Friday, December 20, 2013

Just in time for Christmas....

Just in time for Christmas....
We are very happy to announce the debut of a new Christmas CD by Sarah Lentz!  

                "O Joyful Night  with love, from: Brooklyn to: Uganda"  

In Sarah's words..."In lieu of my annual Christmas benefit concert this year, a slew of artist friends and I have put our Christmas arrangements together to make a benefit CD for Fount of Mercy.  With 15 songs ranging from folk, pop, instrumental, gospel and bluegrass, it is a BEAUTIFUL collection of carols and original songs.   And almost all of these songs can only be found here!  The CD is being offered for download by donation only with all proceeds going to Fount of Mercy.  I am suggesting that a dollar a song or $15 for the project (or more? ;) ) would be a wonderful way to support this amazing organization and be a great thank you to all of the artists for sharing their gifts.  Your generosity is so appreciated.  I hope you enjoy what you hear!"

Sarah has been a strong supporter of Fount, and a great friend to our staff for many, many years.  I interviewed her about her new Christmas CD on our blog.  Here are her heart-felt words....

When did you start having a yearly Christmas concert? 
I can't find a definite record of the year we began but it was I believe 2003.  First year was in the manse of the church and we packed it out, one other artist and I, even though it was a large room, with people sitting down the stairs even.  That's when the priest offered his sanctuary for the following year.  I hadn't even thought about making it an annual thing until then, and when I saw the sanctuary I thought I would never be able to fill that space.  That's when I got the idea of inviting more artists to join in.  And it grew in attendance every year.  It became a special tradition for me and many of the artists and attenders.
What prompted you to have the concert?  
I often played in churches and enjoyed rearranging carols for a special Christmas service.  I had a good collection of them and thought it would be nice to play them all in one concert.  A friend was doing a fundraiser for sponsoring a child in need at the time and that seemed like a great reason to do a concert as well.  So the first two years I did it for that sponsoring a child, and then following that is when I met Michelle and Lori and decided to start doing the concert for Fount...since 2005 or 2006?

Why did you start donating your Christmas concert proceeds to Fount of Mercy?  

Ever since I met them I knew I wanted to support them.  I have always had a draw to ministries in Africa.  I have always dreamed of visiting or helping children there in some way. I always have dreamed of adopting a child, and that may or may not happen, but in the meantime I really wanted to help in any way I could.  For now, that's through the concerts and the CD. I love that with Fount, all the money goes straight into the good work they are doing.  They have people in the US volunteering their time and then person or two on the ground in Uganda using the funds exactly where they are needed, going straight to helping these widows and their children.

What inspires your music, and this Christmas cd specifically?
For my music in general, emotion inspires and matching an emotion to a lyric to a chord really is what excites me.  In the hopes that when I play it, others will either resonate with that emotion within themselves, or will bring out something that they haven't felt or thought of before.  My first Christmas CD was inspired again from having this collection of songs that I only ever got to sing once or twice because of the church setting and holiday focus. This second CD came out of writing for the annual concerts and having a new set of songs that only got sung once a year.  The same went for a lot of the other artists, they either arranged something for that night or had things that there were few chances to perform.  This CD was a great way to document all of those songs and to capture a bit of what those concert nights were like.
How do you celebrate Christmas personally?  

I used to always say that the concert night was my real Christmas, my most special night of the year.  But I also of course celebrate with my family when I can relax after the concert....and for this year, now that the CD is finished!  I have two little boys and we enjoy time with their grandparents and enjoy doing special things in New York City like seeing the Rockefeller tree and all the lights on Fifth Avenue.

Is there anything else you would like fellow Fount-supporters to know about you, or this cd?
This CD is a beautiful document and tribute to the first 10 years of concerts we've done.  I thank so much everyone that helped bring it together, especially Paul Kim who recorded my songs and helped organize all of the artists work.  I had a dream for several years of doing this and feel so blessed by all the musicians and songwriters who offered their time and talents to this project.  Most of the songs you cannot find anywhere else, not on the artists' CDs or on iTunes or Spotify so this is a really special compilation that I hope everyone will enjoy!

