Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Will you give to Fount of Mercy?

In our last post we highlighted the impact Fount of Mercy had in Uganda in 2012. For those of you who supported our work, thank you! We can't do this work without the support of our donors. As we look to 2013 and all that we expect to accomplish, our hope is that, if you haven't already, you will consider joining our growing network of financial supporters. There are two main ways to give to Fount of Mercy: You can sign up to give monthly (the easiest way to give steady support). Monthly support provides Fount with the assurance that Lori and our three Ugandan program associates in Jinja will be able to keep working at the same level. Any amount helps: $10, $25, $50, $100! As a monthly supporter you'll receive a thank you gift and monthly updates from Lori on the field. You can set up a monthly donation through Network for Good. You can give a one time end of year gift via Network for Good, Paypal or through our paper bead necklace or charcoal sketch thank you gift campaigns. Thank you for being a part of Fount of Mercy's work in Uganda! www.fountofmercy.org

2012 was a GREAT year for Fount!

This year has been one of the best yet for Fount of Mercy!! Between our four programs, we did trainings for over 400 Ugandan organization leaders, teachers, and youth leaders. With most of our leaders having an average of 80-100 children under his/her influence/care, Fount has impacted countless children! What all these numbers mean is that our work has affected more Ugandan communities than ever! Thank you for your support! We can't do this work without you. We would like to take this opportunity to share some of our highlights from 2012. Program Highlights from 2012 Vocational Development: We finished writing a beginning sewing curriculum, trained 2 local teachers to teach it, taught 2 business classes, led 3 groups in practice projects, and helped set up a village bank. Educational Development: We led a Dance/Art Camp for 3 groups of youth, a long term volunteer helped us write multiple educational development trainings, and we hosted 4 trainings for local teachers. Community Health: Our Community Health Director moved to Uganda for 8 months, developed several curricula, trained a local program associate, and led 2 health workshops for local youth and youth leaders. Organization Development: A long term volunteer developed multiple trainings, hosted 4 trainings for local leaders, and hosted our 2nd Annual Leadership Conference. Travel with Purpose: We hosted 6 short-term volunteers who traveled to Uganda to work with us. Other Highlights from 2012: We employed 3 Ugandan program associates to help facilitate our work in-country; We renewed our foreign NGO (non-government organization) status for 5 more years of work in Uganda; We updated our website and applied for several grants; And Fount of Mercy was named a Top-Rated Women's Empowerment Nonprofit by Great Nonprofits! Looking Forward to 2013 We project even more success this coming year! Our vocational program plans to work with 4-6 more groups doing business classes, practice projects, sewing classes, and farming courses. Our education program is helping 1 community put in an income-generating piggery and holding 6-9 teacher trainings in 2 - 3 communities. Our community health program will hold 4 workshops. And, our organization development program will do 4 trainings. And, here at home, we will keep applying for grants, plan to hold several fundraising events, and will grow our support network. We hope you will continue to be a part of our upcoming work....together we can make 2013 the best year yet! Thank you! -the entire Fount of Mercy staff!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

International Development: Lori Acton

Hello! Below is an excerpt from our International Development Director Lori Acton's recent update letter. We love Lori and so appreciate all the hard work she does in Uganda! "Hello! I hope you are having a nice fall! It seems like there is so much going on in the US these days with Hurricane Sandy, the elections, even the time change. I've been trying to keep up with everything as much as possible on the Internet, but it can be difficult. Usually, about this time of the year, I start missing fall. It is definitely my favorite season in the US. I hope it has been a good one for you! Maybe someone can watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade for me. My September ended well with a trip to the NGO board at internal affairs. About a year ago the Ugandan government changed the registration requirements for a foreign NGO (non-government organization) to work in country. Basically, we needed to apply for a replacement registration to continue doing the work we are doing. This can always be a bit tricky because you never know what you are going to get from the Ugandan government. Recently, a report was released called the East Africa Bribery Index 2012, which says that Uganda is the most corrupt nation in East Africa. Thankfully, the way has been paved for me in this process. I walked into the office and a man at the desk looks up at me and says, "Do you think you can help me with this?" I walked over to see what he was doing and managed to help him make a newsletter for his job. He and the other people in the office were so wonderful and helpful. I met one woman named Brenda, whose daughter is dealing with heart problems. I'm so thankful that this process turned out to be an easy one, but that I was also able to build relationships with new people and share life with them. I will look forward to seeing these people again in the near future. As for our registration, I am supposed to pick up our replacement at the end of this month. This will allow Fount of Mercy to work in Uganda for another five years! Of course, this isn't the only thing the Fount crew has been up to this month; we have also hosted several workshops. For organization leaders, we offered a communications class, which will be wrapping up today. We've had our largest attendance yet with 23 people. We held a follow-up workshop for preschool teachers in Masese 1 to continue to train them on using Uganda's curriculum for early education. Finally, our community health team is working on adding on to the work they did last month to help adults working with teens. We will be inviting people to attend another workshop this month to continue building knowledge on how to prevent early pregnancy and the spread of HIV/AIDS." Thanks Lori... we love you! Fount of Mercy

