Friday, August 22, 2014


This summer was a huge success for our education program! With the help of several stateside volunteers, Fount of Mercy hosted two literacy trainings. We were thrilled to have over 22 teachers and parents participating in our phonics training. More trainings to come this Fall.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Dignified Births

Fount of Mercy is working towards helping Ugandan mothers have safer, more dignified births. This article outlines why.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Taxes: Check!

990 submitted! Woohoo! (Nonprofit annual taxes) Riveting news, I know, but such a relief to have them done. Back to the exciting work. Have a lovely weekend everyone.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

New Village Bank

We have a new village bank in Bukaya, Uganda! The village bank has 30 participants- both men and women. The group meets once a week and is quickly becoming a tight knit community who cares for each other. We are so eager to watch this group grow.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Breaking the Cycle

This month our community health program associate has been visiting past HIV/AIDS workshop attendees to survey their students. The hope is that teachers have been passing along the life saving information they learned in our workshops to their students. We want to break the cycle of misinformation and believe well informed teachers are vital to this cause.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Our vocational development program had a great month. We taught 3 business class, started a new advanced business class, and now have a second successful village bank moving forward.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

One Year Anniversary

Recently we celebrated our one year anniversary of employing 12 Ugandans in our scarf making workshop. So far we have made over 4300 scarves for the GO Exchange and are currently working on an exciting line for the Fall.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

New Car

Great news! Through some very generous donations, Fount of Mercy now has access to a vehicle in Uganda via our Community Health Director! Having a vehicle will help keep Fount's staff safe on the often dangerous roads of Uganda.

Friday, June 6, 2014

How Do You Walk Away?


Overwhelmed. That's the best word I can find to describe the last several weeks of my life. I recently began my 8 week internship at Jinja Main. The internship is part of the requirements I must go through to become registered as an RN with the nursing council of Uganda. Registration is necessary for me to do what I do here legally and for my work visa. I have wanted to write this update everyday since I started this process, but I'm so exhausted at the end of every day I just couldn't do it. So this is just going to be a brief update to let you know what is going on.

Jinja Main is a government hospital and is the main referral hospital in Jinja. It serves well over half a million people and has a 500 bed capacity. It frequently surpasses that number. I'm not even sure how to describe in words what this place is like. Sure, you may be able to imagine what a third world hospital must be like, but to experience it in person...not just as a spectator, but as a nurse doing patient care, it's....overwhelming.

For the first two weeks I was on Ward 4, a men's medical/TB ward. The incredible suffering of the patients there and the lack of resources is crippling. Even when we know what to do for the patients, the resources to address the problem are often times simply not there. This hospital can't even take your vital signs unless a nursing student has brought her equipment...blood pressure cuff, stethoscope, thermometer. If you are in the hospital as a patient, you better hope you have family or friends who are willing to come and care for you, 24 hours a day. They must provide everything for your care: bedsheets, food, gloves for the nurses, medications, IV cannulas, tape, gauze, everything. Otherwise, you lay there, unattended, hungry, dirty and worsening in condition each day.

I watched as Ben, a man in his early 40s, lay there in a dirty bed, on a torn foam mattress, after day. He was a living skeleton. Ben was suffering from full blown stage 4 AIDS. Rose, a nursing student, and I tried to keep him covered, to preserve dignity, but he wouldn't allow anything to cover him. He was cold, like a corpse. He was depressed and wanted to die and would try to throw himself on the floor to kill himself several times a day. Rose and I would go and pick him up, put him back on the bed and pray for him. His twin brother tried to care for him but there wasn't much that he could do. One week after I met Ben and began caring for him, he died. 8 others died that same week. Many of them from preventable causes. What do you do when you know what needs to be done, but have none of the necessary resources? Overwhelmed.

Last week I began my rotation in Ward 9. Everyone who knows anything about this hospital knows that Ward 9 is the worst of the worst. It's a surgical/orthopedic/burn unit. It's dark. It's dank. It's dirty. So dirty. There are exposed bones, bones in archaic traction devices, people with burns on over 50% of their body, severely malnourished children with gaping wounds. During dressing changes and treatment time, there is literally screaming and gnashing of teeth. Hell on Earth. And it's completely overwhelming.

