A few weekends ago I went hiking in Boulder, CO on my way to a women’s retreat. I have never been to Colorado, but I am a passionate hiker and backpacker, so on my free day I decided to hit the trail. A friend suggested the Flatirons. As I huffed and puffed my way up the trail (elevation, you guys, elevation), I was struck by the sheer number of college students who decided to forgo the football game (which I could hear in the distance) to go hiking. Boulder is a college town, and college kids tend to be devoted and enthusiastic fans of their football team. But this day, the trail was crowded…and buzzing with youthfulness, energy, freedom. “Kids” in a manner of speaking, but quite alive young adults who are free to make decisions, explore, and thoroughly enjoy dreaming about their futures. This is definitely my favorite age of young people to spend time with.
As I hiked, I began thinking about our college girls in Uganda. For all the hardships and material poverty that exist, I just kept smiling to myself as I pictured best friends Molly, Milka and Josephine in college together away from the pressures of family and cultural expectations. Free to choose, free to laugh and giggle as girls will, and free to learn on their own without being encumbered with endless strenuous chores, caring for siblings and other distractions that make success in school more challenging. These girls are experiencing some of the best times in their lives and are absolutely blossoming.
What a glorious time college was. Hopes and dreams bursting to life. Being filled with confidence and courage that one can do hard things which provide dignity and a sense of accomplishment. And college in America or college in Uganda…it is just plain fun watching young adults tackle these years.
It’s no surprise that it is a lot of work running a nonprofit on a daily basis.
What is often forgotten about organizations serving communities in other countries, however, is that there is so much additional work required abroad which can’t be accomplished from the US. Because of this, we have relied heavily on our director and mentors in Uganda to get the job done. These remarkable people have volunteered their time and affection to our girls even though they all have full-time jobs which keep them incredibly busy already. And in my opinion, though Taproot and these girls are a labor of love for them, the amount of time they commit to this labor of love causes them to be decidedly over-worked.
As Taproot has grown to include an amazing 25 girls, our administrative needs in Uganda have increasingly grown as well. Earlier this year after acknowledging our need for a change, we were blessed with a one-time gift to cover the annual salary and expenses of a social worker. And we were fortunate enough to find Nelly!!
Nelly has been a lifeline for many of the girls in our program. She is responsible for seeing that all nuts and bolts of our organization are accomplished such as seeing that all the school fees and expenses get paid every term for every girl, scheduling periodic meetings with caregivers and guardians to see where we can support them, and forming relationships with the teachers and administrators of the school our girls attend so we can be sure that we are well-informed of their progress and success. She also organizes regular meetings with our girls to foster friendships and encouragement between the girls and to discuss together individual obstacles and roadblocks with their educations.
Equally as important, Nelly serves as an inspiring model of a successful, educated woman. One who desires to walk alongside these girls as she loves on them and cheers them on toward achieving their goals. She is a confidant for intimate matters and even sometimes is required to step in as a surrogate parent. I received an email from Nelly explaining that she was honored to attend a mandatory meeting for parents and guardians on behalf of one of our most vulnerable girls who doesn’t have anyone to represent her. Nelly is passionate about these girls and does a fantastic job of connecting with them and supporting them in countless ways.
Here is a little from Nelly’s own words:
My name is Arikuru Nelly Bajole. I am a mother of three children. I worked for Voice of Life FM as a radio presenter for three years, and I also worked for Orphans Refugee and Aid as a social worker for again three years. I have experience of working with children and young adults. I am now working with Taproot Charities as a social worker and a mother to the girls. My hope for the sponsored girls is to see that they excel in education and later acquire skills which they can use to be independent and have the ability to support themselves. I will be doing my best to follow-up their education progress and nurture them into God-fearing girls and ladies who will be hard working and competent citizens of their communities and country.
Welcome to our family, Nelly! We are so very glad to have you!
Sara Messer, Founder
Sunshine, music, food trucks and volleyball. You could hardly ask for a better Sunday afternoon! But when you throw in a benefit for some really fantastic girls on the other side of the planet who are being inspired to continue their education against all odds…well, then! You really can’t ask for a better Sunday afternoon than that!