From Tara:  If you want some beautiful music for your own Christmas celebrations, and want to support Fount's work at the same time, please download her CD in part, or in full, by clicking the link below. We think it will be a great addition to your Christmas celebrations! 

Merry Christmas!

here is the link:

Sarah's website:

Monday, December 16, 2013

Why give to Fount this season?


This season I'm sure that many nonprofits have asked you to donate to their cause. Why, then, should you consider donating to Fount of Mercy?

1) We invest in local, pre-existing community organizations. We are focused on their long-term success and sustainability.

2) We are responding to the orphan crisis holistically by addressing the needs of the entire family.

3) We empower women to earn a living wage, provide for their dependents, and become change agents and leaders in their communities.

When you give to Fount, your donation goes a long way towards building capacity. For example, thanks to three generous donations, we will be able to increase our Ugandan Educational Development Program Associate's work from part-time to full-time!

This means more professional development for community school teachers, who are teaching orphans and vulnerable children in outlying villages.  This also means more capacity to complete our new phonics curriculum, allowing us to begin training educators around teaching literacy. 

Please consider donating to Fount of Mercy this season. Together we can encourage lasting, sustainable change in Ugandan communities.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

So much to be thankful for...

So much to be thankful for...

This year has been full for Fount of Mercy, and although we always have so many goals and so much more we’d like to do to help Ugandan communities, we know that it is good to stop and think about what we’ve accomplished this year, and what we have to be thankful for.
Our upcoming end-of-year posts will remind you of this past year's accomplishments, so for now, I just want to share with you what some of our new Ugandan staff said when asked what they are grateful for...

Thank YOU for helping us accomplish so much in 2013! 

Please remember us in your end-of-year giving.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Calling all Interns!!!

In our almost 8 years of existence, we have been  fortunate to have many volunteers come our way.  In 2009, we had our first interns begin working with us, and since then, we have almost always had at least 1 intern working in Uganda with us…sometimes 3 at one time!  These amazing, hard-working, smart women have had an integral part of developing our work on the ground.  There is no coffee-making, envelope-stuffing for our interns!   They write curriculum, do hands-on research, teach and train, and set up systems for our work in Uganda.  In short, they are VITAL. 

This is the beauty of being a small organization…we can offer experiences that large ones cannot.  Our interns learn, alongside our staff, and gain knowledge that is invaluable for their future, whether it is as a small business owner, a non-profit staffer, a development worker, a mother, or just a compassionate person.  We are so proud that we have had 2 interns return for a second 6 months with us…even though they are paying their own way to be there!   This tells us that we are doing something right.   

We are suddenly finding ourselves in need of interns.  It is ironic that for the first time, we are actively seeking interns rather than them finding us, but our work is currently at its peak as far as the quality and quantity of projects we have happening in Uganda.  

So, we are putting it out there to our network, and hope that you will pass this along to anyone who may want/need an internship for school credit, or just for life experience.  

Our biggest needs currently are an administration intern and a vocational development intern. 

Administration Intern (1 needed at a time):  Will assist our International Director in the management of the entire organization in Uganda, including training/assisting Ugandan staff, helping with financial organization, researching sources and best-practices, social media, documentation, research, and curriculum writing.

Vocational Intern (1-2 needed at a time):   Will help oversee inventory, quality control, new designs, and general production systems of our scarf project.  Will also continue to oversee the beginning sewing classes, and begin writing an intermediate sewing class.  Social media and documentation will be expected also.  This person may have a fashion or sewing background, entrepreneur or small business experience, and/or strong organizational, production knowledge. 

Interns could arrive as soon as January 2014, and need to commit to at least 3-6 months in-country…up to a year.  All costs are currently the responsibility of the intern, though housing could potentially be offered.  Interns need to be initiative takers, able to work independently, and have self-motivation. Ample time and discussion with occur during the application process to be sure a candidate will be a good fit for our work, and us for their skills and interests.   

Estimated Costs:  Plane Ticket=$1500-2000.  Monthly Expenses Average:  $550/month

Please contact Tara H Nyanga for more information and/or to apply for an internship in 2014.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Who are our scarf models?

