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