Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Fount of Mercy on Sesame Street

This past March, Fount of Mercy had the opportunity to film a piece in Uganda for Sesame Street called "Shake, Shake the Mango Tree". The piece will air on PBS over the holidays in the Sesame Street episode called "Falling Leaves". We are excited about this opportunity to expose young children to Uganda.

If you are in NY, the show airs at 7am on January 2nd. To find out when the show airs in your area please visit pbskids.org. As soon as the video is up on Sesame Street's Youtube page, we'll make sure to share it with you. (Update... heres the link: Shake, Shake the Mango Tree.)

Happy holidays!

Fount of Mercy

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thank You Video

We would like to take this opportunity to share a short video with you that highlights our work in Uganda. 2011 was an amazing year for Fount of Mercy. We wouldn't have been able to accomplish all that we have if it wasn't for our supportive, committed volunteers and donors. From the depths of our hearts, THANK YOU!

The Fount Team

Monday, December 12, 2011

HODASSU: Volunteering with the Deaf and Blind

Fount of Mercy is honored to be working with a Ugandan organization that reaches out to deaf, blind and disabled children and caregivers. HODASSU is a very special organization, whom many of our volunteers have had the privilege to serve alongside. We are thankful for HODASSU and for the many volunteers who have connected with HODASSU's deaf and blind community.

Michelle worked with deaf students from HODASSU in the summer of 2010. Her time with the students had such an impact on her, that when she returned to New York City she immediately signed up to take weekly sign language classes. Six months later Michelle returned to Uganda to continue her work with HODASSU's deaf students; this time to speak to them in sign language without a translator.

"Walking up to the deaf unit again I was a little nervous, but then I saw the kids. I recognized every face and when they saw mine they came running to me and engulfed me in hugs. It was an amazing welcome and to be able to sign to the kids 'I remember you! And you!' felt so good!" - Michelle Johnston

Lynn taught deaf and blind students from HODASSU how to make jewelry during the early part of 2011.

"Spending time with these kids and teaching them, not only vocational skills, but how to think or have a choice of what beads to string together... brings an overwhelming joy for me. How soon before I return?" - Lynn Bailey

Thanks to our incredible volunteers for all their hard work and efforts!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Financial Giving

When it comes to financial giving, we have the best givers! =) We're so thankful for those of you who have generously supported our work through your financial help.

For those of you who may be considering giving to Fount of Mercy, we would humbly say that we absolutely need you! Your donations make our work possible and allow our efforts in Uganda to remain sustainable and successful. Please consider giving to support our work and help us continue to help others.

3 Ways to Give:
1. Donate via Network for Good or Paypal. You will receive a receipt from both Fount of Mercy and the online donation service of your choosing.
Network for Good

2. Make a recurring monthly donation via Network for Good. Fount of Mercy is currently trying to raise $1300 more per month throughout the year 2012. Core donations will help keep three of our staff members on salary in Uganda throughout 2012. A $20, $50, or $100 a month donation from many of our donors will help us easily meet this goal!

3. Write a check and mail it to:
Fount of Mercy
Church St. Station PO Box 3379
NY, NY, 10008-3379


Written by Rebecca Brown
Fount of Mercy's Director of Communications

Monday, November 28, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving


We are so thankful for our INTERNS! We have been fortunate to have a consistent flow of interns visiting for at least six months at a time, which has been so helpful in getting our work accomplished. The below was written by one of our interns currently living in Uganda.

"Lately I have been working on developing a Basic Sewing Class curriculum. The aim of these lessons is to teach those with no sewing skills (or very little) the basic sewing principles and techniques needed to create simple yet professional looking items. This course will put an emphasis on striving to produce the highest quality product each individual skill set allows as well as prolonging the life of a sewing machine through regular maintenance.

I have also been working with a group of local tailors to develop and produce Africa shaped Christmas stockings. These stockings will be sold in Kampala at an upcoming craft fair in November. It is my hope that these are products that could be made and sold annually as another small avenue of income for these skilled artisans."

Written by Sarah Pietruszka
Fount of Mercy Vocational Development Intern

We are so thankful for our interns and their work. The time and effort they invest is immeasurable... and this month, we simply want to say a great big THANK YOU!

To you and yours - Hope you had a marvelous Thanksgiving!