Our little county drew quite the crowd. We had 28 teams register and nearly 100 spectators! With so much support, we raised enough money to address many needs that our sponsorship funds alone can’t cover.
One of the programs that we will now implement is creating a medical slush fund to provide resources for diagnosis and treatment of our girls when they get sick. For example, Malaria is very prevalent in sub-Saharan Africa, and left untreated, it is a leading cause of death in developing countries. Malaria is a curable disease if promptly diagnosed and treated correctly, but most of our families do not have the financial resources to seek costly treatment. Now we will see that every single one of our young ladies will be treated at the first signs of illness (and this means less absences from school!).
As you know, Taproot Charities uses a sponsorship model to fund education. There are times that we are short on sponsors, and we are determined to make sure that our gals’ needs are still met. Thanks to the success of our silent auction, we now will be able to provide one full year of college education for Anna who was without a sponsor!
Finally, we have been fortunate to have Nelly working for us as a social worker this past year. (Look for a recent news highlighting Nelly in the next few weeks!) She is a wonderful, committed woman who takes the utmost care to see that the young ladies enrolled in our program are doing well in school and that any concerns they have are being addressed. She meets regularly with them, their caregivers and their teachers. Nelly is a trusted confidant and a remarkable role model (she has her college education!). We absolutely could not do this job without her. And now one full year of her salary will be covered thanks to you! Beyond the benefit to Taproot Charities, Nelly’s family now will be living above the poverty line, and she will be able to send her own children to school!
These are just a few of the ways we will be putting the proceeds of this very successful event to use. And there is still more to come!
This seriously was such an amazingly fun day. I am already so excited for next year! Thank you to all who made this day what it was!!
Hello! My name is Grace, and I had the incredible opportunity to go to Arua, Uganda this summer. I had such an amazing time!! There were so many experiences that I loved, but right now I am going to tell you about one experience that was truly fantastic! It was meeting the girl that we sponsor through Taproot Charities, Milka Abiria. Milka is 17 and is finishing up her last year at high school. She is such an outstanding person, inside and out! I remember writing to her in my house at home, and how it was a completely different experience when I actually got to meet her. I remember first seeing her and instantly recognizing her because of the picture of her that is in our house. I ran over to where she was and gave her a giant hug! She is now one of my best friends and is like a part of our family. She has this spirit about her that I just love. She is so extremely joyful, it was contagious to everybody! And she has such a joyful heart for Jesus, too!
We went to church on Sunday at Arua Community Church, and she was a part of a group of kids that went up on the stage and sand and danced for Jesus. It was so life changing to see. And on that day, I really got to see Milka expressing her love for Jesus in an abundant way. She inspires me to walk with Jesus everyday in a more expressive and abundant way, too! I have learned so much from her. Like how even in the rough times, God is always there and always will be there to help you and guide you through life. And he will also give you joy, amazing, unending joy, like the joy that I see in Milka. I was reminded that He will also love you no matter who you are. Milka really has a beautiful heart for Jesus. I love her so much!
On our recent trip back to Uganda, we were blessed to partner with Days for Girls, a non-profit which recognizes the impact of quality, sustainable feminine hygiene on girls’ physical wellbeing, education, and dignity. Days for Girls has chapters all over the country in which people come together to sew sustainable menstruation kits and then distribute them to other non-profits/churches/teams who are traveling to under-privileged areas where girls and women are in need of a better way of managing their periods. When our local San Luis Obispo Days for Girls chapter offered to send us with kits for the girls in the village we serve, we were overjoyed. Taproot Charities serves girls in secondary school and college, so considering the ages of our girls, this was the perfect partnership for us!
There are often many taboos, much embarrassment, and lack of education about menstruation among teens in developing countries. In attempts to break the ice with our girls and demonstrate that menstruation shouldn’t be embarrassing to talk about, I peppered them with questions about their experiences and then shared some of my own. I discovered that mothers generally don’t talk with their girls about how their bodies are developing and don’t help them understand what changes to expect as they enter puberty. Passie, one of our Ugandan mentors and leaders at Taproot Charities, had to explain to some of the younger girls in the village who hadn’t yet had their period what to expect. They had no idea what was waiting for them right around the corner! She even had to explain that they need not worry when it happens, that it doesn’t mean they were bewitched. Imagine how horrifying it would be if you had absolutely no idea it was coming!
