eating lunch, talking with a few individuals, we decided instead of taking a boda back to the main road, that we would walk. We joined up with a few women from the celebration who lived close by. One woman, full of joy, linked arms with me as we walked down the road. Her presence was full of life, her smile was large, and her eyes danced! I was completely in awe of her ability to pull me out of a potentially embarrassing situation with her mother and whisk me down the street. Not five minutes later, she stopped and showed me her home and we parted. About halfway through our walk, the rain decided to pour! Huge, thick drops fell from the sky. Thankfully, a group of women in a long row of homes called us over to their front porch so that we could stay dry. Without their help, we would have been soaking wet within a few minutes. One invited us into her house, where we chatted about various topics: the weather, family, where we live, etc. The home was nice, with a few chairs, and a partition between the back half (bedroom) and the front room. Her friend rushed in a few minutes later when she heard that mzungus (white people) had stopped. This girl, probably about my age, had a laugh that was contagious! We stayed until the rain let up and continued on our way.

Rainy season is upon us, which has allowed me to think a lot about rain. When it rains, everything stops. No work is done because it comes down so quickly. I see this beautiful, clean water fall from the sky into the fields and roads. Hardly anyone catches the rain that I have seen. Access to clean water is a problem here, and yet a lot of it falls on a daily basis. How can people capture the rain to make use of it? I know there are models out there, but is there a way to train individuals to do it themselves? Perhaps another project, another organization, and a different dream…

posted by Emily (Fount of Mercy volunteer living and working in Uganda for 6 months)

Friday, September 3, 2010


This week has been filled with firsts and also subtle reminders of why I love East Africa. Uganda is similar to Kenya, which I believe is one reason why it has been somewhat easy to transition. Yet, I am still waiting for the moment where I just completely break down into culture shock. So far, so good though!

On to the firsts. I rode my first boda-boda this week. For those of you who don't know, boda-bodas are motorcycles you hire. They are everywhere in Uganda! You flag a man down, hop on the back of his boda and he will take you wherever you want to go (for a small fee of course). Thankfully Lori, my supervisor, started me on a small route from our home into town. After my first ride, I got off and was shaking. Mind you, this was my first time on a motorcycle ever! With my practicality constantly in my head, I have always thought of them as one of the most dangerous modes of transportation and therefore have avoided them like the plague. I will apologize now for those who read this and absolutely love motorcycles. Now that taking a boda is a practical mode of transportation, I think I will grow to enjoy it. The next thing I conquered with bodas this week was to ride side-saddle. What is a woman to do when she is wearing a skirt and has to ride a boda?

I also met two of the three organizations I will predominately work with. Both are a little out of town in nearby villages. Both I am excited to work with for varying reasons. More to come on these I am sure. For now, lets just say that I am incredibly honored to be part of their work. One thing I quickly realized during these visits is that I need to learn some of the language. While English is commonly spoken, not everyone has a strong command of my language. Hopefully language lessons will start in the next few weeks. I'm still debating if I will just take lessons to learn the basics or move beyond that. Any suggestions?

Besides meeting the organizations, taking bodas and getting a feel of the town, I have also immersed myself in Ugandan curriculum for grades one through four. I've read a fair amount, asked questions, and am ready to dive in with the teachers and students. To give some background, Uganda has a new curriculum which is focused more on problem-solving and creative thinking that the rote method of teaching. I am working with a few schools to help them transition to this new style of teaching.

Well, off to make dinner with Lori and most likely watch a bit of the t.v. show Chuck.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Summer Worth of Tweets

Below are Fount of Mercy's Tweet's from Uganda. Read from the bottom up for chronological order.

* Kampala's main taxi park is very overwhelming to walk through.
* @Mishellj 's photos from Uganda with @fountofmercy are absolutely stunning. So proud of her work (via @Kevin_Slack)
* Currently reading: @fountofmercy (via @Dr0id)
* Pic of a proud Ugandan women showing off her new necklace design to be sold in Jinja.
* Founts vocational development team just taught a group of Ugandan women a new necklace design & made a connection w them w a local store
* Fount's community health team spoke w older Ugandan women about menopause, news for many of the women

* This past week Sewing Hope (a fount of mercy program) held a 2nd men's tailoring class with the organization Care and Share.
* The woman of Care & Share sang us a song of celebration the first day we visited them.
* Getting the chance to skim through Uganda photos. this is hard & overwhelming. im going to have to take baby steps w this. (via @Mishellj)
* @mishellj taught a photography class today in makindye, Uganda
* Here's a beautiful pic from our visit to murchison falls in Uganda

* Back from the safari. It was amazing!!

* Our educational development team leaves today for safari. Super excited to see giraffes, elephants, hippos and lions.
* Today the Sewing Hope team taught women from the village of Lawanda how to make bags & mens shirts. One women completed an entire bag today! Tue Jul 27 13:35:25 2010
* Today I visited a school started by 1 of the orphans fount has suported for yrs. We are so proud of him! Tue Jul 27 13:28:28 2010
* Founts girls camp was a huge sucess. Over 50 women, we discussed puberty, sex ed & misconceptions. Sun Jul 25 14:21:27 2010
* We just donated curriculum to Roc Primary School in Lawanda, Uganda Fri Jul 23 11:30:12 2010
* I'm wearing a skirt that was made by one of the Ugandan vocational developments projects we support. Fri Jul 23 10:34:31 2010
* Pic of Becky and Jamie leading gymnastic activities Fri Jul 23 00:49:53 2010
* Pic of @mishellj showing deaf students how to frame a picture with her camera. Fri Jul 23 00:41:33 2010
* Last day with the deaf students was wonderful! They gave each of us a sign name. Fri Jul 23 00:39:30 2010
* Yesterday we attended a vocational womens group meeting. Our translator translated all the gossip :)
* Awesome day w deaf students!! These children are the most affectionate children in the world! Huge hugs! Wed Jul 21 12:24:43 2010
* Fount dancing in the beautiful Ugandan rain Wed Jul 21 12:03:22 2010 via

* Sad news, last night one of TAOST students, Joshua, died. Although school continued today, their was a sense of mourning. Tue Jul 20 12:47:39 2010
* I got my two-year work visa! The work continues in Uganda - Lori Mon Jul 19 13:27:53 2010
* The sewing hope team has confirmed that difficult machines exist all over the world. But our students are overcoming them and making shirts! Mon Jul 19 13:22:35 2010
* Today our community health dir, spoke w a principal. The topic is the need for public health in his school. Mon Jul 19 10:27:33 2010
* @mishellj reading with little Dan today at TAOST Mon Jul 19 10:21:23 2010
* Met a nice Ugandan man who works for USAID. We shared stories. He thinks our model is solid. He said "I am proud of Fount" So encouraging!! Sun Jul 18 03:52:40 2010
* 5 members of our team are white water rafting the Nile today! Sun Jul 18 03:20:25 2010
* Want to read about our work via our volunteers perspectives? Please follow Fount of Mercy's travel blog. Sun Jul 18 03:12:49 2010
* Pic of Sewing Hope busy at work (Sewing Hope, a Fount of Mercy program, provides vocational development) Fri Jul 16 06:28:30 2010

* This week our vocational dev team has been working w local sewing teachers, teaching new skills to share w their classes in their villages Fri Jul 16 05:22:43 2010
* Met w teachers from a new school. To teach 4 grades they only have 1 English & 1 math book. Were going to buy them 1 subject book per grade! Fri Jul 16 05:19:15 2010
* Today we wrked w 20 visually impaired kids. It was so rewarding to sing, read w & play w these children Thu Jul 15 11:50:27 2010

* The resturant where we are eating tonight looks like a medieval times! Ha :) jousting competition soon Thu Jul 15 11:44:40 2010
* Beautiful jinja Thu Jul 15 11:38:22 2010
* @Mishellj our community health dir is excited to use the anatomy posters u donated. Theyll be used during this months puberty camp. Thanks Wed Jul 14 12:10:09 2010
* Pic of Jamie leading a math strategies discussion with TAOST teachers (the AIDS Orphan Support Trust) Wed Jul 14 11:50:48 2010
* The Internet is back :) it had been gone since Sunday. We are safe in jinja and really enjoying our work. Wed Jul 14 11:37:40 2010
* Great day in the village, singing and dancing with the sewing group. Sat Jul 10 13:43:42 2010
* @luartfan good news, through a grant we have filled the shelves with Ugandan text books! They defiantly could use childrens story books. 1:55 PM Jul 8th
* Taught Hope Academy yoga today. They loved it! Also taught compare & contrast using the original and new version of the 3 little pigs. 1:27 PM Jul 8th
* Hope Academy in Iganga, Uganda graciously cooked us lunch today. Beans, cooked pumpkin leaves & poshu (a corn meal dish) It was really good 1:21 PM Jul 8th
* Woke up this morning to a beautiful thunderstorm. 11:45 PM Jul 7th
* We watched the game last night with some Ugandan friends at a restaurant called 2 friends. The place was packed and the energy so much fun. 11:44 PM Jul 7th
* Great day today. Taught Ugandan students the musical alphabet, gifted the school w curriculum and discussed strategies for teaching reading. 10:30 AM Jul 7th   

* From the safety of my room I just watched three monkeys fight over a papaya. The little one won! 8:54 AM Jul 5th
* We made it to Kampala. Its great to be back! Once the rest of our volunteers arrive this afternoon were off to Jinja to start work tomorrow. 3:10 AM Jul 5th

Monday, August 9, 2010

Reverse Culture Shock

Culture Shock
I didn’t feel like I had that much culture shock when I got to Uganda, I was seeing a lot of things I expected to see and looking at things in a critical way as a photographer.  Sure I definitely faced some but not as much as I have found myself experiencing reverse culture shock. I wish it was the other way because coming home and facing this reverse effect has been difficult and strange. While I am so happy to be back, I can’t help but feel torn. Guilty for leaving, for having all the things in life that I have, and a hundred things that I don’t even need. I had 7 outfits in Uganda, I didn’t wear makeup or jewelry, and I carried a backpack around. Coming home and seeing a bag of makeup was scary. I felt overwhelmed by my options and found it easier to just not deal with it. I got some earrings while in Uganda, and when I opened my jewelry box to put them in I felt nauseous by all my options. I have so much. I know this doesn’t make me a bad person, that we work and have things because we can and because it makes us happy, but I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed by all of the things I have. They all seemed unimportant and like a burden at that moment. I’m sure this will change in me again, I will go back to enjoying these things and wanting them, but right now its strange and seems unnecessary to me, it’s a weird feeling.