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Educational Development: Positive Discipline

Traditional classroom discipline in Uganda usually takes the form of caning or harsh words. Recently, the Ministry of Education Uganda started an initiative/campaign to create a safer school environment that will encourage teachers/caregivers to use alternative methods to corporal punishments in the school. Along with this initiative, Fount of Mercy recently hosted a workshop titled "Positive Discipline in a Nursery Classroom" that ran from September 10th-13th. The training was facilitated by one of our volunteers from California, Valerie Nafius. It was assisted by both Kelly Underwood & Emolu Francis who are associates of Fount of Mercy working with our Educational Development Program. There were 14 participants from 7 local community-managed schools that came to this training workshop. The workshop focused on preparing teachers/caregivers with "Preschool Child Development Goals," which included social and emotional development in children, cognitive development, physical development, oral language, science skills, music skills and art skills. The workshop also went over the "Emotional Developmental Stages of a Child" from the ages of one year old all the way up to five years old. Lastly, the workshop covered "Techniques and Benefits." It taught consistent use of appropriate techniques that benefit both the teachers and the children. For example, how to develop reasonable limits how to state those limits effectively and how to help children accept their limits. This workshop was a great success and taught the caregiver/teacher that they do not need to execute corporal punishment to instill discipline in the classroom. Thanks to Valerie, Kelly and Francis for your hard work on this training! Fount of Mercy

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Adult Life Skills Workshop

Day One: Kathleen We had an exciting and full first day of our Life Skills Workshop today. 26 leaders of youth attended. They all have influence on youth in some way. Maybe as a teacher, youth leader in a church, have youth living with them, etc. Most came from far away, the Islands, Kampala, surrounding villages, with a desire to collect information regarding Heath and life issues to pass on to their sphere of influence! It was encouraging! We spent time getting to know each other through games and ice breakers, a pretest to evaluate their knowledge base, a lot of open discussion, and an introduction to how AIDS/HIV is transmitted. There is so much mis information, which leaves infected individuals isolated, or silent, and allows for the spread of the disease. There were so many good questions, a lot of heart breaking stories, but one thing was certain. Everyone knows it starts with one person to make a difference. Tomorrow we have a very content heavy day of teaching and learning. 4-5 sessions on health and life will be taught (depends on time) but my class is on how HIV is transmitted. It will be very detailed. Some here believe a kiss or handshake can spread it. Day Two: Kathleen I was so encouraged today as we dove deep into our classes! Our students now are receiving the correct information. They can tell you the 4 body fluids that transmit HIV, what a portal (door) of entry into the body is, correctly identify what behaviors do and do not transmit the disease, such as hugging or hand shaking does not, but exchange of blood does! They learned about the immune system, antigens and antibodies, macrophages and much more. They also learned about Universal precautions, and the progression of the disease. Everyone was thoroughly engaged, participating, asking great questions and eager. The games have been fun. I wish I had recorded some! Tomorrow is another full day. Day Three: Kathleen We had a successful day of teaching again today! My lessons on The Difference Between Treatment and Cure, and on Effective Communication were well received. I think the most encouraging part is the way our students "Eat up" the information they are given. AND... The gratitude they express for it! We have information overload at our finger tips at home, but imagine a life without a smart phone, computer or TV. And school is not available everywhere. We have eagerness to learn what we need, when we need it, but do we apply it, or just know its there if we need it again? Our desire is that this information is multiplied many times over, positive behaviors replace negative, and in time lives can be changed for generations to come! Day Three: Vanessa This is day 3 of my first ever adult Life Skills workshop here in Jinja. It's going better than I could have hoped for with nearly 30 excited participants from as far out as the islands in the Nile, Lake Victoria, Kampala and even the States! Day Three: Carol Yesterday was another exciting day of teaching. Many of the students were not ready to leave at the end of the class and stayed to ask more questions. Correct information is a powerful tool.The only way to change risky behavior is to identify what actually is risky behavior. We have at least 4 continents represented in these classes and they are all eager to learn. They love the interactions and role playing that is involved in many of the different sections taught. Well I need to catch a bota bota to get to my class today. I "get to teach" first. 11 Days In Uganda: Carol Well it's been a very busy 11 days in Africa. Vanessa ,the Director of CHI a program of Fount of Mercy, Kathleen Lindemann, and I have been teaching life skills to volunteer leaders for different youth groups. Everyday it has grown in numbers. These leaders have come from miles around to stay for the week. They are hungary for the truth. They want their youths to learn the truth and begin to practice good life skills. The questions asked were very well thought of.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Travel Log: One Volunteer's Perspective- Part 1