We also talked about the power we girls have over our own bodies and our ability to choose healthy ways to take care of ourselves. We talked about how we are STRONG and that we have the right to stand up for ourselves. We talked about how amazing our bodies are and why we menstruate and the beauty of it. Then, we passed out the kits, and the girls lit up with enthusiasm and curiosity. They were eager to practice with the pads and talk with their friends who were sitting next to them. It was like Christmas in June! Thankfulness abounded! It was absolutely amazing to see the joy these girls expressed over menstrual pads. Something we take so for granted. They were literally hugging their kits. Days for Girls suggests having a volunteer demonstrate how to snap them in place and put them on over their pants, and sensing that anyone from our group who “volunteered” would have done so more out of duty and obligation (not to mention they were all in skirts having come directly from school), I decided I would all let them have a good giggle and watch me demonstrate. (Check out the picture for a good giggle yourself!) All in all, it was such a sweet time building trust and community talking about an important issue that is not talked about often. I left our meeting giving great encouragement to start talking about periods to younger girls in the village and to talk openly and lovingly with their own daughters someday. If there is less taboo over the issue of menstruation and access to sustainable feminine hygiene supplies, solidarity happens and girls don’t miss school and stay healthier longer.
My greatest hope and encouragement was from what I witnessed was when we left our gathering space. There were a few other teenage girls from the village who were waiting outside to talk to us. They wondered if they could have some kits as well. Of course, we obliged them, but I encouraged our Taproot girls do the education portion and show the other girls how to use the pads while I supervised and listened. There wasn’t a hint of embarrassment in our girls who shared, and they honestly had the education and demonstration completely down and needed no help from me. These girls are sharp! This was such an amazing thing for me, because one of our goals is to develop these girls as leaders in their communities, and because the San Luis Obispo Days for Girls team sent us with many more than our own girls could use, we planned for our girls to take a leadership role after my departure by periodically gathering teen girls throughout the area and dispersing the kits while teaching others how to use them. They clearly are up for the challenge, and transformation is happening.
Days for Girls, thank you so much for choosing to partner with us and for the gift of time, resources, energy and love. Together, we are seeing the futures of these girls in the Ewata Village of Arua, Uganda unfold in positive and amazing ways.
Please take a minute and read about Days for Girls here and consider being a part of the transformation that is happening all over the world.
It’s that time of year when many high school seniors are donning their caps and gowns and walking down the aisle to receive their diplomas, making the transition from high school kid to college young adult. Anticipation filled with hope and excitement and also sprinkled with some nervousness abounds. Soon, these kids who have so worked hard in high school to achieve access to higher level education will see their visions for their futures unfold. Education is a gift. Education is the ticket to freedom.
In the Ewata village of rural Uganda, girls are reluctant to dream about a future that involves opportunities that are practically out of their reach. For the girls there, life as a subsistence farmer or day laborer is what lies ahead. Why dream about something that is absolutely impossible to plan for? This only leads to more disappointment and heartbreak. Many times even public elementary and secondary education is not a choice when income from farming doesn’t leave much room for finances beyond meager food and shelter for families.
When someone else steps in and helps by providing sponsorships and financial support for our Taproot girls, they can begin to awaken their dreams. And anticipation of graduation from high school and admittance to college becomes a shared experience for the teenagers of rural Uganda and our teenagers here at home.
When Elizabeth Pimer began her sponsorship program for secondary school three years ago, she started dreaming of becoming a fashion designer. Thanks to her generous sponsor, her creativity and desire to think outside the box was rewarded. Elizabeth is now studying at New Millennium Tailoring School in Buziga, Uganda. Elizabeth is one of our first two high school graduates and is in her first term of a two-year program.
During a recent trip to Arua, I was able to meet with her and the other girls in our program. Among the many clothing items she has already learned to sew, she expressed excitement at learning to make a child’s bathing suit. Imagine that! She showed us what she has made already, and she clearly is pursuing something she is very talented at doing. I cannot express what an encouragement this was to her younger peers. Seeing their old classmate pursuing the dream she deeply desired and seeing it come to life was one of the most impactful moments of my trip. There was palpable enthusiasm among the girls, and discussions of life at college ensued for the rest of the time we had together.