Getting myself back into the city life is another story. In my home I am safe, its mine, I don’t have to see or experience the attitudes of other people. Walking back onto the streets of New York is an entirely different story. Just going out to get coffee and a muffin with Kevin on Saturday while on the way to the dog park was a challenge. I cried after getting my coffee. I could have cried in the shop but I held myself together. I can’t say exactly what I was crying over either. How nice everything is, how many options I have, just how elaborate and expensive looking things are. How people that don’t know what I know, or haven’t seen the things I’ve seen most likely surround me. I felt so alone in that moment standing in the coffee shop and I guess that’s why I cried. Because I cant get those faces out of my head and someone else doesn’t even know they exist, and how much help they need. Instead we are getting coffees and have many other concerns.  This is no fault to anyone else of course. I was warned that it would feel like a dream. That I would come back with this life changing experience and everyone else would be the way they were and everything will exist as it did before I left, except that I would be changed. My former concerns in life seem so small, for the most part problems I thought I had before don’t even seem like problems anymore. I don’t think I can ever complain again about not having money or being broke. I will never truly know what that is. And probably none of us will. Despite we may have $20 in our bank account more than likely another check is coming around and even if it wasn’t, we would have someone to lean on. That is a luxury.  My first day back at work was good. I was nervous that I would want to kill the people that populate SoHo or that I would get overwhelmed by questions.  It was a peaceful day though and im grateful for that. I shared stories with those that were interested and didn’t feel as vulnerable as I worried I might be. It’s hard to spill all of this on a person. It takes a lot of energy to acknowledge, process and then talk about it. I felt myself at times wanting to turn into a ball at first but the more I spoke about my experience the easier it became. It was good to show people the light and hope it brought into me, rather than the tears.  But I wont lie, coming back was tough, just ask Kevin who watched me just sit in bed crying, crying over coffee, crying over everything that whole weekend.  I think it was important for me though. I let it all in, and I let it absorb into this life I have here, trying to find a way to live with the things that are now a part of me. It is all a part of the journey that I would never take back.

-Michelle Johnson

Sharing One's Experience Through Facebook Status

‎One Volunteer's Experience Via her many Facebook Status Updates

40 hours and we finally hit a bed... Slept like a rock! So happy to be in Uganda.... Weather is awesome and people are marvelous....African tea and eggs... We will get acclimated today and then head to our first town tomorrow to work... Will keep you posted!

First person I saw this morning saw this morning was my widow friend Evelyn. She has beautiful beads this year and tomorrow I will post pictures of the beads and her! She was so happy to see us and she said God has blessed her so much this year that she actually has been able to use some of her blessing to help other ladies in need. Pay it forward! I love it.

Traveled to a village today. Met with about 50 women. These are women that have a copop sew and bake. Did medical assessments. The stories are heart wrenching. 90% widowed most have aids and malaria. Some without shelter.

All have horrible arthritis heart issues and terrible eyes. They are learning to bake bread. 1300 rolls a week made and sold. Total of 104 women in all. We have funds for a new oven from many of you generous people. This will double their earning capacity.

They are learning to sew and we will teach jewelry skills while here too. Those that can see will do these skills. Practical ways we might be able to help: mosquito nets, reading glasses and education as most complain of ulcers and diarrhea. Poor food safety, need to boil water.

They sell a dozen rolls for .50. Some only make $5 a month. They have as many as 10 children in a home to care for and feed. All on thier own. Digging or farming by hand for land owners is their other source of income. Hence the arthritis. I shall never complain.

Last note of the day.. I met with Bernard tonight. Owns a jewelery store in Jinga. We discussed ideas and looked at African materials for new designs. We will meet again On Thursday and he will teach me the stringing technique and then together we will make a few designs to teach the women at Care and Share. If we can get them proficient, it will be another means of income, as he will sell them in his store!

Hi again! We went to Iganda, about 1 1/2 hours away. We went to do assessments on the woman in the village. We are trying to get demographics and then seeing if there are specific trends among them. This information will be used to help starting the CHI, Vanessa Crowley's baby. Its the Community Health Initiative of Fount of Mercy, and... will be used for education purposes for the women in the villages regarding health and hygiene.

It is obvious there are specific trends that can actually be addressed and with education, many can be alleviated. The major health issues though that require medical assistance, require money, which most can't afford. Carol and I have found that the women our age (actually a decade younger) are experiencing menopausal... symptoms! But don't understand what is happening to them.

I only have one picture of some of the ladies journeying into to the area. We were very busy, both of us with an interpreter and didn't get many of the ladies. I know Carol may have gotten a few and did get a little video. Another group from California is here and has been in this village for several days.

The other group was doing teaching with the children. They divided them into groups. Younger and older. They were really excellent with them and the children are learning colors, numbers and sentences in English. The older group was learning about emotions today. One made the sentence that she was hopeful when her mother had food for her.

Another said she was embarrassed when her mother whipped her! One said 
he got excited when he passed his exams! They understand a lot for sure.
enjoy the pictures of the children today. Thank you for the prayers. 
Until tomorrow!

A great day in Jinja today. Learned some African jewelry making technique from Bernard who is a genius and so creative! We all will go to the village tomorrow and teach the widow ladies so they can make and sell. It was definitely an eye opener, and let me say I have a lot to learn.... so much fun today...

Getting ready for bed. It has officially been a great day and we have adapted to the pace and the time zone. Again I am impressed with the simplicity of life and the creative nature he has given these people. It is survival for most here, but happiness exudes each one we come in contact with. Night!

Outstanding day today! Back to the village with the ladies and the bread baking. They are a group of "guineas" as Bill would say! what fun, listening to them fellowship and chat together. We women need our friends for sure! Jewelery making a huge hit! Bread making: loaves and donuts for the first! Interviews and health teaching: another home run.

Vanessa taught on personal hygiene, hand washing, body etc. and also food cleanliness after handling raw meat. I taught on water and why it is so important to sterilize it and drinking plenty is so important. Also on mosquito nets and where malaria comes from. Carol did menopause! They knew so little and truly enjoyed ...the education. They also asked really good questions!

You would be surprised what we take for granted informational wise. They have many misconceived ideas passed down from many generations. I have truly been blessed by them and their sweet spirits and friendships. Tomorrow we will return for a day just like today. Many more come each day we re here. By the way we have had interpreters all week!

It has been so fun this year for me and Carol. Working with the women is new for us and we feel like we really have clucked lol clicked with them! Get a bunch of women together and there is alot of clucking even if you don't understand. It's been good.

we've been away from wifi few days. Great time again with the women of Iganga on health assessments and sewing, jewelry and bread baking. These things are really empowering the widows of this community and it all begins here. I have learned so much this year about the culture, good and bad and the health trends they have.

Without money for medical care these women suffer tremendous pain and illness along with the children. I was truly surprised at the lack of knowledge of the body they had and knowledge will help to begin the change in generations to come. This is the goal of the organization whose umbrella we are under.


Last day of class with the ladies! I can’t believe that it’s already finished! As the women finished their shirts, we gave them some other jewelry making projects to do which they loved. For lunch, we had a local restaurant cater in some delicious African food: poshu, rice, beans, avocado, and greens. It was so good. The African appetite is insane. They literally pile their plate up with food and devour. Peter said I was being rude since I didn’t take much and left a “disgraceful” amount on my plate. After, we had a small ceremony in which we presented the women with certificates of completion and accomplishment as well as “Sewing Hope” necklaces. They really loved them. We went through some basic business skills with them especially in regards to how to make a profit. We regularly see these women charging only the amount that they think a person can pay. We taught them how to take pride in their work. The understood and were interested in hearing how much they could charge for a quality garment like the one they made in class. They said such beautiful words of thanks to us and told us that we have changed their lives immensely in finance and knowledge. I am so honored to have been a part of that. We also had a small “fashion” show in the back. Tara brought in the garments that were shown at the fundraising fashion event in NYC this year. She bought fabric here and designers design garments for the show. Everyone hammed it up and we all had such a good time!

Written by Lindsay Dorcus

Friday, August 6, 2010

Girls Camp

Let me start off by saying sorry for all the horrible typos and grammar mistakes. typing on this computer is like being a monkey. i have to slam each key down and the backspace doesn’t really work. i give up at a certain point so bare with me!