With thanks, Fount of Mercy

Friday, November 18, 2011

Meet Sarah: Singer, Songwriter, Mom and Philanthropist

For the past nine years Sarah Lentz Dickinson has hosted a Christmas benefit concert with her singer, songwriter, musician friends. In 2006 Fount of Mercy had the privilege of meeting Sarah and attending her annual Chirstmas benefit concert. The following year when Sarah asked Fount of Mercy to not only attend the concert but to be the highlighted nonprofit at the event and to receive the donations we were taken aback and thoroughly honored. This December 3rd marks the fifth year Sarah has supported Fount of Mercy with her time, art and network of amazing artists. If you are in the NYC metro area we invite you to attend what we consider to be the best way to kick off the holiday season.

9th Annual Christmas Benefit Concert for Fount of Mercy
December 3rd
7:30 pm-10:30 pm
Suggested Donation
Saint Paul's Episcopal Church
199 Carroll St., Brooklyn, NY 11231
Child Care Provided

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Meet out Intern Katie Korpi

Hello, my name is Katie Korpi and I recently interned for Fount of Mercy with their Vocational Development Program.

I lived and worked in Jinja for close to six months before recently returning to the US. Working with Fount was truly an honor and it allowed me to see very real needs and struggles that Uganda faces daily. The work that FOM is implementing is nothing short of extraordinary and being a part of the process was a fantastic, eye opening, deep breath of fresh air.

Although sometimes challenging, researching different viable options for sanitary pads, as well as helping to develop a business class curriculum, was both strengthening and humbling and I am so thankful I was able to play a small part in Fount's big picture.

Written by Katie Korpi
Vocational Development INTERN for Fount of Mercy

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Summer 2012 - Travel with Purpose

Hi everyone!

This is just a quick plug to see if any of you are interested in traveling with Fount of Mercy during the summer of 2012. I know, I know... it seems early... but trust me... it isn't!

Taking time off work, getting finances in order, choosing the best flights ... all this takes time... and friends, you don't want to wait too late. =) This time also allows Fount of Mercy to work on your trip proposal so that while you're in Uganda you are investing in the areas that most fit your abilities, expertise, and passions. We want your trip to be purposeful and satisfying. To plan your trip well, we do need to know if you're planning on traveling with us as early as possible.

We're so incredibly thankful to those who have volunteered with us in the past and all the hard work you've done in your partnership with Fount of Mercy. We hope many more of you will take this opportunity and join us in the work we're doing in Uganda.

If you think you might be interested, or know someone else who might be, simply email me at contactfountofmercy@gmail.com and we'll start a conversation about some options for your trip.

Looking forward to the opportunity to work alongside you!

Rebecca Brown
Director of Communications

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Basic Business Class

Basic Business Course 2011

Hi all!
We wanted to let you know that we are currently teaching our 2nd "Basic Business Class" from a curriculum that our Fount of Mercy staff has written. We are thrilled to announce that it has been VERY successful!

Last summer we worked on a "Bread Basket" project in Lwanda in which we discovered that simply learning how to bake was not enough for those invested in the class. The entire group really needed a basic knowledge of business so that they could divide the work and hold each other accountable.

Our 1st Basic Business Class, which focused on making sure EVERY woman had some basic business knowledge, was key in empowering the group as a whole and for ensuring the necessary accountability among members.

Because of our first experience, we're now pairing our business classes with a small "practice project" for the group to have the opportunity to implement what they have learned immediately. We are currently working in sewing, baking, and agriculture...3 household-based vocations that are women-friendly and sustainable locally. We're finding a nice balance with this new model and are happy to report the work is going wonderfully.

Tara Hawks
Fount of Mercy's Vocational Development Director

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Fount of Mercy's Foreign NGO Status

NGO = Non-Governmental Organization

What is a foreign NGO? In a nutshell, according to our friends on Wikipedia, a foreign NGO is a legally constituted organization created by natural or legal persons that operates independently from any government. The term NGO originally came from the United Nations and is usually applied only to organizations that seek to pursue some wider social aim that has political aspects, but that are not overtly political organizations such as policial parties. And typically... the term NGO is used for organizations that are not for profit.

In May 2011, Fount of Mercy's status as a foreign NGO was renewed for three more years. This means that the Ugandan government is aware of, and approves of, the work that we do. It is very similar to non-profit status in the United States. This is excellent news for us! Without this status, Fount of Mercy would not be able to do its work. We are so excited that the Ugandan government granted us their approval to continue working for the next three years!

