Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Katie Martin, Purse of Hope's awesome new volunteer, has been in Uganda for almost 2 weeks now. We're excited to share with you a glimpse of her life here...

“I'm bubbling over with all of the incredible things that have gone on in just 10 days of life in Uganda, and yet so little time to stop and share about it. 10 days has felt like 2 months. I am honestly incredibly humbled to be here doing this work. It's hard to articulate the sense of OVERWHELMING joy that I have when I'm at the house with the girls. There is no other place I want to be when I'm there with them. 

I must share a story about Beth....

I went over to visit the girls this evening (today is Sunday), and it was yet ANOTHER adventure on the Boda ride there, today was my first Boda ride post rain storm. Bwaise had a rain storm today, which means the dirt roads are muddy and puddle filled. So, that translated to my sandal wearing feet getting splattered with mud....which is honestly NBD (no big deal)...I was more concerned about the huge man holes of murky water we were navigating our way through in the midst of INSANE traffic.

I arrived (safely...phew) at the Purse of Hope house to the usual incredible greeting from the girls, they were standing at the gate ready to hug and greet me. I showed them my muddy feet and they all felt so sorry that I had gotten muddy....one of them said, "Auntie Katie (they call me Auntie :)), it is a huge sign of love that you would make the journey in the rain." That melted my heart. I stopped and just felt blown away at the continual thankfulness and gratefulness these girls show.

Then......Beth. As soon as Beth saw my muddy feet she grabbed my hand and walked me straight to the bathroom. She insisted on cleaning my feet for me. I tried to help and SHE WOULD NOT LET ME, so I surrendered, and sat there in total awe at this beautiful beautiful girl tending to me, cleaning and washing my feet, and just had to let myself receive the love she was lavishing upon me. It was such a beautiful moment, but also a moment of feeling helpless in letting her tend to me. I wanted to be the one washing HER feet. It is my heart to be the one serving these girls and loving them. And yet in that moment I felt humbled....and knew....as I've been seeing in these past 10 days, God is using these girls in my life far more than I will be used in theirs. They are teaching me how to love, how to trust, how to have incredible faith, how to be free.

I've heard a lot of people say, "I need Africa more than Africa needs me" and tonight that rang true more than ever. These girls are among some of the most courageous I have ever met. They are embracing their second chance at childhood with all that they have. They are dreaming and they are taking that scary step of letting themselves love and be loved. These courageous and beautiful girls have the fingerprint of God smudged all over them :).”

-Katie Martin

Tutoring Program

The Tutoring Program at the Total Impact House is in full swing!! After assessing the girls needs, we decided to dedicate August as Grammar Month and really focused on learning all of the different components of Sentence Structure. For a fun activity, the girls made Grammar Books, which they are able to keep and use as a study aid for school.

The girls are incredibly bright and we are already able to see visible improvements during each tutoring session, as they gain more confidence and increase their depth of knowledge! In this video, you are able to see just how hard our girls have been working!

Thank you Stefanie Bammer for facilitating the tutoring program and making this cute video!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tailoring Program

Purse of Hope's tailoring program has been going steady for over one month. The girls are super excited about this new opportunity and are dreaming big about the future. In this video, Barbara shares her thoughts on tailoring as well as her beautiful dream of helping other girls.

This week I was able to see the girls' work. They're already making duvet covers and pillow cases. Their work is amazing!


New Jobs

Two of our bright and talented ladies are now employed! Joyce and Allen interviewed with an incredible organization, Sseko Designs, and got the job! We’re so proud of them. Sseko employs women to make beautiful and unique sandals that are sold in the US. Our girls are 2 of 14 women working at Sseko making these awesome shoes.

Allen and Joyce now have a steady income and are able to support themselves and their children. Julie and Cameron, the two amazing women working with Sseko in Kampala, shared that they are incredibly impressed with our girls. Allen and Joyce are producing more sandals a week than expected and are even showing leadership potential! They arrive early and are two of the hardest workers. Thanks to our tailoring program, Allen and Joyce came prepared with the skills needed to sew the sandal straps. They’ve also worked hard to learn the other skills that are needed to make the shoes.

When I visited their center, I found the girls with huge smiles on their faces. They even spoke confidently in English (which was a weakness before they began working at Sseko).

Confident, empowered, and employed, Joyce and Allen are now an inspiration and encouragement to the other girls at the Bwaise drop-in center. They still come to the center each day, participate in activities, and share what they’re learning. Robinah, our Project Director, is helping the girls set up bank accounts so they can save and budget their money.

If you want to learn more about Sseko, you can visit their website at http://www.ssekodesigns.com/ Here you can also purchase shoes that will support Joyce, Allen, and the 12 other beautiful women working at Sseko.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kristen and Robinah

Sorry about the ridiculous amount of background noise. If there's a quiet place in Kampala, we've clearly yet to find it! I reference the Skype call in this video. If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to scroll down and watch it. I promise it will make you smile.


A Day at the Salon

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Welcome Katie Martin

Welcomes Katie Martin to the team tomorrow! Katie, compelled by compassion, has selflessly left her comfortable life in San Fransico to volunteer for Purse of Hope for the next 9 months.

To begin, she'll be volunteering in Bwaise facilitating English classes, strengthening and expanding the bead-making program, and working one-on-one with the girls. She'll also play a key role in sharing the stories of the beautiful things happening in Bwaise with all of Purse of Hope's friends and supporters.