Who are our models?
Sometimes when you see pictures online, whether they are in a publication, from an article, or on a website, it is easy to forget that the people in the photos are real, actual people…or maybe that is just me. Ha!  I know I sometimes feel this way when I see nameless photos from other organizations….and assume that the child or woman in the shot is unknown. 

If you relate to these thoughts, then I’d love to share with you exactly who the beautiful women in our scarf photos are.  I can attest that we, here at Fount, know each of them VERY well. 

First, on the far left, is our Community Health Director, Vanessa.  Vanessa has been with Fount since the beginning in 2006, when she took her first trip to Uganda, and became hooked.  She started as a volunteer, and now is on staff, splitting her time between Texas (4 months per year) and Jinja (the remaining 8 months).  Being a practicing labor and delivery nurse, she is passionate about women and adolescent health, reproductive education, and dignity during the birth process.  Her dream, and goal, is to set up a dignified, safe, high-quality maternity center in Jinja.  

Second from the left, is Manuela.  Manuela has been with Fount for almost 2 years, working as Vanessa’s associate.  She has helped write and develop health education curriculum for educators and community leaders to teach to the adolescents in their communities.  Her sweet, calm demeanor and radiant smile are an asset, as she is able to connect easily and quickly with her students.  Thanks to a grant Fount received earlier this year, she is now a full-time employee of ours, and has a computer to aid her work. 

Third from the left is a woman who I am proud to call my “sister”, Olivia.  Olivia is married to my husband’s brother, Robert…another community leader whom Fount has partnered with for about 4 years.  In fact, it is through this initial contact with Robert that Grace (my husband) and I met!  Although Olivia does not work officially for Fount, she is a valuable aid and advisor.  We trust her opinion greatly, and she never hesitates to help when needed.  Olivia sprung to mind immediately as a model for our scarves because of her contagious, continual laughter and amazing smile…not to mention that she LOVES us and will help us whenever needed!  Olivia is currently preparing for her traditional introduction ceremony, which will officially and publicly recognize her marriage to wonder she is so happy! 

And finally, on the far right, is our amazing intern, Katie!  Although Katie just recently left Uganda, this was her second time working for Fount in Jinja.  She had such a good experience in 2011, she decided to go back this past June!  Katie was the guiding force behind our basic business curriculum…not only writing it, but also testing it with a group of village women, and editing it to be even more effective.  This curriculum is now a successful mainstay of our vocational work in Uganda!  During her second trip, she worked with another intern, Sarah, to test and edit our Beginning Sewing class curriculum, as well as overseeing quality control and inventory practices in our new scarf project.  Katie is super-fun, and always eager to jump in wherever needed…in this case, to be our beautiful scarf model!

Every time I post/see these photos, it really brings to home the fact that these scarves are not made by nameless/faceless workers “somewhere in Africa”.  They are each made, by hand, and with love by people whom we love.  

--Written by Tara Nyanga, on behalf of FOM.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

I think I can....I think I can....

Some days Fount of Mercy feels like the children story book "The Little Engine That Could". Do you remember that story? In the tale, a long train must be pulled over a high mountain. Larger engines, are asked to pull the train; for various reasons they refuse. The request is sent to a small engine, who agrees to try. The engine succeeds in pulling the train over the mountain while repeating its motto: "I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can".

As I spend my time working on grant applications for each of our four programs, I am constantly amazed at the huge task ahead of us. Sure it would be so much simpler if we just focused on one thing but instead we have committed to responding to the orphan crisis as holistically and sustainability as possible: supporting orphan caregivers with supplemental care and vocational training; investing in pre-existing local organizations/community schools; and equipping the younger generation with life skills and sex education.

It sound like a lot because it is. "I-think-I-can, I-think-I-can". The good news is that we're not alone in our huge task. We've got your encouragement and financial support. We have incredible peers on the field that challenge us. Most importantly we have the amazing Ugandan men and women on the ground level who inspire us with their dedication to their communities most vulnerable.

~Written by Michelle, for the Fount of Mercy staff.

Friday, November 1, 2013


This week, I wanted to get a little personal with you, our most consistent base of supporters. 