Education has been Elizabeth’s ticket to freedom from a life which was not using her full potential and would have trapped her in an endless cycle of hardship. She is on her way to a life that she was afraid to even dream up because it was not going to be her reality. The decision that her sponsor made to affect just one life across the globe has changed this young lady’s life forever. And because of the relationship that developed between Elizabeth and her sponsor, her sponsor’s life was forever changed as well.
Tune in to hear more about Elizabeth’s progress in future months. College is more expensive than high school, and we are looking for more sponsors to come on board to help Elizabeth succeed. If you would like to be a part of her achieving her college degree, contact us at email@example.com.
I received the nursing school admission documents for Tansila today.
And I am in awe. I am filled with feelings that are hard to describe. If my heart can hold so much all at once, I am so proud, excited, nervous, enthralled, overjoyed, astonished, moved to tears…the list goes on and on. This young lady that I have had the privilege of knowing for several years, who is from a poor, poor village in rural northwestern Uganda where girls are often given as child-brides, is now going to NURSING SCHOOL! Instead of a marriage license and a farming hoe, she needs a stethoscope! I can hardly believe this is happening.
Even with as much excitement as my heart is bubbling over with, I sit here and wonder how Tansila must have felt when she received the news that she had been accepted to the Kiwoko School of Nursing and Midwifery. The depth of my emotion surely must pale in comparison to hers. Did she jump for joy? Did she let out a deep, hopeful sigh of relief? Did she giggle with nervousness and enthusiasm at a new life laid out before her?
I am so inspired by this young lady who has gone entirely against her cultural grain. She has believed in herself enough to find a way to see that her dreams do not get buried. Because of supportive, loving parents and a sponsor who has decided to invest in Tansila’s life, her life trajectory has been entirely changed. I am humbled at being given a front row ticket to witness this amazing experience unfold. I know that this is just the beginning!
Thank you to Humankind Fair Trade who hosted us for a very successful fundraiser in December. We raised $400 toward our campaign to purchase mattresses and mosquito netting for our girls and their families. At Taproot Charities, we recognize that investing in girls’ education is the best investment we can make in the developing world. But facilitating opportunities for education doesn’t end with payments for school fees and expenses. We must look at the well-being of the girls as a whole. We are committed to providing for our Taproot girls’ physical and emotional needs and also addressing obstacles which are barriers to academic success.
In Arua, where typical housing consists of mud huts with thatched roofs or unfinished brick houses, many students are sleeping directly on dirt floors because mattresses are considered a luxury. We know that quality sleep is critical for optimal learning, memory and success in education. Students sleeping on dirt floors are undoubtedly receiving low-quality sleep which affects school performance and attendance.
Another significant barrier to consistent school attendance is malaria. There is an extremely high prevalence of malaria in Sub-Sahara Africa. In fact, there is currently an unprecedented outbreak of malaria in South Sudan which is only 30 miles from where we are focusing our efforts. It has been reported that up to 50% of preventable school absences are malaria related (web.worldbank.org) in Sub-Sahara Africa. Whether it’s because of a fever itself or because of the expectation that older children will stay home to care for infected younger children, kids miss school, increasingly fall behind and demonstrate poor school performance because of malaria. The single most effective way of preventing malaria is sleeping with long lasting insecticide treated mosquito netting as mosquitoes are very active during nighttime hours.
We are very excited about addressing these challenges and meeting these needs for our girls. These are obstacles that are easy and affordable to overcome. Each mattress is $30 and each mosquito net is $5. Our goal is to provide three mattresses and three mosquito nets per family of the girls we serve. With several more girls entering our program in February, our goal is to provide mattress and mosquito nets for about 24 families. Can you imagine being able to meet the needs of nearly 150 people all for the cost of ONE high quality mattress in the US?
I hope you consider joining us for this campaign as we are already well on our way! Visit our Donate page and choose student basic health and living expenses to partner with us to help empower girls through successful education!