Today we started our day early! Went headed out to Bujagali Falls. Basically an amazing view of some rapids where people kayak and white water raft down the Nile. We drank smoothies and sat on a beautiful balcony overlooking the Nile, a small island in between and a completely amazing luscious view of nature.  We journey closer to the falls where many people were watching and waiting for people to float on by, it was peaceful and beautiful. I also found 2 amazing  green jewel beetles (dead! yes!) and tons of HUGE ants. They were kid of scary so i left them alone.  I also had a small attack by red ants that swarmed my feet while standing near a cliff over looking the falls. it hurt like hell and i ran away throwing my shoes off to get them away. A little boy can over and helped me get them off. We did a little shopping ate some lunch over the Nile and say thousands of butterflies. Most people who know me know how much i love insects. I’ve seen many things i recognize from work along with many i’ve never imagined. They are everywhere! I see hundreds of dragonflies a day. They must be the most widely populated insect in this country. They are constantly swarming us. All the others girls have started keep their eyes open now as well. We found numerous caterpillars as well! besides insects, another thing i love about Uganda is the food. AMAZING! i’ve loved everything i have consumed so far! i’m definitely going to miss the food!

After having a beautiful morning Vanessa, Michelle, Dana , Rita and I headed out to MOHM to talk with the children from the orphanage and church members about “girl issues” . We called the lesson “girls camp” AKA puberty camp. Dana and Vanessa are nurses in the state and created a lesson plan to help educate these woman, ages ranging from 9-25 on becoming a woman, sex, sanitation,pregnancy,STD’s and everything in between.  It is extremely taboo for the parents of these young woman to get any advice. They never talk about it, or when they actually do, its fairly ridiculous the things they are told. The meeting was formatted so that the ladies could anonymously submit any question they have. This went over really well. Everyone had a question, many of them more than one.  We explained menstrual cycles, when to determine when you can get pregnant and preventative measures. Vanessa and Dana were amazing at both explaining and addressing the issues that concern these woman. We had some amazing education posters donated from my work that were key tools for explaing and showing visualization for these woman.

We heard a lot of crazy questions, though, im grateful the woman felt comfortable enough to ask them.  We also learned from the girls trip out to find condoms to use in class that getting a condom in Uganda is almost virtually impossible. Every market they tried said they were out and not sure when they would get more. They told them to visit the hospital where even THERE they weren’t sure they had any. I think its safe to say that not only can these people not afford condoms but even if they wanted to, they are almost impossible or extremely difficult to even get a hold of.  It was strange to see little girls some even aged as close as 7 years of age to be taking notes on preventing AIDS. this was a hard thing to watch. I wanted to tell her, “no! you dont need to worry, you are 7 you shouldnt have to worry about AIDS or sex or anything for that matter.” She should be worried about who she will play with after school. But its not the case. She is worried about ever finding a real home. she is worried about if she will be able to continue to go to school, when she will eat, and getting AIDS. She does need to worry, and the saddest part is that she is just one example.

I’ve heard some taboo things here so far but none as much as things i heard today. Rita told us that growing up she was told to never clean herself with warm water. That it is bad for girls. ONLY GIRLS. men can clean themselves in warm water.  When we asked Rita why they said this, she said they gave no reason.  Others believed and were told that condoms actually CAUSED sexually transmitted diseases. Again, thinking of how this spread is a scary thought. another asked if it was true that if you drink a glass of cold water after giving birth that you would die!  These are just a few examples of what were many questions and comments.  Some believed they would get AIDS from washing the clothing of another person whom had AIDS. It was obvious during the meeting that these woman had a lot of questions and concerns.  Tomorrow is my day off, but i want to head back for the 2nd day of camp. We are going to finish answering questions, showing the girls how to make pads, and have condom train lessons along with more information for the older woman. by this i mean about 11 and up. It’s scary to realize how little these woman know, but more rewarding to know that they want help, are seeking it and that we can provide it.  This has felt really important to me. If their mothers or teachers wont do it, than who will? it feels good to say that we will.

Posted by Michelle J on July 25


written by Michelle J on July 24
Friday was the mark of a full work week here in Uganda. However it feels anything but that. Each day in Uganda feels like a week, and if you told me i have been here for 5-6 weeks i would believe you.  Not that its a bad thing, its just a different pace here. I never check a clock here, because to be honest it doesnt really matter what time it is. In Uganda there is a very very slow pace. This start when they start and they end when we are done.  You can be waiting to hours for a Mutatu and thats just the way it is. Coming from New York I thought this pace would kill me. Waiting for people to move from the subway steps or realize that the light is green and to walk would drive me into a frenzy at home. That constant need to MOVE AND GO!! i havent seen that once from anyone here. I’ve embraced the pace in life, knowing that i am only here for a short time. i think any longer and i might start to have the “okay lets meet on time and actually end on time” mental “Eileen subway freak out. It’s been relaxing but im sure that is the reason for the week long days.

Friday Michelle, Jamie, Sam (a Ugandan film intern and translator who has been spending everyday with us),Becky, Rita (another translator with probably one of the most amazing stories of strength and overcoming i have heard here, maybe i’ll tell it later) and myself headed to Care and Share. Today the children were there! Some of the most adorable kids i have seen yet. And a bit more reserved than the rest, no running up and embracing us hugs from these kids.  In fact Michelle and I had to show them a hug and then with a bit of pressure urge 2 or 3 to hug us. They giggled and covered their faces in embarrassment. Eventually they lossened up. It was pretty amazing to not have children curious about my camera or wanting to see it, that was a first. The children started school running around singing songs that mimic the teacher. They appeared very smart and were speaking very good english with ages ranging from about 3-8 and what appeared to be mostly boys.  While Michelle and Becky continued their education and P.E. lessons I was able to go with Robert, the leader of Care and Share to visit some of the homes of the 104 members of the group.

Care and Share is both a school and vocational training program. All of the woman in this group are widows due to death by motor accident, AIDS, or being left by their husband so he can marry numerous woman at a time (fairly common here).  Some of these woman are single parents while others have adopted.  Often members of a family will die and a Sister or Aunt will take in the orphaned children. Care and share is currently working with nursery to P2 students and not any higher. Robert wishes to continue to build and fund the school so that the children can continue to study.  They dont have the resources to teach them any higher nor the money.  Often these children dont go to school once they reach this point. Robert is hoping to change this. I;ve noticed how most of the what appears to be loving and stable families here want to keep their family together.  I envy the sense of community here. Within these villages and groups the people watch out for each others. Everyone greats everyone and they give what they have.  I am amazed at the strength of some of these woman.

We walked throughout Lawnda (the most beautiful little town nestled on what appears to be a mountain of exotic plants and trees filled with sugar cane and corn.) You can see mountain in the distantance, and it’s GORGEOUS. We visit about 10-15 homes,( I lost count) and each woman welcomed us and told us they felt blessed to have us in their homes. It is an honor to be invited and for them to have a guest. Robert said other woman would be upset we werent able to come see their homes.  This adventure was a lot to take it. Generally in America if we have a messy home we dont want people over, let alone if we lived in a hut made of sticks and mud, we would never invite company. That is not the case in Africa.  Some houses were made of brick, though had their many flaws and often no roofs. While others were complete mud huts. These were pretty incredible. The husbands build the house, but often for the case of some of these woman, their husbands die before they are able to finish. This leave the woman alone with her 5-9 children and unfinished home. Generally the men provide the income here, and without them the woman are a bit lost. Well, some. These woman i am meeting are making an effort to change their lives and the lives of their children both naturally and adopted. They are taking sewing, knitting and baking classes to learn a skill and make money at the markets. They all seem really excited about what they are doing and eager to learn. That is a great trait and attitude to see. The homes were small. Most of the woman have bed bugs and living in a one room hut with 5-9 people. Sometimes one bed for them all, or at the most from what i saw, 3 beds. and by bed, i dont always mean frame and matress. I mean blanket on the dirt. There are no bathrooms here, you just go out and be one with nature to put it nicely. there was often a small room that held their kitchen supplies and water jugs. Most of the homes had a seperate hut where the woman would cook.  Chickens , cats, cows, goats, etc. were all over these huts and like everything i have experienced in Uganda.

I will definitely be taking away a new respect for the sanitation we have in our lives. I wont go into detail about the things i have seen and experienced about this subject. It’s both unappetizing and disturbing.  Fount is working to educate people on this matter though, and the people seem very excited to learn and talk about there health concerns.

Today we are heading out to Bujagali Falls and then off to our “girls camp” a.k.a. puberty class for the young woman of MOHM. another organization Fount partners with.

Lots of love from Uganda,


Thursday, August 5, 2010

Peter's Poem

This poem was written last week by one of our AMAZING translators, and our friend, Waiswa Peter. You can look back and see him in other posts, as he has been working with us for 3 years now. He recently came to me and expressed how valuable he thinks this summer's work has been, as we are finally "touching the places that can bring income". I agree. Here are his words...

Sewing Hope, Sewing Hope
By: Waiswa Peter, July 2010

Hum! Hum! Hum!
Goes the over worked sewing machine
With millions gazing zealously
The ambition to learn for a better tomorrow.
Though crippled by the roaring poverty levels,
But seeing uncountable rays of light after learning,
The African woman has been empowered
And can't let this chance go unnoticed.
Sewing Hope is sowing a ray of light.
You are sowing on no bare rocks
All seed owners in New York and
The United States around,
Ugandan widows and single mothers
Have felt your love pinch.
Income complications have been battled down
With new sewing skills flown in
Summer after summer.
Behind every strong man is a strong woman.
So, with a silent core voice
The African man sings Holla! Holla!
For the great Sewing Hope friends.