Day One: We have arrived in Jinga! It was 38 hours from one bed to the next, so needless to say we were exhausted last night! The place we are staying is absolutely beautiful! It's on Lake Victoria and because we were two women traveling without husbands they gave us the best rooms. Upstairs with a view! The nice thing is that these rooms are inside the main house, so they don't have doors to the outside. Silly, but makes us feel secure. We will start our training today, working with Vanessa Crowley and Manuela, her program associate. This year we are doing Life Skills workshops. In a nutshell involves a lot of teaching! It wil be set up in a style like we do. Classroom style. A lot of people come from surrounding villages, then take what they learn and teach it to others. Some of the teaching will be basic, while other parts will be to dispel common myths and thoughts the people are raised to believe. The workshops will cover health, life, relationship and cultural teaching. Vanessa has spent a lot of time with the people, and developing the curriculum we will use! Have a wonderful day and thank you for listening to me ramble! Day Two: We felt very rested today after going to sleep with a wonderful sound of rain last night! It was a productive day and we really got a lot accomplished. Vanessa is so well prepared and Fount of Mercy is doing such a good work here. The organization itself has been evolving for about 6 years or so and it's really exciting to have been in on the beginning stages and seeing the changes that have evolved within the organization itself. Trial and error and being flexible and making changes as needed are key to getting any system to function and truly be purposeful and productive! So often we want to come just do and give to them when we see people in such need. And that in itself is good. But for change to really occur and be lasting, teaching is so important. I'm not referring necessarily to scholarly education. I am learning so much myself! Communication skills are just the beginning. The people here do not express emotions like we do. It's not cultural. Then misinformation regarding health, illness, pregnancy and prevention of disease perpetuate the cycle of illness, AIDS, death and street children. I know these updates get long. I'm going to study and prepare some more! Good night all! Kathleen Hanrahan Lindemann

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

2nd Annual Leadership Conference

Starting this past Monday we have a couple of volunteers from California who are teaching through our 2nd annual Leadership Conference. We are so excited about this! For those of you who don't remember, last year we had a team travel to Uganda in July and teach the very first Leadership Conference. It was a HUGE success! So much so that our organizational leaders repeatedly asked that we host another one. So... the time is now! Our two volunteers arrived on Sunday and then on Monday, along with April Mulcahy (FOM's Organizational Development Intern), they will all hit the ground running. They are teaching classes on Conflict Resolution, Project Management, Early Childhood Education, Personal Finance, and Bookkeeping. The leadership conference will be slightly different this year because the last day of the conference will be a time for the participants to get into groups where they can encourage networking and peer coaching. There will also be time for consultations with our two volunteers who are leading the conference. Like our Organizational Development Trainings mentioned in last week's Weekly Hello, the purpose of this conference and the follow up activities we are implementing is to get them to support and network each other. Throughout this week the Leadership Conference will be going on in Jinja. Here's to a successful week filled with learning! Fount of Mercy

Monday, August 27, 2012

Organizational Development: TRAINING

Currently, Fount of Mercy's Organizational Development Intern, April Mulcahy, is doing a project where she is monitoring and evaluating training. She just completed training on "Leadership Team-Building" and will have training on "Communication Skills" in the fall. The plan is to then offer these trainings again so more people have the opportunity to attend. In the future, Fount of Mercy would like to train Ugandan facilitators who can then do these trainings in village settings. In addition, we would also like these trainings to specialize in specific needs of the organizations with whom we are partnering. The trainings are 4 weeks long, 2 days a week back-to-back for 2 hours each... for a total of 8 sessions. This allows time for the class participants to actually apply what they are learning. In the most recent "Leadership Team-Building" training, April discussed topics such as communication skills, decision making skills, managing self-development, preventing burnout, ethics, developing team trust, knowing the phases of a team life cycle, etc. They did a lot of self/team evaluation. The training class discussed long lasting NGO leadership styles in the Ugandan context. And finally, how to put all that was discussed in the cultural context and how to overcome challenges. The purpose of these trainings and the follow up activities we are implementing is to get them to support and network each other. This is important since Ugandan culture doesn't incline itself to sharing information and supporting each other. But, these NGO leaders love this! So, with each training, April will focus on a group of 4 or 5 from the training and have them get together to discuss things, do a check-in and share hardships and successes of how they have applied what they learn from the training. She will meet with them once a month for 3 months. She will also do a site visit with each of them so they can have feedback on their progress. Lastly, April will host a "follow up" day with the whole class a month after each training ends. This will allow for a class reunion and April will give a general reminder of the power of networking and healthy accountability. We're really excited about the work April is doing in Uganda! Thanks April! Fount of Mercy

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Life Skills Workshop

We have a couple volunteers traveling to Jinja in September to work with our Community Health Initiative Director, Vanessa Crowley. We're thrilled she's going to have some help and excited about what they will be doing. Vanessa has created a Life Skills Workshop. The workshop was created for both men and women, preferably those who work with adolescents. Our volunteers will be assisting Vanessa in teaching this Life Skills workshop and we're looking forward to what they are able to accomplish. Along with our volunteers from the States, Vanessa has been training a woman named Manuela in Jinja. She will also help teach this workshop in September. Ideally, when Vanessa needs to return to the States, Manuela will continue on her work. A BIG thank you to Vanessa, Manuela, and our September volunteers for their hard work in this Life Skills workshop! Fount of Mercy