About a year and a half ago, most of you will remember that my family moved from Uganda to the US, and a few weeks later, I had a baby....Hannah.  As anyone who's had a baby knows, the mere existence of a baby changes EVERYTHING.  The way you feel, sleep, go anywhere, eat, period.  Time, space, stuff...they all change when you go from, like me, having responsibilities and even older children to care for, to having your entire life be controlled by another life.  I think I knew enough to expect this. 

But, what I didn't expect was to have my work for Fount change so profoundly.  Yes, I knew once maternity leave was over, there would be a tough transition.  I knew it would be hard to squeeze work in around naps and feedings and demands. 

But, I didn't know that I suddenly would relate more deeply to the women I had been teaching for 6 years.  I didn't know that I suddenly would feel the same tug of war between wanting to simply be with and play with my baby, but needing to find work and money to do so.  I didn't know that I would view their living conditions through a new lense...of dirt, germs, discomfort, sleep needs, and safety that previously was not quite so unsettling.

I took Hannah to Uganda this past summer, when she was just a year old.  And, we received some of the warmest greetings ever.   Not only was I able to relate more to the women of Uganda, but I think some of them were able to relate more to me.  They wanted to touch her and hold her and yell in excitement when they met her.  They thanked me for the hard work of birthing her.  And, they must have known deep-down that I now felt some of the passionate protective feelings and the need to provide that they have for their babies too. 

As hard as it was to take a one year old on an international, 30 hour trip, it was well worth it to share their "daughter" with my Ugandan sisters.  Hannah has given me a renewed purpose and focus in my work for Fount. 

~Written by Tara, for the Fount of Mercy staff.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Julius and our Vocational work, part 2.

Last time, we told you more about Julius Wamimbi, our Vocational Development Associate, and the story of how he came to work for Fount of Mercy.  We also promised to share more about the work he does for us in our Vocational program.  Enjoy, as we go into more detail about how we work...
"Typical" orphan situations often involve the loss of parents, so children move in with their grandmother (as in this case), another relative, or neighbor. Photo by Rebecca Cippola
Julius’ work with FOM begins with women's groups who are already meeting to socialize, pray, do small projects, looking to make money, or learning a new skill.  Often these women are widowed, abandoned, or single mothers taking care of their own children, grandmothers who have taken in their grandchildren, or married women who are helping the children in their community.  Whatever the purpose that brought them together, it is soon obvious that there are overwhelming needs in the group, so ideas start circulating on how they can work together.  When these caregivers wish to learn valuable skills which can be used to start their own small businesses and make money, Fount can step in and begin helping. 
Jullius starts in a group by teaching a required “Basic Business Class” with curriculum that FOM wrote.  The group comes together and learns topics such as bookkeeping, finding a market, investing in growth, and good planning. Julius’s degree in Business Management is invaluable to helping communicate these topics and also providing the credibility that they need to trust him. After the Basic Business Class ends, he offers what we call a “Practice Project”to the group. This Practice Project is organized and started with the group’s own capital being matched by FOM. The women take the initiative to make all the decisions of the business, while Julius visits weekly to oversee their books, anticipate problems, and guide the group in making good decisions. He acts as a consultant or guide, but not as the group leader. It is vital for the group to take ownership of every decision and action. This entire process usually takes about six months. By the end of this six month time period, the group has put their knowledge from the business class into practice and is able to run their business on their own. As of fall 2012, Julius has taught five business classes and led three group practice projects. 
Recently, one group approached Julius with the desire to create a village bank. He created a system, began teaching them how to run it, helped identify leaders, and encouraged them each step of the way. Now, this group of 25 women has given over 3 million shillings ($1250.00) in loans for their members to grow their small businesses, and has saved over 4 million shillings ($1666.70) in their group savings. These are remarkable amounts of money for village women!
Once a group has finished the Basic Business Class and group Practice Project, the women and their leaders are given the option to take one of our “Vocational Skills Training Courses.” We offer classes in sewing, baking, and agriculture. These are taught by local teachers whom FOM has either trained with our own curriculum or has contracted to teach for us. Julius is in charge of organizing and overseeing these classes. He keeps track of the expenditures, sets the timetables, facilitates the contracts, keeps accountability, solves problems, and generally oversees the entire process of providing skills training courses. 
Finally, if a group has exhibited the ability to stay organized and successful over a certain amount of time, they are eligible to apply for a business-growth grant to take their business to the next level.
When you talk to Julius about his job, you can immediately tell he is driven by his heart. He believes that the way to developing and improving his country is through the combination of education and thriving business. Working with women who have an average education level of a second grader, who have faced many hardships, and who otherwise would not have the opportunity for making an income, has become his lifework.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Julius and our Vocation work, part 1