Written by Lori Acton
Fount of Mercy's International Development Director

Friday, October 7, 2011

Leadership Conference 2011

This past July, Fount of Mercy had a team visit Uganda and host a leadership conference for local Ugandan organization directors, educators and pastors. We are beyond thankful for their work and the time they invested in preparing for the four-day conference. We had an average of forty participants attend and the response was incredibly positive.

The courses the team offered these leaders included: public speaking, research methods, project management, conflict resolution, sewing and tailoring, teaching kids art, teaching kids music, leadership/team-building, and training the trainer.

This work was hugely successful and we couldn't be more proud of all that this team accomplished with their time and skills. We're hoping that this leadership conference will happen annually and are excited about the opportunities it will afford leaders as they serve their community's orphan and vulnerably child population and as they empower caregivers in their independence and livelihood. A huge thank-you to our volunteers for all they did to make this a success! We are grateful for you!

Rebecca Brown
Fount of Mercy's Director of Communications

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Most of you know that I moved to Jinja, Uganda in December to fulfill 2 longtime hopes of mine...to get married, and to work full-time for Fount of Mercy. In short, this time has not only been awesome [and challenging] for me personally, but has also been awesome [and challenging] for me professionally. I have seen such amazing growth in our program, and have learned so much now that I have the freedom and time to focus on making this work long-lasting and impactful.

What have we been up to? After learning from one of our groups who had started a bread-baking business, but quickly failed, we created and began teaching basic business courses as a pre-cursor to any of the work we do in a women's group. We have found that making sure EVERY woman has some basic business knowledge is key to empowering the group as a whole and for ensuring the necessary accountability among members. The women have loved the class and are being readied for starting up a small project of their choice. The second part of the course...a hands-on practicum of sorts, allows them to put their knowledge to use right away and test the things they learn in class. We are currently working in sewing, baking, and agriculture...3 household-based vocations that are women-friendly and sustainable locally.

Our advanced tailors are working together weekly in our office, developing new products and trying new designs for their local market. In fact, they sold their first children's dress from a craft shop located near our office, bringing in a profit well-above their expectations. This has inspired them to continue working hard and making more dresses. They are also preparing for a "Christmas Fair" in November, where they will hopefully sell many of their new designs.

We have hired a full-time program associate, Julius, whose work has greatly increased our capacity for reaching more women. Julius is teaching the business courses, visiting the groups regularly to monitor their progress and help them begin their projects, and doing many of the reports and research essential to making sure our program remains culturally relevant to those we work with.

We also currently have 2 long-term volunteers who are both working in our program by developing products and writing/editing curriculum. They are both here for a total of about 6 months and are greatly increasing our capacity as well!

What is next for us? Well, my job has been to plan and oversee all this work, while also organizing our program officially on paper in order to apply for grants. Receiving grants will make our work sustainable into the next 10+ years. Truthfully, it is tedious and un-sexy work, but it is VITAL for our program. These activities will continue to take my time for the next few months, as well as preparing to pass on the daily operations of our work here in Uganda to Julius. I will return to the US in the spring of 2012 to work part-time, continue overseeing Julius's work, plan our next Sewing Hope event, do fundraising in general, develop a college program, make work plans for more volunteer trips, and continue to pursue grants to fund our work.

We need your help:
As I mentioned before, we are currently in a transition phase, as we are using up our current funding, and are waiting for future funding to come from grants. As you also know by now, because I have been out of the country this year, we were not able to hold our annual New York Sewing Hope Event, which has brought in the bulk of our vocational funds in the past. We hope that despite the lack of party this year, you will remain committed to our work and will look forward to the next event, which we hope will be in the fall of 2012. But, even so, our work continues here in Uganda with more and more momentum. We are reaching more groups, doing more classes and projects, and partnering with more local organizations...and this requires more funding.

So, I am being bold and asking if you would consider donating to us as if you had attended an event this year? Would you consider giving $25? I know for most New Yorkers, this is not even a night out...yet, with all of our Sewing Hope supporters combined, this would give us what we need to make it until our next blow-out event, and even beyond it!

We currently are trying to bring in $1300 more per month throughout the year 2012. That is $15,600 total. If everyone here gave $25, we would meet that goal easily! Simple! It would keep me and my associate on salary, would provide more business classes, more sewing classes, more resources, more of everything good we are doing. And, I could continue to concentrate on grants, which will help guarantee that our work will be sustained for years and years to come.