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wanyange Women's Group

The following was written by Julius Wamimbi, Fount of Mercy's Program Associate: I'd like to introduce you to the Wanyange women's group, one of the groups Fount of Mercy is working with here in Jinja. The group has a total of 25 members who are very committed and active with their village bank business. This group started up a village bank business after the class in May this year. The group started their business by contributing a membership fee in order to raise their initial capital. This money was combined with Fount of Mercy's matching capital. It was used to cover the saving box, pad locks, ledger book, and even printing all the required documents for the business (loan application form, members saving sheets, etc.). The business is operating so well now and the members are so committed and active in saving their money on a weekly basis! It has been a great honor for me working with this group in these areas, teaching them business skills and knowledge, keeping track of their records, designing work plans, guiding their weekly meetings, preparing all documents used in village bank and recording their savings using the electronic system - cash book complete. The group members are so excited on how the business is progressing! They have strong leaders who are motivating the members to save and borrow money in order to start up small businesses to improve on their standards of living. Fount of Mercy appreciates the strong group dynamics of these women and we hope for great success in their business and also wish them the best. Best, Julius Wamimbi

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Importance of Community Participation

Fount of Mercy deeply believes in the importance of community participation. When the community is included in the development process, they see the project as their own and they also see their responsibility in the work. The process in establishing a project is every bit, if not more important, than the end result of the project. Investing in the process is absolutely crucial! Not only are community effort and empowerment vital, but even mistakes can play an important role in leading up to the community "owning" the project. Though this can be a slow process, the project is much more likely to survive. The organizations in Uganda that we work with tend to move at a different pace. They move at a pace that is much slower than our quick decision, fast-paced world. The communities we are working with often come up against a serious learning curve in regards to making a project sustainable. In order for these projects to be successful and have long term success it is important that we move slow and go step by step. And, it's important that they are included in every step of the journey. Fount of Mercy

Monday, June 11, 2012

Making Paper Bead Jewelry

Lately, you may have seen paper bead jewelry popping up in various places around the Internet or even in boutiques. But, have you ever seen how they are made? We asked Sarah Nalongo, one of our longtime sewing teachers, to show us the process. Step 1: Measure Colored paper, usually made of a heavier weight like poster board or magazine pages, is measured and drawn so that one end starts at the finished length of the bead and then tapers down to nothing. Step 2: Cut The strips of paper are then carefully cut out. Step 3: Roll Sarah takes the strip and begins from the fat end, rolling it as tightly as possible, leaving a small hole in the center. When she gets to the tapered end, it is secured on the bead with a small amount of glue. Step 4: Admire Here is a bead that has been rolled and glued. Step 5: Varnish Next, the beads are strung on fishing line and dipped into varnish to give them a strong and shiny protective finish. Step 6: Dry The beads are hung until they are completely dry. Step 7: Design and String The beads are now ready to string with other combinations of beads to create beautiful pieces of wearable art. The possibilities are endless! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Friday, May 25, 2012

First Step...Life Skills

Just a few days after I arrived back in Uganda, I was able to meet with an Australian woman named Marg. Marg has spent considerable time here working on women's reproductive health education in an effort to reduce the fertility rate and break the poverty cycle. I was very fortunate to be able to meet with her because she was leaving to go back home to Australia the next morning. When I arrived at her place, she had just come out of a meeting and was ecstatic! Exhausted, but thrilled nonetheless. She told me that she had just received unanimous approval from a board of all males to move forward with her curriculum in their training center. Why was this so amazing? Because here in Uganda, if you don't start with the decision makers, you don't get anything done. And men happen to be the decision makers in this country...even about women's reproductive health...when and how many children their wives will have, the information and education (or misinformation and myths, rather) they get about their health, etc. I am so proud of the work Marg is doing alongside a local female doctor. Together, they hope to take it to the highest level in their government to create country-wide change. But right now, they're taking it one step at a time. This type of education is probably one of Uganda's greatest needs. Uganda has one of the highest fertility rates in Africa. Cultural myths and traditions as well as poor knowledge in reproductive health drives the poverty cycle. The high abortion rate, gender inequality, high maternal mortality rate and excessive number of orphans and abandoned babies are just some of the tragic results of a high fertility rate. During my meeting with Marg, she passed along a curriculum to me designed for exactly this purpose, but it doesn't start with reproductive health education right away. In order to create behavior change, they must first know the "why." Why is it important to control the size of your family? Why should you care? Why should you make this effort? In order to bridge the gap between giving information and behavior change, I will begin with teaching Life Skills. This includes communication, decision-making and relationship skills. I am currently adapting this curriculum to my specific people group and culture. I am SO excited to teach this course! It will give these young people the skills necessary to make the best decisions for their lives, not only where reproductive health is concerned, but in every life decision they must make. Please take a look at this short video. This is what I will begin my course with. It illustrates very well the issues and dangers Ugandans face without this vital education. http://vimeo.com/25025951 Written by Vanessa Crowley, Founts Community Health Initiative Director