Journey Home

It is just that: a journey. Both emotionally and physically, as I sit in the Enteebe Airport, I feel the weight of my trip about to travel through my body. I find a place in the waiting area with my backpack and rolly suitcase, watching the flight information board with so much anticipation that it freezes me. Friends that I've met here have told of African life hitting them only as they take off from the ground- erupting out of them as the plane engine roars under their seats. To be clear, I certainly have experienced culture shock; things about the life, society, even the small manerisms of the Ugandan people that hit me in the core several times over, sometimes without the slightest recognition from my mind until days after. But when the feelings come to a head, they are impossible to turn away from. It's like a force of emotion, and jolt to the body, that leaves you weak. And sitting in the airport, I can feel that those emotions are going to hit me...and not knowing when or how is certainly challenging. I don't want to forget- to return home to running water and air-conditioning and lose the experience. I want to hold onto everything- all the lives and memories, the discomfort and the beautiful connections that I've grown to love.

Love always,

Thoughts on Scarlett and Danny

I’ve had a lot of time the last 3 days to reflect on my experiences in Uganda. A big part of me feels happy when I do this. I am holding on so tight to the names and faces of these children, terrified of the idea of forgetting them in any small way. The other half of me feels broken in many ways. I want to express to people all the things I have felt and experienced. All of the children who have held my hand, hugged me and told me that god is blessing me, that I have a home with them. (deep breath) It breaks my heart into a million small pieces that are being left with each of them. I will never be able to truly tell someone what this feels like, you just have to experience it. It’s frightening in many ways to let all of the heartache and struggle in. To acknowledge the things you hear and see. I feel strong from hearing the things i have heard and that I have more purpose in life. I feel proud of my work, and I feel that I cannot not do anything about the things I have seen. It makes me shake and cry when I sit and think about it all. It’s a lot to process.

It’s almost daily that I think of Scarlett. My first niece and an absolute delight. I can’t help but think about how different her life is. How she has a mother, a father, grandparents, and aunts and uncles that love her so much, that would never let her be alone or suffer and would and always will try to protect her. It’s hard to think about all the orphans here. They say it is close to 48 million. I think about the children that do not know about the love that exists for Scarlett and for the mothers here who cannot experience that kind of compassion for their children. Sometimes because their husband has died and that they are raising 5-9 children on their own, without a job, without money. I want them to get too experience that love with their children that I have seen in my sister. Who I know is more fulfilled and grateful in life with Scarlett than I expect even she could have imagined.

I am so grateful for the things and people in my life. Grateful to be able to count on more than two hands and toes the people that I love and that love me. This is truly what matters. I felt a light in me yesterday when i got to see the children at ORM. I see them run smiling at me and hug me suddenly I am not tired from my trip or my thoughts. I am not anything my utterly and insanely happy! The only moment this shifts is when I walk away.

Uganda has taught me so much. I feel like i truly understand compassion now, I feel like i have discovered a new level to love. The first organization that I went to had a boy named Danny. I clicked with Danny and for 2 days I tried to enjoy and take in as much as possible of this little boy that for some reason I was drawn to. Sure he was adorable and sweet so it was easy to form an addiction to that smile! I didn’t know how strongly I felt about him or the orphan situation though until I said goodbye to Danny. My heart dropped to the floor and my throat felt dry and heavy. I had to fight back the tears because in my heart I didn’t want him to go. I wanted him to stay and I wanted to make sure that he would be okay, I feared of what he would experience, the person he could become under the wrong care and his survival. Danny symbolizes the 48 million children for me. I have never wanted something more or better for someone than in that moment. This is a feeling that i know will haunt me. I will never forget Danny.

Love, Michelle J (Fount of Mercy volunteer, photographer)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

last day in Uganda

I woke up this morning to the sound of monkeys crying, fighting and playing. and then i got to talk to kevin. sigh. it is so good to connect with someone from home and still amazes me that we are speaking from around the world. I have completely failed to update you all on the rest of my work with Sewing Hope, my safari, and everything in between. Let’s just say it was a lot. We had another death in the group. A woman who was a member of Care and Share died of AIDS. again, another punch in the stomach to the hardships here. The days with the woman was good though, and they completed a handbag and started a mans shirt which i heard 2 completed very well. We left Jinja, which was very sad to leave Lori’s house which i had been staying at. Lori has been living in Uganda working full time for Fount of the last year and has been granted another 2 year work permit to continue the work. It was great staying in her home and it was beautiful! even with a full house of 7 girls there still seemed to be plenty of space.

I’m sure i have mentioned before the pace in Uganda. it is slow. things happen when they happen and thats just the way it is. this was never more true than when we were trying to leave for our safari. What should have been a 5-6 hour drive turned into a 10 hour one. Lack of planning on the part of the staff here results in delays, mixed up cars, etc. etc. etc. its frustrating to say the least but there is really nothing you can do. you just sit at a gas station and wait.Its really only the lack of responsibility that people take here that makes me giggle a bit. in america we would demand money back. we would complain and demand something in return, but here, you dont get an apology, they just assume it is the way it is, and so what is the use of worry or complain. this was the only time on the trip that i felt that new yorker wanted to jump out and scream at people. this was quickly subsidded with a beer and some lunch. yes we had many beers on the long 10 hour drive with all of its completely unnecessary stops.

last day in Uganda
I woke up this morning to the sound of monkeys crying, fighting and playing. and then i got to talk to kevin. sigh. it is so good to connect with someone from home and still amazes me that we are speaking from around the world. I have completely failed to update you all on the rest of my work with Sewing Hope, my safari, and everything in between. Let’s just say it was a lot. We had another death in the group. A woman who was a member of Care and Share died of AIDS. again, another punch in the stomach to the hardships here. The days with the woman was good though, and they completed a handbag and started a mans shirt which i heard 2 completed very well. We left Jinja, which was very sad to leave Lori’s house which i had been staying at. Lori has been living in Uganda working full time for Fount of the last year and has been granted another 2 year work permit to continue the work. It was great staying in her home and it was beautiful! even with a full house of 7 girls there still seemed to be plenty of space.

I’m sure i have mentioned before the pace in Uganda. it is slow. things happen when they happen and thats just the way it is. this was never more true than when we were trying to leave for our safari. What should have been a 5-6 hour drive turned into a 10 hour one. Lack of planning on the part of the staff here results in delays, mixed up cars, etc. etc. etc. its frustrating to say the least but there is really nothing you can do. you just sit at a gas station and wait.Its really only the lack of responsibility that people take here that makes me giggle a bit. in america we would demand money back. we would complain and demand something in return, but here, you dont get an apology, they just assume it is the way it is, and so what is the use of worry or complain. this was the only time on the trip that i felt that new yorker wanted to jump out and scream at people. this was quickly subsidded with a beer and some lunch. yes we had many beers on the long 10 hour drive with all of its completely unnecessary stops.

I have to say that it was all worth it though. We got to the red chilli camp grounds and i was immediately greeted by warthogs! big and small! they live on the grounds so they are unavoidable and totally cool with people it seemed. We also saw TONS of baboons on the drive up.We watched the sunset over the Nile and saw and heard hippos swimming around. The most beautiful sunset ive ever seen in my life!!  When it came to the safari we work at 6 am before the sun had risen and went down to the boats where we were crossing the Nile to reach the other side when the safari would take place. Michelle warned me to hold my bag close because the baboons were WAITING for us on the other side. there were SO MANY. michelle had to toss her left over breakfast to one so it wouldn’t come after her. we saw babies, adults and juveniles. You could be insanely close to them by foot, and while it was scary it was really exciting. I saw a father playing rough with a baby and a huge female came out of nowhere and ripped the baby from the male and ran off into the tall grass with it. it was AWESOME! the driving was a few hours with our top up in the van and use all standing on our seats with our heads out as we drove across the most beautiful landscape with the sun rising. We saw water buffalo, springbok, antelope, blesbok, and a million other bucks. More monkeys, and then Giraffes!! I saw so many giraffes on this trip, and they were so beautiful. The biggest highlight though was the lions!! its extremely rare everyone says to actually see any of the cats. we saw 5! 2 babies and three mothers! lucky for us they were active as well. a mother lion went to get a drink from a watering hole just 15 feet from me, crossed my path and slowly looked up and walked past us. This was an incredible sight. I cant recall all of the animals i saw, but it was many and incredible! After we braked for lunch we headed out to the boat portion of the safari. Riding down the Nile! i must have seen over a few HUNDRED hippos!also alligators, amazing birds, and finally elephants!! we caught some by bincoluars on the driving portion but it wasnt the same. here we were watching them eat and walk around from a close view. It really puts you back in your place though when a tour guide tells you to be quiet or it can charge and kill us all. ha.yea. we traveled down the nile til we reached Murchison falls. This is when all of the Nile gets its power. There are two separate falls that all meet in one place. the force is so strong and created foam like sculptures in the water. We hiked to the top of this fall the following day, got soaked from the mist and took in easily, the most amazing views of anything in life! i’ve never seen anything so beautiful. This is something everyone needs to experience.

there are about a million other aspects to this trip and my work yesterday with ORM (Orphans rescue ministeries),biting flies, and many other things but ive got some people waiting for this computer so, until next time!