So, won't you join us in this endeavor? Won't you donate something towards our program? If it is not realistic to give $25, maybe you can give $10...or $15. These little bits are all it takes, and they add up to lots and lots more! That is the lesson that we like to teach our women...by using their small income wisely, it can build and add up to a lot more. Help us demonstrate this....donate now. (via Network for Good).

Tara Hawks Nyanga
Vocational Development Director
~Director of Sewing Hope~
Fount of Mercy

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Portland Sewing Hope Fundraiser was a HUGE Success

On September 17th, the Portland chapter of the American Sewing Guild held a fundraiser, inspired by our NYC fashion show events, to raise money for Fount's vocational development work. We are so grateful to the team, led by Marsha McClintock, who made this happen! It was a HUGE success, bringing in over $10,000, all of which will go towards helping make our sewing and other vocational projects long-lasting and productive for the women in Uganda.

The weekend included a seminar by the sewing celebrity Sandra Betzina, a juried fashion show with prizes, over 80 raffle items, a luncheon, and a quilt show. Liza Morgan, one of our NYC event team members, went to Portland to show our video (see the video below), sell some beads, and speak about our work from a personal perspective. Fount provided fabric from Uganda, and supplied a few of Sewing Hope's previous event garments to add to their fashion show. We hope this will inspire more groups to do the same...plan a fun event with a good cause!

Quote in response to the Portland Sewing Hope event
"I don't think anything can be done to top this. Sandra's presentation, the auction items and their lovely presentations, the tables, the meal, the wonderful fabrics and the creative ways they were used, the beautiful models.... Everything was so special. A special thanks to Barbara, Marsha, Ruthann, and Sharon for the hundreds of hours you and others put in. I think Fount of Mercy will be very excited and proud of all that happened here today. And I hope the amount earned for them will beat their wildest dreams. I am so thankful to have been there."

We are SO PLEASED!....and the money is well beyond our expectations! It will go far to progressing our work here in Uganda. A huge thank you to the Portland chapter of the American Sewing Guild!

Written by Tara Hawks, Fount's Vocational Development Director

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Involving the Community in Reopening Rock Primary

In the Spring of 2011, Care and Share's school, Rock Primary, shut its doors. Sitting down with Care and Share's director, Robert, it became apparent why. The burden of running the school was just too great for one man to handle. In brainstorming with Robert it became very clear that Rock Primary needed the communities involvement, support and ownership.

Working with his wife Olivia and Fount of Mercy, Robert has formed Rock Primary's first Community Group. In the first meeting over 12 parents from the community attended. Each member voiced their value of the school and their commitment to see it reopen. Since the initial meeting, members have elected leadership, have identified what needs to happen in order to reopen the school, how they will mobilize the community to reopen the school and have even voiced dreams for the school's future.

Working together as a community, Robert, Olivia and local parents are empowered and motivated to open Rock Primary's closed doors. The parents investment in the school demonstrates their value of education and is a huge step towards the sustainability of Care and Share's school.

Written by Michelle Averna
Fount's Executive Director and acting Educational Development Director

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Re-usable Pad Project

It is a fact that if a girl does not have a decent way to deal with her menstrual cycle, she will simply stay home...missing valuable days at school and falling behind. If this happens month after month, the days quickly add up to a point that is hard to overcome. Out in the villages, where families often live off their land and don't even have an extra $1 each month, purchasing disposable pads is impossible, and often women and girls will resort to whatever is around...rags, newspaper, even leaves.

Last month, Hannah came to work with Fount of Mercy for a week. We asked her to start making prototypes of washable, re-usable sanitary pads for adolescent and teenage girls. She took some research we had found, did some sourcing for materials, and made a few samples for us to test.

This re-usable pad project is in research stage, but we hope to turn it into an income-generating project which will not only benefit the women who make them, but the girls who wear them. When we have a new idea, we take the time to test it out, do cost breakdowns to see if it is viable in this market, and then make prototypes before introducing it to our women's groups.

This particular project is a collaboration between Fount's Vocational Development and Community Health Education programs. If it passes our test, we will train the women to make them, give them or sell them at a reasonable rate to local girls, then hold training seminars with the teens on how to use them and care for their bodies. We hope this will be a great project to get on its feet in the coming months....helping girls stay in school, and to be as healthy as possible. Stay tuned!