Intern Update: April Mulcahy - Organization Development Associate

We'd like to introduce you to April Mulcahy. She moved to Uganda in January of this year to work with Fount of Mercy and we are so thankful for her work! She is working in conjunction with Lori Acton, our International Development Director, to develop the impact of our Organizational Development Program. She is training collaborating organizations to improve their basic operation that will lead to greater sustainability among all involved organizations. In her own words: "3 months in, my move to Jinja, Uganda is still an adjustment. It's been challenging. Daily tasks that I feel should be easy (like cooking) are surprisingly hard. And frequently unexpected things occur: My power goes out randomly, or a dog attacked me not too long ago. I now understand the phrase "This is Africa." Developing friendships and community is a slow process here too. I have a wonderful team of five here and I am making friends. Sometimes, however, there are hard moments. I miss having people around who really know me. So it has been a time of personal growth. Things to celebrate: My job is going well! Monday through Friday I go to a café to work. Life moves at a slower pace here. So I get my coffee and work from my laptop. Currently I'm researching, interviewing, and writing curriculum for our Leadership Development Program. Training will begin in June. We are in the middle of exciting work that will equip the Ugandan NGO leaders to go even further. It is challenging me in new ways and thrilling at the same time. Many of them face unimaginable hardships even amidst their efforts to alleviate poverty, disease, and orphan abandonment. " Three cheers for April and the awesome work she is doing with Fount of Mercy in Uganda! Thanks April! ~ Fount of Mercy ~

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Staff Update: Tara Hawks Nyanga - Director of Vocational Development

The past few months have been a wild ride for my family and I. I am happy to say that we are now settling back into life in the US. Since last year, we have been planning to come to the states for a few years to gain legal status for my husband and kids, as well as allow my husband to pursue a degree. Without going into the gory details, the process of getting them all here was difficult and stressful, to say the least. But, thankfully, that is behind us, and we are now here getting into a new way of life. Thankfully, too, Fount of Mercy is flexible enough to keep me on, even during changing circumstances. So, what will my role look like now? Well, I am finishing up some last details before going on maternity leave for 2 months, then will come back and pick up some more stateside responsibilities, in addition to continuing to oversee the Vocational Development Program in Uganda. I worked really hard this year with my associate, Julius, and 2 interns, Katie and Sarah, to get the Vocational Program in a place where it could be maintained, despite my distance. I am proud to say that it is now in that place. Julius will continue to teach the Basic Business Classes and will oversee practice projects, and we will pilot Beginning Sewing Classes this year, as well. I am excited to hear feedback from the in-country team on the many new organizations we will begin working with as well. Although we are still working out exactly what my stateside roles will be, it is likely that you will hear from me with some new fundraising efforts and events. I will also be rekindling my connections with the sewing/design field. I am excited to be back and to have a new role to step into. ~ Tara Hawks Nyanga ~

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Staff Update: Vanessa Crowley - Director of Community Health Initiative

Fount of Mercy is excited to announce that our very own Vanessa Crowley has landed in Uganda. Hooray! For those of you unaware, Vanessa is FOM's Director of Community Health Initiative (CHI). She's planning on being in Uganda for the next 6-8 months and we couldn't be more excited about it! During her time in Uganda, Vanessa will be developing CHI as it grows into its next season. Part of this development process will include researching existing curriculum and determining the best practices that CHI can adapt. Vanessa hopes to find and hire a part-time temporary CHI Program Associate to help with this research. Ideally, with this added help, she'll be able to create and adapt a curriculum for a Young Women's Public Health Program, including Girl's Camps, Girl's Groups, and a Mentorship Program. We're beyond thrilled that Vanessa is in-country and kicking off the next season of CHI and we're hopeful that the work she's doing will benefit many in the months and years to come. To learn more about CHI, check out our website at www.fountofmercy.org. ~Fount of Mercy

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Basic Business Class: Graduates

We wanted to take a moment to share with you some of our most recent highlights. As some of you know, Tara Hawks is our Vocational Development Director, and she oversees our Basic Business Class in Uganda. The Basic Business Class is a class we provide for groups out in some of Uganda's rural villages. Participants typically consist of local women's vocational groups and support groups for people living with HIV/AIDS. A couple of weeks ago, a group of ladies completed the course and graduated from the class. We actually had our largest graduating class yet with a total of 18 ladies! The above pictures are of that celebration. These celebrations are always so much fun, as the graduates are so proud of their achievements. And we are so incredibly proud of them! After they graduate, we work with them on a small group project so that they can have the opportunity to apply their skills. This is a time where we are able to see quite a bit of growth and really discover the lessons these graduates learned in the Basic Business Class. Thanks to those who continue to support Fount of Mercy and the work we do in Uganda. Without your support, much of this work could not continue. ~Fount of Mercy

Friday, April 6, 2012

HODASSU: Jeremy Byrnes

Last year, Jeremy Byrnes traveled with Fount of Mercy and worked with one of our Ugandan organizations, HODASSU, working with the blind and deaf. Below is a bit from him about his experience.