We leave for Amsterdam very late tonight so I am going to just soak in my last day in Uganda (until next time! :) )

Lots of love,

Michelle J

A Shilling for Your Thoughts

The daily rush of my self-imposed shooting schedule has slowed and now I must reflect on the footage. 
On a daily basis, I have been conducting interviews, participating in activities with fellow teachers, and working with Sam, a Ugandan film student, to film the daily activities.  Every other day we have language lessons for Lusoga.  Following that I conduct a regiment of downloading, syncing audio, converting and then reviewing footage and photos.  Then early to bed.

Now the editing phase begins.  I have a reel of "selects" from each of the 13 shooting days.  Played one after the other I have an hour of quality footage to choose from.  My to do list now is the following: (1) transcribe interviews, (2) create a reel of "VIP selects" aka the best of the best, (3) meet with staff from Fount to create a pitch for both the organization and the educational program, (4) film this pitch, (5) make a log of the footage for future edits, (6) write a revised script, and (Finally) edit the footage.

This process has given me a good chance to get back to documentary film work.  I still enjoy the process, the tools, the special access to locations and people, and the resulting product.   Years ago, a friend and I had discussed forming a company that does branding for NGOs, including websites, logos, photos and videos.  Any suggestions on how to get paid for doing exactly what I want?
Posted by Jamie (documentary film maker)

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Poem for HODASSU's Blind Children

The beauty you cannot see
I see very clearly in you
While your eyes may not focus
The picture I view is more true

What matters in this world
Is not defined by one's sight
But whether or not one has vision
That centers on what is right

Your vision sees no color
Does not distinguish between age
Gives no regard to one's size
For my looks you can't gauge

It simply because I am
That you smile at me
Standing there beside you
All I have to do is BE.

-Inspired by and written for the blind children of HODASSU
Rebecca Maier (Becky) 16 July 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

A lot to Take In

I have been trying to find the best way to describe my experiences in Uganda thus far. I have been taking so much each day, visually, physically, mentally, emotionally and even smelling…oh my god. The smells (oh yes, even I can smell it!). It’s hard to come together and put it all into words, but I will try. A lot has happened in the last 2 days. Monday night after finishing up my last post we went to a MID-EVIL themed restaurant. Yes, in Africa. Swords on the wall, the waitresses in neon green costumes and an xbox game room….it was wonderful! We started Tuesday back at TAOST, our last day with them. We finished putting together their new library, had Physical Education lessons (SO MUCH FUN!) and did a lot of reading with the kids. These children were incredible. It is so amazing to come to a country and find children with the spirits that these children have. Never in America could you experience this at the drop of a hat. All the children run to hug, greet and shake your hand. They say “Ole-o-toe” (how are you?) and we hug and embrace everyone. These children have nothing and are in a constant state of suffering and loss and yet they are the happiest and most loving people I have ever met in my life. It a mystery to me, but probably the most magical and amazing thing I have ever experienced. You can see and feel the love oozing out of them! However, this is where my story turns sad. My second day in Uganda I learned a true to Africa life lesson. Joshua, one of our students whom we were playing with on Monday, collapsed at home while playing with his brother after school. There is so little good medical care here, and transportation in emergencies is virtually non-existent that Joshua died. Within being in Uganda for 2 days, I meet and then lost a student. Francis the director of TAOST took the older children of the school to view the body. It was a real lesson, and a hard one to hear. We will never know the real reason Joshua died. His single mother was told he had malaria and was being treated for that. However from what I have learned in Uganda, doctors have a “treat or die” policy. They have no way of knowing what is truly wrong with their patience due to lack of proper medical advances, that they treat anyone sick for malaria. They assume if they have malaria it will be treated, and if they don’t: well, they were going to die anyways. This was a difficult thing to hear. We are so sad for this loss. But needless to say, this was a quick insight into the troubling aspects of life here. I spent my first day in Uganda amazed at my ability to hold myself together. I didn’t cry despite all the devastation I was seeing. I realized later that night when we spoke of our “lows & highs” of the day that I was blocking out everything. I can’t describe to you how hard it is to absorb everything; to let it in is to acknowledge suffering on levels we could never experience ourselves. When it came my turn to say my low, I let it in. I couldn’t even put into words what my low was, it was the life that I was blessed enough due to location to avoid. It was the hundreds of children I was seeing in classes on the street and everywhere. Tears fell from my eyes as I acknowledged all of the things I saw. Letting this into my heart was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I ended on the high note however by having my high as the fact that I am surrounded my people that are trying to change my low. And that is all you can do. Acknowledge the pain and suffering and then do whatever you can to change it, in whatever small way we can. It was a good release. And to be honest, I woke in the middle of the night, just crying and crying. This is beyond anything I ever knew or imagined. But anyways, back to Tuesday…We finished that day off by paying a quick visit to another group “Care & Share”. A group of 104 widows who have gathered to learn vocational skills to help the earn income for themselves and their adoptive children. We observed a meeting, with one of our translators Julius in tow. Since these are all older and elders, aside from 2, none of this woman speak English. The meeting was an hour and from what I saw and had translated, these women are feisty! Which is a treat to see in Uganda! Woman are considered below men here, they often must bow before serving men, and they aren’t necessary accustomed to speaking in group situations, so this was amazing to see these woman shouting and laughing and having fun! They each greeted us with their names, told us how grateful they were to have us and even sang and danced for us! We are headed back to work with these woman later this week. My 3rd day was on my much happier level. We headed to another organization, HODASSU to work with our deaf class. I was nervous at first, what can I teach a deaf child in Africa? Eustace picked us up (the director and true advocate for disabled children here in Uganda, an AMAZING PERSON!) and we headed to the school at 10am (a late day for us). I just have to say, these children are amazing! By far my favorite experience yet. All of the children signed us their name and then us to them. These children also have sign names and even gave each of us our own name, based on our looks! Mine was tapping the right side of my neck in two spots, where I have 2 “beauty marks”. After all of this the children asked if they could “give hugs” we all said yes and within seconds we had 24 children throwing themselves onto us. These were no, whatever hugs, these were some of the most heartfelt hugs I have ever received. Talk about making a person feel special! From what we heard of the principle this children rarely if ever get visitors. They are secluded from the rest of the school and generally abandoned or in some cases treated horribly at home because of their disabilities. I can honestly say these were the most well behaved and bright children I have met yet. We started our class outside where Carly, our music teacher had the children work on some stretching, yoga and then breathing. The kids were so receptive and incredibly well behaved, and of all ages. Next she went around and had all the children feel the vibrations of sound. She would have a loud noise, putting their hands to her belly and throat, and in return the children would make noises themselves. For some of these children, this was the first time they were acknowledging the vibrations of noises coming from them! Every child was able to do this, and they seemed so free and excited by this new discovery, it was beautiful. We danced and sang and played sports, duck duck goose, and soccer. It was so much fun, and I finally felt like I had settled into a good spot here. We read to the children and I acted out all the words in the book with movements and pictures. The children mimicked all of my moves and laughed and hugged me. I will never forget that moment, ever. We are spending Wednesday with these children as well, and I cannot wait. I already feel attached to them, inspired and in love with these spirits. I wish everyone in the world could meet these kids, and I wish I could express to them just how amazing they are. It breaks my heart to know they are shunned for their disabilities, when it’s their disabilities that have made them the amazing children they are. It was amazing. We left the school to a huge rainstorm. Rain generally seems to just last a few moments here, since it’s not their rainy season. But when it comes down, it really pours. Michelle, Vanessa, Carly and myself embraced this moment like little schoolgirls. We threw off our shoes and socks and ran and played in the rain in Lori’s front yard. The guards look at us like we were crazy. Within seconds of being outside we were drenched. We jumped in muddy puddles, practiced yoga and rubbed all the dirt from the day off our arms and hands. I haven’t played in the rain since I was a child. It was a good feeling to forget general rationality and play in the rain. I really love these girls. Lots of love, michelle

Posted by Michelle J


Today I spent my last day with our deaf school as part of HODASSU. After having such an amazing experience with these incredible children the pay before, I was so excited to go back and continue our work. The children seemed equally thrilled to see us! Like heading to most places we “boda-ed” around. I have accepted bodas as the major form of transportation here and have finally become comfortable on them, and embraced the way of life. When we get to the school we immediately start with some Physical Education, sports, gymnastics, games, music lessons, speaking lessons (yes! We have deaf students expressing sound! Learning to sound out letters! This is a pretty magical experience to be part of) The children love using their voices, and although we have to try and keep the other students of this government funded school away (due to the fact that they want to make fun of these “disabled kids” some things never change I suppose, and I think that’s a universal problem, clearly). The day was amazing, I had so much fun with these students and have probably received more hugs from them then anyone in life! Each hug is a small high! When the day ended and we said goodbye, I felt an overwhelming sense of happy/sadness. I am so grateful to have met these children, for the lessons they have taught me, to observe and get to be part of their lives for a very small moment. And then I a sad, sad to say goodbye & to leave them. This has been the first real connection I have felt to anyone here, and felt a real attachment to them. I feel so inspired to do more with myself because of them.