Written by Tara Hawks, Fount's Vocational Development Director

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Focus on Change

This past March, Michelle Johnston taught a group of deaf Ugandan students and a group of teenage boys how to become photographers. Here is what Michelle had to say about teaching photography in Uganda:

" I have been blessed with such an incredible opportunity to teach and be taught. I am so passionately gracious for the chance I've been given in life to do this work, and proud to say that my life lead me here. A huge maybe shy and nervous part of me always knew I wanted to do this work. I always had a passion to come to Africa and I remember wanting to be a photographer from the first time I touched a camera.

I have moments of insane realism here, where I have to stop and remind myself to soak in this moment because this is where I'm making my start. This is where I've started the journey to where I hoped dreams could become reality.

I feel awaken and alive by my students. In my Care & Share group, not a single one of them had EVER used a camera in their life! And on top of that..had never even used a computer! To know that I have taken what I love and love to teach and have shared a huge part of myself and my passion with someone else is incredible. I wish it upon everyone. I'll always look back at this with pride and amazement. I can't believe I am having such a cool opportunity. It's incredibly rejuvenating as a human being."

Written by Michelle Johnston
Fount's Focus on Change Coordinator

Focus on Change exposes vulnerable children in Uganda to the power of art, empowering their voice and emotional development.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Beads Project

While Liza Morgan was in Uganda with Fount of Mercy this past January she befriended two local jewelry makers in Jinja, Agnes and Irene. Both ladies pride themselves on the quality of their beads and the skills that their mother taught them. Although they always offer a fair price they've had trouble keeping their shop open.

Liza decided that she wanted to support her new Ugandan friends and support Fount of Mercy at the same time. And that's where Liza got her idea for "The Beads Project" fundraiser. Liza brought back 200 necklaces and 100 bracelets. The beads are colorful and beautiful.

Between now and Mother's Day, Liza is excited to share these necklaces and bracelets with you as a donation thank you gift. For a donation of $25 you will receive a bracelet and for a donation of $50 you will receive a beautiful, colorful necklace.

"These beads are perfect for stocking your gift closets. Perfect for holiday presents, teachers gifts or hostess gifts. They're a nice way to say 'I love you' to someone. Or go ahead and get one for yourself... put a little color around your neck just in time for Spring. And don't forget about Mother's Day. I'm betting that everyone of you has a women in your life that you love. Someone that has supported you, that has guided you, laughed with you and cried with you. Maybe it's your mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, wife, teacher or friend. I'm telling you... she'll love these beads. And you will too. So, show some love for the lady you love and in doing so, help Fount of Mercy as they work to empower women in Uganda." -- Liza Morgan

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

No Excuses!

How would you get to a sewing class if it were a few miles from your home? What if you didn't have use of your legs? And what if you had a two year-old, and a six-month old baby?

You might be tempted to stay home. But for one of the students in our men's shirt class this summer, these facts were a daily reality. But she didn't use them as an excuse. Every day, she came to class on a boda-boda, a small motorbike that is one of the main forms of transportation in Uganda. Much like a New York City taxi, they can be found on every corner. Each day, someone helped our student onto the back of a boda, handed her the baby, and then put her two year-old into the arms of the boda driver. Our student balanced there all the way to class. When she arrived, a classmate would help her down and carry her baby to the classroom, while she scooted her way to class over the ground.

Once in class, she used one of two hand-crank machines we had on hand - specially chosen to allow our disabled students to participate and learn along with our other class members.

Written by Tara Hawks, Fount's Vocational Development Director

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

All Five Senses

Before my first trip to Uganda in 2008, Lori (FOM's International Development Director) told me that in Uganda she noticed how intensely she used all five senses. It wasn't until landing in Entebbe that I understood what she meant. And... I agreed. In Uganda, I felt deeply, and smelled richly... I saw flashes of color and noticed every new sight. I held orphans and danced with widows. I heard stories. And by using my five senses in such a tremendous way, I grew. Reflecting back on that first trip, I can only be thankful for Lori's words to me before I traveled. I would have missed out had I not been ready to see, hear, touch, smell, and feel.

Written by Rebecca Brown, Director of Communications

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Child Centered Instruction

One of my favorite educational development moments this past year happened while working with two teachers from Care and Share's primary school.