"Wow, I can't believe it's actually already been over a year since the trip to Uganda. Not a day has passed where I haven't seen pictures or thought about the people and the kids there. It was most definitely the most amazing trip of my life.

While I was serving with Fount of Mercy, my job was to teach sports to the blind and deaf. Sounds like a challenge to most, but to me... it was an experience of a lifetime! It was the most fun thing I have ever done! My job was teaching sports, but in the end, I became a student and really got to learn so much about these kids and the struggles they face every day. I came away from the trip with a much better understanding of what goes on in Africa for those that are blind and deaf.

At first, I struggled with how teaching sports was going to help these kids in their lives, as compared to the education and vocational training our team was also providing. But, the day I taught kickball was one I will never forget. Teaching the blind and deaf to play kickball is no easy task, but the kids were just as excited as I was to play. They had so much fun and with just a simple game they were able to master, they found reason to keep moving forward and to know that no matter what is before them, they can accomplish anything.

I am so blessed to have been able to go to Uganda and meet such amazing kids and people who work with them. I am so ready to go back and when I am able to get the time to go back I would love to go. My perspective was greatly changed, not only on how I saw the world, but on how I saw my own life. Probably my favorite memory was playing with Zane and just earning his trust and playing soccer with him, or running around with all the kids, or twirling them up over my head, or even the relays, and soccer and football. It was so much fun! I hope and pray that all of the kids that I was able to meet are doing well.

Jeremy E. Byrnes

Friday, March 30, 2012

Art & Dance

Uganda has stolen my heart, again.

When I talked to Tara Hawks about what I could do with Fount of Mercy upon my return to Uganda we both decided that an Art Camp would be a cool thing to do. I have a background in dance and theatre, and I also absolutely love working with children, so we decided to give it a try. I have to admit that I was pretty nervous going into it.

I was there for a month and had 3 different groups of children. The first 2 groups were kids from villages that ranged from about 5 to 12 years old. The last week of camp I had a group of deaf kids that were 16 to 22 years old.

At camp we talked about shapes, the kids did self-portraits (that were awesome), they painted with watercolors, played musical chairs, learned 2 choreographed dances, did a lot of silly, fun, creative dances with brightly colored scarves, played human tug of war, played with a parachute, sang songs, had sack races...and ate lots of bananas. It was chaotic and fun. Sometimes we lost electricity and I was unable to use my music and stick to my plan...so we improvised...and I think the kids had an even better time when we did that.

Children in Uganda that are fortunate enough to go to school work really hard. They are in school much longer than American kids. They don't have recess or gym class. They don't have art class or fun electives. They are not really encouraged to think critically or creatively. It was usually on the second day of camp that I saw the children start to open up and really start to be free with their own creativity. Once they were comfortable, it flowed out of them. It was amazing to see. They just needed a little push.

I love how art has its own language. It didn't matter that some of the children were deaf. Or that some of the children spoke only Lusoga. We could all communicate when we were dancing and painting. Art was the bridge that connected us all.

On the last day of camp a nine year old girl named Glorio hugged me and said,

"This has been my pleasure."

My eyes filled with tears, because she'll never know that really...the pleasure was all mine.

Written by: Liza Morgan

Monday, March 19, 2012

Pad Research Project: Intern Katie Korpi

Back in November, you may remember that we introduced you to one of our interns Katie Korpi. This week, Katie has written a lovely paragraph about the work she did while in Uganda.

"My name is Katie Korpi and I was lucky enough to intern with Fount of Mercy this past year. I researched and developed The Pad Project, which examines the demand for feminine hygiene and what the best culturally feasible solution is. This project was developed from the Community Health Initiative, which Fount had already set into motion to teach adolescent girls about different health topics, including menstruation. Through extensive research, I quickly came to realize that investment in girls and women can have a major impact on economic growth and the health and well-being of communities. By distributing a product to give girls and women a chance at opportunity, I truly believe that this investment can make a significant difference for families and communities in Uganda. Fount has an amazing network of employees and supporters with a common goal and I am so thankful to be able to channel some of my conviction and try my best to help nurture rural adolescent girls so that they can transform their homes, communities, and countries. "
- Katie

Thanks so much for your incredible work Katie... we value the effort you put in to your time in Uganda and look forward to the important work you'll continue to do with Fount of Mercy!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

African Time

One of the biggest differences you'll come across when working in Africa is the keeping of time. While westerners are used to going through their days structured by a series of scheduled time tables, the same cannot largely be said for our African counterparts. Time and schedules here have a much more laissez faire feel, and a laid back approach to life negates the need to rush much of anything.

The result of this is a lot of waiting, waiting, waiting.

