Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Bwaise Clean-Up Project

Amidst rows of crudely build shacks and brothels, heaping piles of smoldering garbage, and a populace seemingly resigned to prosperity’s perpetual no-show, is Purse of Hope’s well-kept compound shaded by towering mango trees. It’s a place of order and sanctuary for local girls fleeing from prostitution. The contrast between the compound and the neighborhood it inhabits is stark and now begs the question,
why would teenage girls forfeit their only comfort to invest in a community that exploited them for years?

I could hardly believe it when Robinah, on behalf of the girls, asked if she could allocate some of the Center’s funds for industrial cleaning supplies. “And shirts! We’ll have to have matching Purse of Hope shirts so everyone knows who we are!” This was the girls’ nonnegotiable, Robinah told me smiling, once they’d determined to go outside of their own tidy facility and start cleaning up the surrounding area. Knowing our budget allows very little wiggle room, the girls petitioned for wheel barrows and rubber gloves over new furniture and other necessities for the center.

How is such selflessness possible?
The girls are becoming proud of who they are. They are eager to clean their streets because they no longer regard themselves as garbage.

My friend Nancy and her two grown daughters are flying to Uganda next week to spend seven days with the POH girls. We recently met to finalize a few of their travel plans. She asked if there was anything in particular the girls might need or want. So amazed was I by the girls’ request for cleaning supplies, I shared it with Nancy--knowing that seventy-five matching shirts, rubber gloves, and wheel barrows were probably not what she had in mind.

Nancy loved the idea and was as touched by it as I was. She and her daughters, five days before departure, held an impromptu charity dinner at a local pizza place. Donning their “mandatory” uniforms, Nancy, Sara and Jessie told family and friends they’d be working side-by-side the Purse of Hope girls to start cleaning up what’s arguably one of the most squalid, depressed slums in all of East Africa.

They invited their guests to help and ended up raising nearly three thousand dollars!

Three thousand dollars will purchase considerably more than cleaning supplies. The POH Center will also be receiving new beds, mattresses, linens, comfortable seating, finer beading supplies and more teaching materials. We are also pricing a new dining room table and chairs for the Total Impact House in Gulu.

Perhaps this doesn’t exactly parallel the Old Testament story of God appearing to King Solomon in a dream and offering, “Ask, and I will give it to you,” but I believe the principle is the same. He could ask for anything, Solomon, and what did he ask for? Glory? Riches? Longevity? Fame? No, he asked for wisdom so that he may better serve his people. Because his request was made out of humility and service, God did grant him wisdom--as well as wealth, honor, and victory over his enemies. The Purse of Hope girls also chose to forfeit “riches” in order to serve others. In doing so, they captured the hearts of a few fine folks in Illinois. They’ll soon be serving their community in addition to the added bonus of receiving several wonderful amenities for the Center.

Nancy, Sara and Jessie will be embarking on their adventure this Sunday, August 1st. They’ve agreed to document their trip entitled, “We 3 See Bwaise” so we may all celebrate the Purse of Hope milestones together--milestones that could not have happened without them!

Thank you, Ladies! We look forward to your reports.

Annet's artwork

This is Annet. She's an amazing artist! This piece is a textile she created. In this video she explains the many steps it took to finish it. We're so proud of her and hope to keep you updated with her newest creations.

Gulu University Field Trip

Last Saturday we took the girls in Gulu on a trip to Gulu University. Our tour guide, Nelson, gave us a wonderful tour of the campus and told the girls about all the different areas of study offered at the school. We had an amazing time and ended the day drinking a soda and discussing our dreams for the future.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Every Child Has A Right to Play

Hi friends, My name is Stefanie Bammer and I am going to be interning in Gulu for Purse of Hope over the next 5 months. I am so excited and blessed for this amazing opportunity! While I will be taking part in various projects, my main focus will be on implementing a Play and Dance Therapy Program for the girls. After studying different forms of fine arts, we have found this type of therapy can be used as a healing tool to build self-esteem.

Play and Dance Therapy will allow the girls to creatively express themselves, through symbolism in a safe place in order to confront painful memories. Our heart behind this program is to create a place where the girls will have the ability to play, have fun, and just be a kid again. By incorporating elements of visual arts, photography, videoography, music, dance, drama, and sports this program will help promote social change and responsibility. The girls are so amazingly talented and I can’t wait to see this program unfolds!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

When you Educate a Girl you Educate a Nation: Tutoring Program at Total Impact House

Hello friends of Purse of Hope! My name is Jordan Pappas and I’ve been volunteering in Gulu with the girls at the Total Impact House. In the last couple if weeks, we’ve talked about the importance of a girl’s education; we even had a debate to further explore the issue, and as one girl said, “When you educate a girl, you educate a nation!” Collectively, we decided to hold study sessions three times a week. We’ve been focusing on spelling, tenses, and correcting our common sentence mistakes. Today we are going to play a verbal game of charades to expand our ability to describe words with our burgeoning vocabulary. The girls are so amazingly motivated and hard working. World, get ready for your next lawyers, journalists, nurses and teachers!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thanks, Blake! Welcome, Kelsey!

Thank you, Blake, for your dedication and unyielding hard work this past year as our Country Coordinator. Purse of Hope would not be where it is today without your commitment to quality programs and your heart for the girls we serve in Uganda. It takes a special person willing to give up the comforts we are so accustomed to in America and live in an underdeveloped country—and to do so without complaint and entirely unselfishly. Thanks for sweating it out, literally, and helping to build the foundation for which these girls can stand upon.

Kelsey, we welcome you and look forward to the new energy and creativity you bring to Purse of Hope. I have every confidence that you will not only continue the work that has been started, but will begin to develop, in new and exciting ways, programs and projects that will further edify our girls. I thank you too for being willing to sacrifice air-conditioning in exchange for heart-conditioning. It is my hope that you’re not only empowered by the fruits of your labor, but are encouraged by all of us here—friends, family, Facebook fans, Twitter followers etc. You are an amazing woman and we look forward to sharing some of your experiences.

A sincere thank you to both of you.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Violet is 18 years old. She has one child and is expecting her second. Enrolled in the Purse of Hope hairdressing program, Violet hopes to one day support her children by owning a large hair salon.