Last week, Julius wrote about a piggery being set up as an income-generating project in one of our partner communities.  This week, we thought we'd share with you a little more of Julius's story, and the work he does as our Vocational Associate. 

Julius teaching a business class. 

Being from Uganda, and a recipient of FOM’s work when he was younger, Julius believes that helping children starts by helping those who care for them; their parents, grandparents, neighbors, and/or guardians.  When the caretaker is empowered, the results show in his/her family.
In Uganda, as well as most African nations, there is a significant problem.  Statistically speaking, 51% of children in Uganda are considered a vulnerable child or an orphan.  This accounts for over 10 million children!  A vulnerable child is defined as a child who is living in a situation that is exposing him/her to significant physical, mental, or emotional harm.  An orphan is defined as a child who has lost one or both parents. 
Life for vulnerable children and orphans is hard.  They have all dealt with loss of some kind, whether due to illness, death, abandonment, or another traumatic event.  When a child in Africa loses a caretaker, the cultural expectation is that their extended family or neighbors take them in.  However, in a place where most families are struggling significantly, taking in another child means less resources and care for the entire household.  In families without both parents, the stress on the family can be unbearable.
Julius knows about this stress.   When Julius was twelve years old his mom died of HIV/AIDS. Since his father had passed the year before, he was left with the responsibility of taking care of his younger sister and brother.  Within a short time, hardship forced them into eating from trash bins, sleeping on the streets, and doing hard labor in order to make enough money to survive.  Julius struggled to get money, not only for food, but for school fees.  It was hard, and he missed many classes and exams.  While on the streets, he ran into an uncle who took them to his place.  This seemingly good fortune tragically turned unfortunate, as his uncle sold their property, treated them like house slaves and left them with nothing.  Soon, they went back on the streets to escape this unhealthy situation. 

Begging does not suit a boy of fourteen, so Julius got a job as a houseboy/groundskeeper for two years.  During this time, he used his salary to pay for his siblings’ school fees while he worked.  Life seemed decent until one fateful night when the compound was attacked by robbers.  Sadly, Julius’ boss was killed.  This turn of events forced Julius and his siblings back on the street.  He no longer had a salary that would cover his school fees and his former boss’s widow had threatened him.  Those days were so difficult that his younger brother nearly died from the harsh weather and hunger. 

Difficult days continued until the day Julius ran into one of his dad’s old friends.  He told this man of their situation and this man invited them to his modest home.  He was running an organization, treated them like his own kids and provided all their needs on a very small income.  Julius says of this time, “This is where I experienced God’s love and care.”  Because of their respect and obedience to him, they won a special place in this man’s heart. 

FOM came to know Julius in 2006, when we began to work with a local organization called The AIDS Orphans Support Trust (TAOST). TAOST was helping Julius and his siblings with some of their basic needs.  Julius spoke with Michelle (FOM’s Executive Director) during a visit to the community school.  He told her his story and Michelle was touched.  She began helping Julius and his siblings.  Julius says, “Since then, Michelle and her family have created a big transformation in my life through supporting our education until I finished my Business Administration Course (Accounting Major) at University.”
In 2011, FOM hired Julius to work with women and men who want a better life for themselves and their children. This is something Julius' own parents would have wanted as well.  Julius has gone from a boy struggling on the streets to a man with a passion for business and one who wants to help his own community.   Julius is someone who understands what it means to overcome obstacles.  He understands the value of education and has an incredible gift for teaching.  Julius connects easily and readily with others and is someone we trust to run our Vocational Development program. 
So, what does Julius’s work look like?  How does he help FOM help his community?  Next week, we will go into detail about Julius's role with Fount of come back for Part 2!