Surely there's a reason for this seeming lack of punctuality? Of course there is! Uganda is a place where social constructs take precedence over things like appointment times and rigid schedules. This, combined with a different way of prioritizing events and people, both expected and unexpected, is what in large part makes up the inner workings of African time. Say you're on your way to an appointment and you meet a friend along the way. It would be rude and socially unacceptable to just rush past without saying hello. Therefore the necessary time needed to go through the social motions is taken, regardless of whether it will make you late for your appointment or not.

This different approach to time takes a bit of getting used to, but once understood, you'll be keeping time like an African before you know it!

Written by Sarah Pietruszka
Vocational Development Intern

Monday, March 5, 2012

Emolu Francis - Educational Development Program Assistant

Friends... please take a moment to be introduced to our friend Emolu Francis. =) Francis started working for us in November 2011 as our Educational Development Program Associate.

In a nutshell, Francis trains teachers to use the Ugandan curriculum. Generally, he trains them to be more effective in the classroom and training school management committees, made up by community members, to oversee their school. This work is important to our vision and our advancement of our Educational Development Program.

Just before Francis started working with us, he earned his grade five certification. This makes him qualified to teach secondary students as well as primary - way to go Francis! Also, a "fun fact" about Francis is that he really likes to bake and, at one point, he even held a job as a baker.

Francis is doing incredible work with us ... he is a wonderful teacher! He is passionate about education and about giving children the opportunity to learn. And for that, we are thankful for him ... and his heart.

With thanks,
Fount of Mercy

Monday, February 27, 2012

Wairake Group: Basic Business Class

The below is written by Wamimbi Julius

"Hello, here is my exciting say about the Wairake business group. This is my third class to teach ever, and I am so delighted and excited to have such a wonderful, inspired, cooperative, united, focused and visionary group of people in my class.

Based on my weekly observation as the instructor, this is one of the best groups I have ever taught. There is unity and strong leadership in the members and they are all ambitious towards achieving their set goals. The class had great momentum, in that; during the class/lessons they were so lively, active and participatory. This is a sign of seriousness and of needing to learn new skills so as to improve on their individual business.

A high moment with this group was when the students were applying the skills I taught them in their individual businesses. For example, book keeping systems. That brings great joy and excitement in my heart. Since all the members asked and answered questions during the class time, it helped me as an instructor to teach the curriculum accordingly.

Witnessing the love the group members had for one another, the commitment every member gives inspires me as a teacher to deliver the services (skills) accordingly."

Blessings to all,
Julius Wamimbi
Vocational Development - Program Associate

Monday, February 20, 2012

WAMIMBI JULIUS: Vocational Development Program Associate

We'd like to take a moment to introduce you to Julius. For those who have traveled with us, chances are you already know him well. =)

Julius is a 25 year old business major who goes to school by night and works fulltime for Fount of Mercy during the day. He has known about us and has worked for us in various capacities since 2006. He has worked with us in areas of translating, teaching, running errands, etc. He lives with a younger brother and sister, whom he has essentially raised.

Julius is our Program Associate for the Vocational Development Program. He does all sorts of various things, including keeping track of money spreadsheets, writing reports, running errands, getting money quotes, researching resources, teaching business classes, and following up with our groups as they progress in their vocations and small businesses. He has officially been a part of Fount of Mercy's staff since April 2011. And... we are so pleased with his hard work.

Outside of Fount, Julius has many side projects...including a chicken rearing business and a soda/juice stand. He is a sharp dresser and refuses to get dirty, even when playing with a bunch of kids! He is a little mysterious and is constantly telling us new things about his life that we didn't know before.

We are so thankful for Julius because he will take over the Ugandan side of the Vocational Program once Tara (FOM's Vocational Development Director) heads back to the USA this spring. He is an amazing teacher and is GREAT with people. We are seeing his gifts being used in the ways of guiding groups effectively and setting good expectations with them. He is quickly becoming indispensable to us for these reasons. And for these reasons, we say a great big THANK YOU.

With thanks,
Fount of Mercy

Monday, February 13, 2012

Beginning Sewing Class - We're so close!

We've been working hard on developing the beginning sewing curriculum and are almost ready to start training our teachers! It makes us very happy to announce that Nalongo Sarah, our star tailor, has agreed to teach these classes. With the experience Sarah has from teaching individuals on her own time, combined with a collection of detailed lesson plans, students of this class are sure to be well equipped to begin simple businesses of their own upon completion. If all goes as planned, we should be ready to start teaching our first group as soon as late February/ early March!

The purpose behind offering a beginning sewing class is to provide community members with yet another means in which they can generate an income and enrich the lives of their families and communities. Before taking part in a specialized skill program such as the beginning sewing class, group members must first complete our Basic Business Class, from which they will learn how to run and manage a business. Once instilled with these skills the possibilities of success and growth are endless. It is our hope that the students taking these classes will take away not only the skills taught but a sense of drive, determination, and action needed to turn their business dreams into reality.