I was sharing with the teachers about the Ministry of Education's new teaching model, moving from 'teacher centered instruction' to 'child centered instruction'. Together, we took a quiz to determine our own learning styles and unique types of intelligences. We found that each of our styles and intelligence's were different.

We discussed, that if I, as the teacher, only taught from my learning style and intelligence that they, as a class, would not be fully engaged. Care and Share's teachers articulated back to me that the only way for all of their students to truly learn is if they teach to each child's learning style and intelligence. We laid down an important foundation that day, one that we will build on together for the next five years.

Written by Michelle Averna
Fount's Executive Director and acting Educational Development Director

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I Have Learned the Most!

"I am the luckiest girl at these camps," Rita told me on the way home from teaching one of our Girls Camp classes.

The classes are designed to combat the dangerous cycle of misinformation about women's bodies in Uganda, myths which can lead to unplanned pregnancies and HIV infection. The goal of the classes is to replace myths with facts, and to create a generation of women who educate and empower each other.

"Why are you so lucky?" I asked Rita, who had served as translator for each of our sessions this year.

"Because I get to learn and teach this information every day, and I have learned the most!" she said.

She was right - while working as translator, Rita had blossomed in her own knowledge of the subject. After a few classes, she even began teaching parts of the camp herself! Seeing her grasp new information and then pass it along to others with such enthusiasm is exactly what Fount of Mercy's Community Health Initiative is all about.

Written by Vanessa Crowley, Fount's Community Health Initiative Director

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cement Bags, Tools of the Trade

In a country where the income level can be as low as one or two dollars a day, life choices are limited. Sometimes women in our classes don't even have the funds to buy fabric to practice on. But that doesn't stop them.

What do they use instead? Cement bags.

Cement bags are made of multiple layers. Our students pull them apart carefully, then use the layers to draw shapes and cut pieces. Then they sew the pieces together just as if they were standard fabric instead of cement bags.

The resulting garments, perfectly crafted down to the fly and the topstitched pockets, look novel to the Western eye. In fact, recycling the unusual material draws attention to the art of fashion. But for the Ugandan student, they are a vital learning tool: the first material they work with, hands-on - and later a sample they can use to show off their skills to customers.

Written by Tara Hawks, Fount's Vocational Development Director

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Reverse Culture Shock

It's a tricky thing when your perspective shifts. You begin to see things with new vision and often life can seem to flip upside down. We've found that after traveling to Uganda some of our volunteers experience something called "reverse culture shock."

Though this is common, and often expected after traveling abroad, it does not make the experience any less difficult. In the midst of this struggle, the beauty lies in that our volunteers find themselves evaluating priorities and examining values. After living among those in extreme poverty, it would be shocking to not experience some sort of shift in perspective. And many times, it's the best kind of shift. Sometimes we simply need to see those who have nothing to be reminded that we have something to give.

Written by Rebecca Brown, Fount of Mercy's Director of Communications

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Educational Development

Teachers are some of the worlds greatest heroes. They give of themselves daily so that our children can learn and develop. In Uganda, the same can be said of their teachers, many of whom are teaching orphans and vulnerable children, often with incredibly sparse resources. Imagine trying to teach a classroom of multi-aged students without a text book. One of Fount of Mercy's first steps when working with a school is to give them one text book per subject per grade. This small gift empowers these teachers with correct information and content to teach their eager learners.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Breaking the Cycle

During Girls Camp this summer, Fount of Mercy's Community Health Initiative asked the girls, ages 9 to 30, to anonymously submit questions about puberty and family planning.

Some of the questions were startling:

"Is it true that if someone has a disease and plays sex, that disease will go away?"

"How do we avoid HIV/AIDS?"

"Is it true that when you have sex for the first time, you can't conceive?"

In Uganda, the topic of sex is taboo. Parents don't typically talk with their children about the subject, so young people are left to learn from their peers, leading to a dangerous cycle of myths and misinformation. And the wrong information about HIV transmission or conception can change a life drastically. When a girl in Uganda gets pregnant out of wedlock, she is often disowned by her parents. The father of the baby rarely takes responsibility, often ending her education.

The vision of Girls Camp is to develop a generation of girls who are equipped with factual information about their bodies, and act as change agents for their community, not just educating others about how to prevent disease, but also how to live an empowered life.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


"What, in your opinion, would help your group the most?" That's the last question Fount of Mercy always asks when doing demographic research. Learning other details about the women we work with is important, too. When we know their age, how far they come to class, how many children they have, we can support their work even better. But it's the women themselves who often know best.