But as overwhelming as all of that is, I have also been overwhelmed by God's goodness. He has given me favor with the nurses and doctors that I have met so far (this is a huge blessing as Ugandan doctors are notoriously mean and defensive toward outsiders...anyone really). He has shown me the kindness of certain nurses who, though they haven't been paid in over 6 months, continue to care for and buy food for indigent patients. He has shown me that even in the pain and suffering and severe lack of resources, there are glimmers of hope. I see it in the resilience of some of my patients. I see it in Sister (nurse) Molly's concern for the patients even after dealing with such horrible conditions for so many years, day after day. In some strange way, I'm actually 'happy' to be there. I find satisfaction in teaching the nursing students and Medical Officer students (like physician's assistants). I have quickly grown to love certain patients and am very attached to them. At first, I thought I wouldn't be able to wait until this 8 week internship was over. Now I can't imagine how I'm going to stop going there. I need to know that Francis will heal from his burns, and I need to see little Ryan (2 years old) gain weight and come back from severe malnutrition and heal the huge abscess on the lower half of his body. How do you just walk away from people like this after you've met them and loved them? You don't. I won't. And I'm not even half way through.

And just in case you were wondering...yes, I do in fact have to wear a uniform which is an antiquated white dress. It's stunning.

Vanessa Crowley
Community Health Initiative Director
Fount of Mercy

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Manuela....our newest staff member

This is Manuela.

She is Fount of Mercy's Community Health Initiative Program Associate.

She also was one of our beautiful scarf models this year!

Manuela is the newest member of Fount of Mercy’s (FOM) local staff.  She completed her diploma in Social Work and Social Development in January 2012, and came on staff part-time later that year.  

We are happy to announce that, thanks to a grant we received this year, Manuela became full-time this year!  

This work is truly her passion.  In her own words, Manuela states, “I love my job so much, as part of my job is to develop people in my community.”
So, what does Manuela do with FOM?  And, why is it so important?
In Uganda, women and young girls are often marginalized.  Culturally and historically, women have been treated as possessions; being valued as commodities for their fertility and their usefulness in the home and garden.  As teenagers, they are often given for marriage to older men because the family, who struggles in poverty, will receive a bride-price in return.   As older women, they can be a part of a plural marriage, in which a man takes many wives. However, he cannot provide for them all, let alone all the children he creates with them.  They suffer as much from poor self-esteem as they do from physical need.  As a result of these [and many other] problems, a cycle is created.  
A family’s poverty leads to giving of teenaged wives, who have not finished high school and don’t know basic information about their own menstruation, reproduction, birth control, and/or disease such as HIV/AIDS.  Combine this with the fact that, culturally, it is inappropriate for a girl to talk to her own mother about these topics.  It would be ideal if a girl confided in an aunt or teacher.  Unfortunately, more often than not, a girl will turn to her peers whose knowledge base is equally lacking. Many will enter either a formal marriage or an informal sexual relationship without the knowledge they need to protect themselves and prevent situations that will escalate the hardships in their lives. These include unplanned pregnancies, plural marriages, abandonment, disease, abuse, etc. As a result, a cycle is created in which misinformed young girls grow up into misinformed women who give birth to a new generation of women who lack that same information. 
Manuela combats this problem by hosting what FOM refers to as “Girls Camps” for groups of adolescent girls.  She goes into a community and mobilizes the local female youth by using the local schools and community leaders.  Then, they meet with Manuela and she gives them life-saving information. The curriculum used in FOM Girls Camps is designed to combat the dangerous cycle of misinformation concerning women's bodies in Uganda.  These myths can lead to unplanned pregnancies and HIV infection. The goals of the classes are to replace myths with facts, and to create a generation of women who educate and empower each other.   

Manuela has also developed a Boys Camp to be taught alongside the Girls Camps.  We hope to implement this course in 2014.  Women’s quality of life in Uganda is often dependent on how the men in their lives treat them. If boys are taught to respect and value the girls in their life, then later they will become men who value and respect the women in their lives.
In order to affect more and more girls and boys, Manuela also teaches what FOM calls a “Life Skills Course” to adults who work with youth.  The adults can then teach the course in their own communities.  The curriculum she uses is based on seven principles of behavior change developed by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS).  The belief is that once individual motivation is in place, then skills can be implemented and information given to create a positive life change in youth.   These positive life changes include effective communication, decision-making, thinking, managing emotions, assertiveness, self-esteem building, resisting peer pressure, and relationship skills.  This course goes hand-in-hand with the Girls Camps, as once a youth possesses these life skills, they can take the information from the Girls Camps and have the confidence and tools to apply it in their own lives.  The hope is that women who understand their bodies, their health, their relationships and their lives as a whole will be able to make decisions for themselves that are healthy and positive. 
Manuela is the perfect liaison for this work.  She not only has the educational background, but the heart and the understanding of what it is like to be a youth and a woman in Uganda.  She has also overcome the hardship of growing up without her parents.  As many Ugandan children do, Manuela lived with relatives.  This can often be a hard situation, as many times these “extra” children are last on the extremely long list of priorities, so they don’t receive school fees, adequate medical care, clothing, or even food.  Manuela has worked hard to earn her diploma and hopes that her job with FOM can last for a long time and she can pursue more schooling.  

We hope so too!