Written by Sarah Pietruszka
Vocational Development Intern with Fount of Mercy

Monday, February 6, 2012

HODASSU: Volunteer Stories

For those of you who don't remember, Fount of Mercy began working with HODASSU in 2011. HODASSU is a Ugandan organization that reaches out to deaf, blind, and disabled children and their caregivers. Here are some stories about a couple of our volunteers that have worked with HODASSU.

Carly is a music teacher in New York City. While traveling with Fount of Mercy, Carly worked with HODASSU's deaf students, teaching them music, rhythm and voice. In Carly's words,
"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!"

Becky is a high school basketball coach. While volunteering with Fount of Mercy, Becky led PE activities for HODASSU's deaf and blind students. Since these students often do not receive extracurricular activities, PE was a big treat! Becky was so moved by her time with HODASSU's blind students that she wrote this beautiful poem:

"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."

Thank you to all our amazing volunteers for your outstanding work!
With thanks - Fount of Mercy

Monday, January 30, 2012

Director of Communications: Rebecca Brown

Hi all! I want to invite you to travel with us to Uganda this summer 2012... so, who's in? C'mon... you know you want to go... Uganda is calling your name. =) Ha!

Truly... to those of you who are thinking, considering, or contemplating traveling with us... now's the time to make a decision! =)

Let me share a little story with you...

About a year ago, I decided to take my husband, mother-in-law, and a few friends with me on a two-week trip to Jinja. Not only did I want to be in Uganda working hands-on with our grassroots organizations, but I wanted my family and friends to experience the joy in my work too. So, I dragged them along. =) And they did GREAT WORK! I was so thankful for their eager attitudes and willing service and how they gave 100% to the work FOM is doing in Uganda. That was a trip that I will treasure forever because of the beauty of getting to experience it with family and friends.

So much of my work with Fount of Mercy falls on the "stateside" side of things... managing communication, logistics, work proposals, etc. It's such a gift when I get to actually travel and be a part of the "hands-on" work in Uganda. Not that I don't absolutely LOVE the work I get to do here. =) But, I do want to encourage you to travel with us... and to bring your friends! =)

For those of you who have the time... go.

Do it.

Take 2 weeks and travel to Jinja and do something new... something life-changing for you... and for those we work with.

Thanks in advance... =)

Rebecca Brown
Director of Communications
Fount of Mercy

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Executive Director: Michelle Averna

For those of you unaware, Michelle is part of the heartbeat behind FOM and it's vision. In truth, she began FOM and has carried it to it's current place with passion and incredible leadership. Below is just a whisper of the many things she does for FOM; however, it is important for us to highlight those who invest in our work and keep it moving. And, she is a BIG piece of the movement.

"I started Fount of Mercy close to 6 years ago. Wow, time goes by so fast! The journey of acting as Fount of Mercy's administrator has been an honor filled with learning curves, lessons learned and so many opportunities for personal and professional growth. I am privileged to work with an amazing staff and board who truly own the mission of Fount and keep the wheels of Fount not only spinning but focused, intentional and inventive. Most of my time with Fount is spent working on maintaining our non-profit status, keeping Fount in financial compliance, overseeing program equivalencies, developing our board, fundraising and casting vision for the educational development program. My goal is to wear my many "hats" gracefully.

Michelle Averna
Executive Director and Interim Director of Educational Development

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vanessa: Community Health Initiative Director

Last January, Fount of Mercy's Community Health Initiative (CHI) launched its pilot program for "Girls Camp." Girls Camp is a two-day course where local girls, ages 9-31, come to learn about all things female.

In Ugandan culture, it is taboo to speak about such topics cross-generationally, leaving young girls to rely on peers for important information. As one would imagine, this information is often times inaccurate and even dangerous. The pilot program was very successful, reaching around 100 girls with empowering information.

This May, I plan to arrive in Uganda for an 8 month stay furthering the work that has been started. This will require a significant amount of fundraising. Our goal is $17,000 in total. We are very excited to see this program reach its full potential, empowering young women with the knowledge they need to protect themselves and improve their quality of life. The main program work I'll be focusing on will be Girls Camp, women's health, community health and teaching through drama skits.

Written by Vanessa Crowley
Fount of Mercy's Community Health Initiative Director

Monday, January 9, 2012

International Development Director: Lori Acton

For the past two and half years I have made my home in Jinja, Uganda. My primary role is to function as Fount of Mercy's Lead Administrator in Uganda. I maintain our foreign NGO status in Uganda, our bank account, Ugandan board meetings, and relationships with the local organizations that we work with. I also oversee the grants that we give to organizations to ensure accountability as well as supervise Fount of Mercy workers and volunteers while in Uganda. Most of my job is related to the details of operating a foreign NGO.

I am so blessed have such a wonderful group of people working with me in Uganda. Currently, our in-country team includes our Vocational Training Director, Tara, her very helpful husband, Grace, two Ugandan staff members, one long-term intern, and me. =) In 2012, we will be adding at least two new long-term volunteers. We are so grateful for our staff and volunteers. These added hands have GREATLY increased the amount of work we have been able to do, and is one of the main reasons we are speeding along as we have been.

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