Often, when we ask this question, we hear "more training!" Or, "more sewing machines!" But last summer, in Bulabandi, we heard another answer: "capital." These women wanted a small stake with which to start their own business.

In response, Fount of Mercy's vocational development program purchased 25 six-yard pieces of fabric: one piece for each woman. We left at the end of the summer expecting that each woman would make a dress or a few bags.

Boy, were we wrong! Five months later, when Tara, our Vocational Development Director, returned to Uganda in February, she found that almost half of the women had already started thriving businesses. Twelve of them had huge bundles of fabric and were actively sewing anything you can imagine: from baby clothes, to women's skirts, to school uniforms.

"I took the piece you gave us and we shared it with each other," one of the women told Tara. "Then, I made some baby clothes and walked around my village until I sold them. Then I used the money to buy another piece. I have been increasing like this, all because of that first piece."

Written By Tara Hawks, Fount of Mercy's Vocational Development Director

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Focus on Change

Sitting in a Starbucks, sipping her iced latte, Jessie had no idea she'd be traveling to Uganda in less than a year. As I shared with her the vision of Fount of Mercy, it was exciting to watch as she captured the heart behind our work. As we discussed how she could partner alongside what was already taking place, I mentioned her photography. Jessie is a gifted photographer with a creative eye and a unique perspective.

As we wondered where she would fit, it became clear she could use her talent in photography. Partnering with our Focus on Change project this January 2011, Jessie taught a photography class for disabled orphans and vulnerable children in Uganda. Writing on her teams blog, Jessie shared, "The point is to be emptied of self, filled with love, and poured out so these kids know they are valuable and have purpose."

From Starbucks to Uganda... this is the story of one volunteer using her life to breathe life into others.

- Rebecca Brown, Fount's Director of Communication

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Gift of Literacy

Hesitantly, she reaches for a shelf a little out of her grasp. Perhaps its the bright colors of the ream that draws her attention. Straining on her tip toes, she grabs the book and finds a seat in the corner. Slowly she examines each page, absorbing the story, the illustrations, the humor, the characters, learning empathy and storytelling. She closes the book, flips it over and starts again. Sitting in the corner of her school's brand new library in Jinja Uganda, this lone orphan girl is falling in love with reading.

We have so many books at our finger tips. Orphaned and vulnerable children do not. The gift of literacy is powerful!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Girls Camp

The vision of Girls Camp is to develop a generation of girls who are equipped with factual information and are acting as change agents for their community. During the summer of 2010, Fount's Community Health Initiative hosted a pilot Girls Camp and asked the girls, ages 9 to 30, to anonymously submit questions about puberty, family planning and cultural perceptions of the subject. CHI would like to share a handful of their questions with you.

As you will see from their questions, public health is a topic lacking in correct information, leading to a dangerous cycle of misinformation and myths that can be harmful to their lives.

One question that was asked is, "Is the use of birth control harmful to our lives?"

This was an interesting question because birth control in the form of contraceptives is rarely available in Uganda. The most accessible forms are condoms and natural family planning such as the Standard Days Method in which you count the days of your cycle to be able to predict your most fertile days and avoid having sex during that time.

In knowing how to prevent early pregnancy, young girls and women are able to focus on education and skills training so that they have more control over their lives. This gives them the opportunity to obtain skills that will generate an income, give them independence and empowers them to live the life they choose.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tausi: a seamstress, a leader, a mother...

Tausi caught my attention the very first day I met her....and it wasn't just her bright red head wrap. When all the other women were choosing "inspiration" pictures of landscapes, women holding babies, and flowers, she chose an Andy Warhol painting of Elvis. She liked his red shirt.

Her life has included much more difficult choices than choosing her inspiration. As a widow with 9 children, Tausi could no longer afford to keep all of her children at home. Circumstantially, she was forced to send two of her children to live in a local orphanage. One of the hardest decisions of her life.

Fortunately Tausi wasn't alone. Weekly she attended a sewing class where she received support from other women in similar circumstances as herself. At the suggestion of her teacher, Tausi started to make girls dresses out of second-hand mens' shirts, and in time was able to go in with a friend to buy a sewing machine of their own. It took her a little over a year, but Tausi was finally able to bring her two children home to live where they belong...with her.