There are so many things in Uganda that are hard to except at custom. Our deaf and mentally disabled students are generally shunned by their families. Some are orphaned by both parents, others by one and living in a single parent home. Some of these children are loved at home, and others are treated and I say this in the least political nicest form possible “horribly”. Which only makes their spirits and positive attitudes that much more incredible. Eustice and the Vice Principle at Walabuka West Primary School are one of the only resources for disabled children in Uganda. HODASSU has a goal to build a center where the children can be educated, away from the harassment and judgment of others, also where the children whom don’t have a home to be housed and cared for. Eustace is amazing, completely inspiring and a unique soul here in Uganda. He stands up for those who cant speak or have any rights. When I spoke with him while walking to the school he said “These children are not disabled, there is nothing wrong with them, in fact they are lucky. God gave them this gift. He willed them to be this way and that was his wish, they are blessed and should be treated so.” He informed me that when parents are asked how many children they have, they will say “2, and THAT ONE” they don’t refer to their disabled children as theirs, a family member or even a person. Which is crazy considering how wonderful these kids are. Eustice encourages the children to work around the house and do all the things they are perfectly capable of doing, hopefully he will get that center and that we will have a large part in making that happen. Im certain it will happen, and happy to know these kids have people that really care about them here in Uganda. Did i cry you may think? yes. of course i did. A child came up to me and signed pointing at me and then a triangle with his hands. I couldn’t understand him and he did it numerous times. I quickly went to Eustice and asking what does this mean? throwing my hands in the position. and he said “home”. i looked at the child and he did it again. my heart could not be fuller. i will never forget this sign, and this statement. I am so so blessed.

I ended the night sitting by the Nile drinking African Tea (the best tea in the WORLD!) watching bats and birds fly by, stopped for some dinner and to meet a new volunteer who arrived, Dana, a real sweetheart. She is a nurse who will be working with Vanessa on our puberty classes! I’m super excited about this class on Saturday. I realize that sounds like a strange thing to be excited about but here, like most things, are pretty undereducated. The mothers do not talk to their girls about ANYTHING to expect, this is not a custom. It feels really important to me to help educate young woman on this matter. Also this will be a forum for questions! These children will get to ask and discuss things that they might never have been able too. I’m really happy to take part in that.

Well, I should shower and head to bed for the night, we are up at 8am tomorrow to work with the Care & Share woman!!

Lots of love,

Michelle J

Breaking Point

After lunch today, I was asked if I wanted to conduct the demographic questionnaires to all of the students. This entailed talking 1-on-1 with the women (and one man) about personal information including questions like, “Is anyone in your household affected with AIDS/HIV?”, “Are you married?”, “What is the highest level of schooling finished?” and “What is your age/religion?” Some of these questions are a bit difficult to talk about but I think that I was successful in getting information from them that we can use to better the class in the future. We also asked things like “when was the first tailoring class you took?” and “what is your favorite thing to sew?” The last question was “is there anything else that I need to know?” This left it quite open and I was happy to hear that not only did the women want more DESIGN in their classes but also business skills. Many of them said that they simply could not afford to even start a business much less make any garments to start with. They didn’t have enough for tools/fabric to start but all of them were really eager to sew.

The one interview that sent me over the edge was Victoria. My sweet Victoria... ah yes, the second we sat down, she started talking to me and reading my lips like she had perfect hearing! I was SHOCKED and quite frankly a little annoyed that finally after the 2 weeks of writing a novel to her each day, she shows me that she’s completely able to tell what I’m saying and that I didn’t really have to write everything down for her! lol I just had to laugh. But on a serious note, I asked at the end if there was anything else left for her to tell me and she said that she needed our help with materials at the school where she teaches. To make a long story short, she teaches the deaf children at a normal school. She told me she makes 100,000 shillings a month (about $50) which was the most that any of the women made in the group so I thought the school paid her a very fair amount. When she mentioned she needed materials, she said that she gets paid from the U.S.A. and that the school didn’t provide her with anything. I was very confused but then discovered that the school, as well as Ugandans in general, don’t recognize people with any disability as a member of society. For instance, parents that have, say 4 children total (1 disabled child,) may say that they only have 3 kids. It’s absolutely heart wrenching to hear that. She and I had a really long talk about everything; I had to try the hardest I’ve ever had to to hold back the tears. But the second she got up and left, I grabbed Tara and broke down. I just can’t fathom that a society just completely disregards children and adults with disabilities. Luckily the main organization that we’re working with seeks out these people and helps them with learning vocational practices so they can make a living for themselves. Anyway, today was a really great day and I’m glad to have learned so much from my sweet, sweet Victoria.

Posted by Linsday


Some members of my group have come down with something but are still able to work. I, fortunately, have dodged that bullet so far so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can make it through the next 5 days unscathed. Work was great until the last 30 minutes when it decided to downpour for 45 min. and the rooms flooded! Rain is like a blizzard here. Literally no one goes anywhere when it rains. So we had about 15 bodies crammed into one and a half rooms. We fed them bananas for a snack...worst. idea. ever. The room stuck like rotting bananas for about 2 hours. As usual, I channeled the “Dorcas” side of the family and was running around trying to make sure all of the electrical things were off the ground. We got everything cleaned up quickly after so it wasn’t bad.

We didn’t know if our language instructor would show up but lo and behold, in waltzed Ali Said in his black cap, Tom Selick moustache, and blue aviator shirt at 5:47pm. So the learning continued. I can officially put sentences together! Tu liku ega Lusoga mangu mangu. (We are learning Lusoga quickly!) I am actually quite impressed with Ali Said, our teacher. He, apparently, was also impressed by how quickly I caught on and said that he hopes I come back so I can continue with my Lusoga. Sorry Mom! :) We learned that the letter "n" is the most difficult letter because it changes the sound of the word in a very irregular way. For instance, "n" (the sound as if you were saying "never") is the personal pronoun "i." But when you want to say "I am" (N Liku) it actually sounds like "n diku." Weird. Hence the title for today's post which Tara coined yesterday (Tara I'm giving you credit for this ingenious pun!) It is quite an easy language to pick up and I’m really glad that we’re taking the lessons!

Saturday we were supposed to go to the blind/deaf school to do a project with the kids but it got moved to the following Saturday. Instead I’m going on an ATV tour through some villages and Bujagali Falls; I’m really looking forward to that. Then packing and off I go on Monday. I better enjoy my last days here!

Posted by Lindsay

"Everybody's Working for the Weekend!"

Saturday morning, I went into downtown (Main St.) Jinja to do some souvenir shopping. I actually practiced my Lusoga which was a major success. Luckily I didn't get much past "good morning" and "thank you" but regardless, I pretty much could've passed for a Ugandan. After that, I attended Lusoga lessons. After learning the 6 basic personal pronouns, we moved on to verbs and putting words together. The sound for "n" means "i" or "me" here and unfortunately it changes a ton of other sounds of letters. All 4 of us Americans just looked at each other like, "come again?" Tomorrow is my 3rd lesson and hopefully things will be a bit more clear. After that, Polly and I got a drink (passion fruit mojito!) after too much talk about terrorism, scary books, and rafting the Nile. We then met Jamie for dinner at the only Chinese restaurant in Uganda I think. Since Polly studied chinese history and lived there for a while, she did a phenomenal job ordering! I woke up this morning (Sunday) shakin' in my Trekker Janes, thinking about where I would go for first aid post rafting trip. I lugged my 55 spf and my 98% Deet in my cargo pockets, threw back a passion juice and chapatti, and headed off into the sunrise as I decided to face my day as a rafter of the Nile. After about 10 minutes of "what to do if the raft flips" we literally got into a Grade 6 rapids and held on for dear life. After that, we hopped out, practiced and swam. The water is great! And Mom, all of the bad things you heard (unmentionable on my blog) are untrue so all is well. :) For the rest, we only did a Grade 3. Much more relaxing! The last rapids we did flip the boat and although I swear I wasn't paying any attention during the morning briefing, I, instinctively, hung on to the rope, pushed back from the boat, got slammed under a few waves and came out of the thing virtually unscathed. Bobbi's oar hit her on the nose and she bled a bit but other than that we were good. As we floated down the Nile, we ate pineapple and biscuits for lunch and stopped at the Hairy Lemon. This is honestly a paradise little tiki hut/campground owned my some South African men. Let's just say a raft full of women paired with many South African male accents equaled us staying there for quite a while sippin' on our fruity beverages. This place was out of a movie; quaint little streams and footpaths, jungle like trees, vines, and flowers, people lounging around in bathing suits, no make up and dreadlocks. I could've stayed there forever! After we got back on the boat, we headed back to the camp where they had a HUGE barbeque for us that overlooked Bujagali Falls. All of us agreed that we couldn't think of any better place in the whole world that we'd rather be. It was simply amazing. Unfortunately we couldn't take our camera but honestly, pictures wouldn't have done this place justice. It will forever be in my memory as one of the best places ever! Tonight, Bobbi and I headed to Betty's again to pick up our laundry. We only wanted to stay for 5 minutes. Needless to say, it turned into 2 hours because they wanted to cook for us! Betty got very sad when we said we were going to go; she said she missed us and wanted us to visit more. Although we expressed how full and stuffed we were, they insisted and proceeded to make us matoke, beans and cassava, this omelet thing, and G-nut soup. It was honestly the best African food I've had. Shamilla brought out her patterns and garments and I critiqued them and gave her tips. I told Shamilla and Salima that I would be back on Sunday to say goodbye and that they could cook again. They were so excited to hang out again. I love those two girls. I think if an American 15 and 16 year old would spend 2 hours cooking and discussing sewing/patterning with me I would fall over. They are so mature and loving. It's so refreshing! Back to work tomorrow!

