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. 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 ~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