Posted by Lindsay

"Sewing Hope" ... by Polly

By the numbers it seems hopeless. In all we are 19 people including 10 students, 4 teachers, 2 translators, 3 small children and an occasional chicken or small rodent. The students include 3 physically disabled adults, 1 deaf woman, and 3 single mothers. For 10 students, we have 6 sewing machines that are in varying degrees of disrepair. Always, it is chaos. The babies are wailing. They urinate all over the floor and our laps, but we hold them anyways, bouncing them in our arms and looking into their curious eyes. We muzungus (white people) can only comfort them for so long before they demand their mother’s milk. The babies latch on and the mothers keeping sewing. The mothers who cannot use their legs, take turns with the hand crank sewing machine. In frustration, Lindsey tries to tune out the crying as she writes instructions to Victoria who is deaf. Peter, always on call for translation but forever restless, sits knotting a friendship bracelet and thinking up poems. I hurry back and forth giving pointers, fixing machines, and looking for misplaced tools. Usually we spill out of our allotted space into the porch, courtyard and unused adjacent rooms, but today, it rained so hard that we had retreat into just two small rooms. Huddled inside like that, I had to laugh at the sight. Everyone went on sewing, learning, teaching, and translating. And for once, the babies were all smiling.

Posted by Polly

Half Way Point

So Today is exactly two weeks for me in Uganda. I think you may have been able to tell by the word most frequently used in my blog- 'amazing'- that I having the time of my life. That expression is funny to me, because it seems to come with an implication that there will not be future times ahead of equal impact and amazement. False. Even half way through this experience I can tell that I will never be able to shake the travel bug (sorry mom).

The privilege of meeting these people, and creating this change in the orphan school systems, even the adjustment to new foods, different transportation, and wide variety of societal expectations, have each made me want to learn all that I can about this incredible place.

My final day with the blind school was on Friday and it was wonderful. Eustace was so pleased with our breathing exercises and yoga work, smiling throughout the work, and running to get his camera to capture the rare image of his kids in yoga action! Eustace is amazing (there's that word again) ...but he IS! He is one of the sole advocates for these children- fighting for their education and proper care. Just to be fed, the children have food sponsors who donate a bag of corn grain per week for their dinners, or four chickens a month for their Sunday meals, even monthly donations of salt, pepper, and cayan seasoning- and all because Eustace has worked to send the message that 'these children may be blind, but they still deserve to eat!'

One of the younger boys, Karum was very clearly abused physically prior to being taken in by the HODASSU organization. I say this not because he has marks on his body but because of his strong, negative reaction to touch. As a child without sight, when someone touches you there is a natural reservedness and hesitancy because you aren't able to see that person and therefore trust that person. However, when I ask the children permission to gently show them where their diaphragm is located by gently placing my thumb below the center of their ribs, and I guide my hand with there's so they feel safe, all of the children received the touch accept for Karum. When I placed my left hand on his right shoulder, his first reaction was to swat my hand away in reflex. He then took my wrist, as if to say 'I'm sorry- I didn't mean to push you away', and began to shake slightly with nervous ticks. After a third try, I was able to show Karum his diaphragm and the moment I completed the task, he turned his body from mine and hunched himself to the ground with his arms wrapped around his knees.

What this child must have gone through, I can't imagine. I made it my mission to connect with him for the remaining days of lessons. I spoke to him often (as his English is far-and-away better than the majority of children I've worked with thus far) telling him what a good job he was doing and when he was doing the stretches correctly. I sat next to him after our listening section of class as he rocked back and forth on his heels, in his signature squatted position, holding his knees and asked him which part of the music was his favorite. "The beginning was fast" he said, "I liked that."

Saturday was a rest day for the rest of the group in Jinja, but Michelle and I traveled two hours to Kampala (sorry mom) to work with Fount of Mercy's first organization, ORM, Orphan Rescue Ministry. The beginning of the organization was just that- rescuing mother-less children or abused run-aways from their current street life and taking them in for food, water, and love, and placing them with families that would care for them. Over the past five years, this group has gone from a a dusty, dirty shack, housing thirty children, to four buildings rented out with a Kitchen to cook meals, a sewing room with three machines to make clothing for regular income, and forty four children in school, two of which Fount has just sponsored through college (a lawyer and a business major!).

My work with them today was mostly casual- fun games, sing songs, and unique exercises, with the exception of the oldest group. I wanted them to remember my four hour time there, and I wanted to help them as much as four hours can. I introduced 'positive visualization' to a group of twenty six Kampala orphans, looking at me like 'you crazy Mzungu'...and possibly other things, but I was trying not to notice. I asked them to lie down on their backs and close their eyes- this took fifteen minutes. Some of the kids simply refused, crossing their arms and staring at me as if they don't understand what the translator had just said.

At this point I can fully feel that today was supposed to be my day off. The travel is a lot: the city of Kampala has the intensity of New York- times ten, with an extra added weight of all eyes on the minority, and while most people are kind and call me sweetheart, I'm learning that it's mostly because I carry a purse.

On a normal day, I would take it with a grain of salt (or fine poshu corn)- I would 'brush my shoulders off' as they love to say here, but again, my fatigue is setting in and I am struggling to keep my cool (which I'm sure they can sense). I then I spot one of the kids sleeping in the corner of the room (as is more frequent than you might think due to the heat, travel, and lack of nourishment) and it's like someone smacked me. I immediately feel awful for even thinking about being tired. My adrenaline kicks in partly due to internal embarrassment, and partly due to my dwindling time with them, and I instruct the kids to get up and stand on the left side of the room while I fix the mats in an order that everyone can have there head in the middle and feet off the mat in a circle formation that allows for their spines to be straight.

The kids notice the change in my attitude, and move with a quickened pace, until they are all laying down doing deep breathing. After ten minutes, I tell them to imagine their perfect future- "Picture your goal, your dream in your mind". I tell them to exhale any negative emotion that comes into play, to picture their doubts leaving their bodies through their mouths and drifting far into the sky, where they can't affect their dreams (hippie, I know, but something they have NEVER done before!). When we finish, I ask them to open there eyes and sit up- I say "Who wants to share their vision?" ...crickets.

"Who can tell me what they want their picture to be? What did you see?" Slowly, a young boy raises his hand. He tells me he saw himself flying an airplane. The kids all dart their eyes to me to see how I will respond. I could not have been more delighted! This young boy (maybe fourteen years old) gets it! I tell him that's wonderful! and that I LOVE his vision! Suddenly, more hands go up to share and one-at-a-time, we go around the room hearing the future dreams of these lost-and-found children: "I'm in a lab making medicine for doctors!" "I was fixing cars because I want to be a mechanical engineer!" "I saw myself giving a speech at my academic graduation"..(verbatim!) I told each one to keep their visions in their mind's eye every night before they go to bed. I explained that God can hear your prayers (as they are VERY religious and say 'God will take care of it') but that we have to do our own part here on earth to help our dreams come true. I told them to exhale every bad thought that comes up (one child saw military guns and warfare) and push it out of our minds through breath.

Their goals have inspired me. I don't know how yet, but I think perhaps my nightly vision should be shifting soon! ( :

More soon
Love always,

Try and You Shall Receive

Today was worth the cost of the trip ten times over. If I had to pick one day, thus far, that made me feel alive with excitement over what kind of work I'm doing here, it was today. We were with our second HODASSU organization, also with Ustis and also in Jinja. This second Jinja group of children are deaf. I have (minimal) experience with sign-language but found that minimal is plenty to communicate with these incredibly unique and truly beautiful children. They all have slight tendencies to act out for attention, especially a particular few, but when it comes time for them to have the attention, the fear of sounding or appearing silly dominates their insecurities and they shy away. Some of the children hid their heads in their arms, covered up their smiles with their hands, and even refused to stand up and share their names with the class. Each child has a Ugandan surname, a European name (Lillian, Winnie, etc.), and a sign-name, and before we began teaching, the class asked us if they could share their names with us. The Fount of Mercy group stood up in the front of the room while each child went in rowed succession, sharing their sign-name first, followed by the other names. After we heard the names of the children, each of us signed the letters of our names and then the children all assigned (as a class decision) each Fount member a sing-name. I love my sign name, mostly because it feels very personal to have them assign a name to me within five minutes of knowing me. My sign name is both pointer fingers on either side of my mouth while smiling. Ustis tells me it's indicating my dimples. (I only have one dimple, but I'm not going to mention that because I don't want them to change my name!)

While we wait for the Head Teacher of the school (and also our supposed translator) to lead us outside, I decide not to waste time and begin my lesson with the chalk board. I write three words on the board: 'Music', 'Sing', and 'Rhythm'. The sign for Music and Sing are the same, (possibly because their singing is signing without sound...say that five times fast), so I tell them that I have a sign that I use for singing: five fingers closed at the lips (a la delicious Italian pasta sauce), and pulling the hand up and away while opening the hand fully. They seem to like this because they mimic the sign well ( : The word 'rhythm' is completely new to them. So I have them all clapping, then stomping, then tapping their legs. When I raise my hands above my head to clap they hoot and holler, releasing squeaks and screams of suppressed excitement. This is wonderful because it tells me two things: the first is that they are both excited and able to make sound, and the second, by the extreme force of their sounds, I can tell this is something that they don't do often. How exciting for us to begin voice work!

When the head teacher, Flavia, walks in, she tells them in signage that they will be outside for our lesson. I follow Eustace out to a far side of the school grounds under the shade of a tree. As I walk, the kids grab my hands and I swing their arms up and down and teach them to skip; they sign my new name. Once we're in the shade, we all make a circle; I tell the kids that music and rhythm can be felt by every human on earth, regardless of circumstance. I teach them eight counts of a semi-'step' routine with the same claps, stomps, and leg taps that we did in the classroom. They can do it very well and almost in unison. For the next part of my lesson, my idea is for them to count or make noise on each beat in the step routine so that they can connect their voices (the vibrations of air meeting their vocal chords) with the rhythm in their bodies. The students are incredibly reserved about this idea, and I realize immediately that my lesson is about to adapt.

The translator at this time is Eustace because the primary teacher, Jillian, is sitting on a bench in the corner by the bushes recovering from Malaria. Eustace is looking at me as if to say 'I don't know how to translate that they should be making sound'. He signs the word 'try', all-the-while with a huge smile on his face.

I ask them to sit down, and I begin to take their hands and place it on my throat. I know this seems odd, but for these kids making sound is an incredibly vulnerable thing to do. They are afraid of what they can feel but cannot hear. They are laughing and hanging their heads, even politely pulling away. I turn to Eustace to let him know that what I'm about to say should be signed to the kids. I tell them not to be afraid of their voices. I remind them that no one else in their class can hear them making the sounds- that it's entirely about their feelings.

One at a time I went to each child, took their tiny hand and placed it to my throat, then on my chest bone, on my diaphragm, and on my cheeks, letting them feel the resonance of my voice making sound in my body. I then placed that same hand onto their throats and the other lightly pushing on their diaphragm and helped them to feel- truly feel - the power of their voices for the first time. I don't know if it was my persistence or if it was the agreement from their teacher, but each child made sound! Giggling and laughing, turning red and closing their eyes the whole way through, they took a chance, opened their mouths, and pulsated sound with such force and such pride that both my eyes and theirs were filled with tears.

One of the final kids to make sound (after maybe 20-25 minutes with all the other children) was one of the most self-conscious children, Stella. Stella speaks English as opposed to the local language (possibly from her prior up-bringing), and is very heavy. The kids in the other classes who are not deaf make fun of Stella constantly, laughing at her even as they pass. She is used to being out-cast, and if I had not offered my hand to her, Stella would not have even come outside to participate. When I approach her, she turns her side to me and covers her eyes with her hand. Jillian, who has finally gained interest in the class, has joined the circle sitting on the ground behind Stella. Children will always lower their expectations of themselves in times of vulnerability, especially if someone gives them the 'out', so-to-speak, so I proceeded. Slowly, I took Stella's hand from her eyes, keeping my face positive so when her eyes met mine, she knew it was safe to try. I saw her face change as I made noise, and when she looked at me, I laughed, loud and hard, so she could both see my joy in sharing my voice with her, and feel that same joy reverberating on her hand. I then lifted my eyebrows with the question of 'now you?' and when she didn't object, I slowly lowered her hand to her own throat and took a deep inhale to cue her breath and sound. Not only can Stella make smooth, loud sounds, she can also laugh from her big belly about how wonderful it feels to have the freedom of expression.

More soon!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Showing Their Curves

Today was spent at the lively women's group in Bulabandi. Those of you familiar with our work over the past 3 years will have heard me speak of these women and their energy, dedication, and progress. They have been working hard to use the capital we gave them last summer, and have also sent 4 of their members to Jinja for embroidery classes each week. I continue to be so proud of their work.

We decided to do a project that no one on our team had ever tried before, but had heard about....HOME-MADE DRESS FORMS! Last summer, we had taught our women about using western-style patterns to cut dresses, so our hope is that these can help them be more creative with their designs, as well as adapt existing dresses and skirts into new styles by changing necklines, adding trims, taking it in, etc. We spoke to them about choosing one close to their customer's size and being sure that the garment will fit. Also, someday these women hope to have a shop in town, so dress forms could be used to display items for sale as well.

We had them choose 3 women of different sizes. In short, the process consisted of wrapping these women in saran wrap, then duct tape, and then stuffing it around a wooden stand we had built for this purpose. It was a really funny time, as the women made comments about eachother's hips, and watched a replica of their friends come to life before their eyes. Once I get some photos, I will post the process here for you to see.

Not only was in EXTREMELY satisfying to accomplish creating these forms, but I was happy to see how we came together as a team to problem-solve. There were many things we had to figure out on the fly, and in front of the women...and we did it. We ended up with 3 beautiful AND FUNCTIONAL dress forms. The only real critique was that the stands needed larger bases, as they kept being blown over by the wind.

Posted by Tara, Fount of Mercy's Vocational Development Director

Sewing Hope Teacher Training

This summer, Sewing Hope is focusing primarily on TEACHER TRAINING. As we continue to define and refine our work here in Uganda, I am being more and more convinced that focusing on teachers, and then expecting that they will teach their students, is the most efficient and valuable way to spend a few weeks in-country.

So, to that end, we started our first week of teacher training on monday. We spent the first day traveling around Jinja to visit the various locations where HODASSU does it's work. For those unfamiliar, HODASSU, is a new organization to Fount's work, and it focuses on vocational training for disabled children and adults. Their structure is different from our other organizations, in that they support individuals through partnering to help them pay rent, secure resources, and teach skills to blind and deaf children.

First we visited the shop where a man named Emma (short for Emmanuel) works. He does alterations and makes men's shirts, and women's dresses. He also teaches about 5 students from his modest shop and 2 machines. He always has a HUGE smile. We had him do the small exercises we brought to understand a little more about his skill level. We met his students and asked him a TON of questions.

We moved on to a local Vocational Training School called Tubalera. Here, we met a disabled woman named Jennifer who has been sewing for 20 years and currently has a full time position as their head sewing teacher. HODASSU has been supporting 2 disabled students to take classes here and she is an inspiration to them, as someone who has overcome a disability by using sewing skills.

Next we went next door to visit Erina, who lives with her children in a small room. Erina cannot walk upright, but rather uses her hands and feet to crawl around. She cares for her children using the hand-crank machine provided by HODASSU. She showed us an impress skirt and top she had made. Lori told me later that the first time she visited Erina in her home, she had given birth that very morning and was doing her wash when they arrived!!! and, I'm not talking with a hand and line-dried! ha! AMAZINGLY strong woman.

Our next stop was to visit a women's group. We walked into a chicken coop that had been cleared out for a make-shift meeting place. There were about 10 women sitting in a semi-circle with piles and piles of beads laying on the floor mats, along with many styles of hand-woven baskets. It was a beautiful sight...lots of color. We spent awhile speaking to them about the products they make and what they'd like to be doing. It is very clear that they are eager to learn, but they don't have access to a machine and must hire one (rent) from time to time.....theirs was destroyed in a fire last year. They have sent 4 women to our class.

Our final stop was at Walukuba primary school, just outside of Jinja Town. This is a wonderful school which has a group of deaf students living/studying there. Although Victoria, their teacher who is attending our classes, was not there, we had a fun time trying to sign with the children, learn some of their names, etc. The director of the program there, Flavia, is just lovely and so supportive of HODASSU's work in their school. Their hope is to be able to give their students some training so that they can leave school with a way to provide for themselves.

By the end of the day, my team had a better idea of who their students would be, what their challenges and limitations are, and what their skill level may be. We went home exhausted, but excited.

Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of this week were spent in our office space on Main Street in Jinja. We invited 5 HODASSU teachers and Sarah from MOHM to attend an 8-day course. We ended up with 9 HODASSU teachers and Sarah attending....and, this is after me turning down 3 other requests from strangers to join our class...ha!! Even though our classroom is behind a store and could not be more hidden, they still seem to find us.

After much frustration and hounding of the man we bought the sewing machines from, 3 shiny new machines came with tables. We set them up with minimal stress, and over several days gathered the materials we would need for our first classes.

One of the biggest needs for our groups is quality control and a refining of skills. All of these students have a strong basic knowledge of the machine and basic construction of garments. But, their sewing is often sloppy, or just quickly done. So, in pursuit of setting their work apart, we are having them complete a man's shirt from start to finish, with each step being focused on in detail.

We had them create a bag during the first day, as another way to assess their skill they grasped the concepts and familiar they were with the confident they are. It sounds simple, but this was a new thing for us to do, and it proved EXTREMELY valuable. Taking that time made all the difference in grouping our women and focusing on what they need.

Emma and Sarah moved directly into the shirt, learning to pattern from an existing shirt, and how to change details into new styles.

The rest of the women were so pumped and motivated by completing their initial bags so quickly.

Thursday and Friday were spent teaching them to also pattern shirts from existing shirts, pretending a customer came in to ask them to copy their own. It has been tedious, but extremely valuable to go through each step of the process. we have started cutting the shirts out and by the end of the week will have 8 shirts created. Our 6 hour long classes leave us all wiped out, as we are not only dealing with heat and a small space, but also with figuring things out on the fly....focusing individual attention on each student's needs, including a deaf woman named Victoria whom we must write out all instructions to.

Tara, Fount of Mercy's Vocational Development Director