Katie has a big heart and is excited to love, listen, and learn. After a few months, we hope to bring her to Gulu to share her gifts and talents with the girls in the Total Impact Home.

Thank you Katie!

-Kelsey Morgan
Country Director

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


This week 6 of the girls in the Total Impact House (along with their mentor, Auntie Susan) asked us if they could get baptized on Saturday. Our answer, of course, was YES!

The last 2 months have been an extremely beautiful time of spiritual and personal growth in the lives of these girls. They are hungry for the word of God, eager to prayer, and constantly singing songs of worship. They wake up at 5am every morning to pray and worship. They sing songs proclaiming, "When I remember what the Lord has done I will never go back anymore." They pray for one another and gather around their bibles after school.

This week I asked Beatrice how she was doing. She told me with a huge smile on her face, "My life has been difficult, I've gone through many struggles, but I know that God brought me to Purse of Hope because he has a good plan for me."

Just a few months ago Beatrice wanted to give up. She was feeling discouraged because at age 17, she is only in 7th grade. A few weeks ago things began to change. She began studying diligently and made a deal with the mentors to speak only in English so she could improve. She then began sharing her dream of becoming a nurse and volunteered to be the “House Nurse,” taking care of all her sisters in the house when they fell ill. She’s now dreaming even bigger. Instead of a nurse, she now dreams of becoming a doctor.

It’s amazing what God is doing in the lives of these girls and it’s a testimony to all involved that God really does work miracles.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lawyer Pauline

Pauline, one of our stellar girls in Bwaise, was recently elected educational prefect at her school. It's Pauline's dream to become a lawyer. She even introduces herself as "Lawyer Pauline." She is brilliant, hardworking, and truly cares about others.

We met her English teacher and were able to find out more about her new and highly esteemed position as well as how he views her as a student. As educational prefect, Pauline is the class leader for education for her entire grade level. This means that she organizes debates and special programs, is responsible for all the classroom materials, helps students who are struggling, sets an example for others, arrives early to school, and even reminds teachers to be in class on time.

Her teacher shares in this video that Pauline is a student who truly cares about others is motivated to excel in school. Even before she was elected, he states that she was performing all the roles of the educational prefect without having the title. He admires that Pauline enjoys challenges, loves having big responsibilities, and is willing to take the time to help classmates who are struggling. With such a brilliant mind and amazing character, we believe that Pauline will succeed and one day become a lawyer!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Annet's Story - Installment 3

"Yeah, of course you love me!" -Annet

As you've probably gathered from Annet's interview and other POH posts, there's a tremendous emphasis on education in Uganda. Without it, quite simply, children are doomed to a life of abject poverty, and in many cases, prostitution. Though I certainly believe that educating young women is paramount to their future success, it pales in comparison to them feeling truly loved and cared for.

What's beautiful is that they are feeling loved because we're sending them to school. To care about them is to care about their futures. Our girls are awed by such a generous outpouring of love and as we've stated many times before, they are now pouring that into others.

Annet wants to be a lawyer. I have no doubt that she will be a great one - not just because her school fees are currently being covered, but because she knows we’re rooting for her and hundreds of people want to see her succeed. With that kind of love and support she can conquer the world!

Personally, there is nothing that motivates me more than this. I hear many stories of insidious abuse and incomprehensible circumstances that would leave even the most stoic person burning for justice, and yes, each one makes me want to fight harder, yell louder and rally whomever will listen. But the true driving force that propels me to keep doing this is when I ask one of the girls, like Annet, "Do you know you are loved?" and I hear that emphatic YES! Love is what removed them from the insidious abuse and incomprehensible circumstances in the first place, and it is love, married with action, that will enable them to grow and heal.

I encourage you to please share Annet's story with others. It's giving her a voice and the power affect change.

- Kristen

Annet's Story - Installment 2

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Annet's Story - Installment 1

Annet was born in Northern Uganda in 1993, six years after Joseph Kony formed The Lord’s Resistance Army to incite an armed rebellion against the Ugandan government. For well over twenty years the LRA has been responsible for pandemic devastation including murder, rape, abduction, mutilation, forcing children to participate in hostilities, and the sexual enslavement of women and children.

For us, it’s a sobering history lesson. For Annet, it’s been a living hell.

When she was young, her father was abducted from their home, leaving her mother and seven siblings to fend for themselves. Two other relatives were told they’d be spared if they killed others in the village. They did and were not. Her best friend was abducted at the age of nine. “One day we were playing,” Annett explained, “and the next day she was gone.” Annet tried to continue with her studies, but it was impossible when constantly having to flee from militant rebels. Her mother eventually sent her to a school many miles away, but shortly thereafter failed to pay the school fees. Annet was left to take care of herself. She fell prey to a life of prostitution at the age of 13.

Annet’s interview is divided into three short segments. In this, the first video, she describes how she and her family were affected by the LRA. In the second video, Annet unravels how she came to live on the streets. And in the final installment, she talks about life in the Total Impact House.

There are, among the POH girls, seemingly countless new achievements, and we want to share and celebrate them all. What we can’t do, however, as we continually move forward, is forget where it is they came from, what they have survived and what each of their harrowing stories can teach us. I am grateful for Annet’s willingness to grant us a glimpse of the incomprehensible.

She represents many. It is nearly impossible to find a Northern Ugandan not scarred, either physically or psychologically, by the war. The statistics vary, of course, but it’s been estimated that nearly one million Northern Ugandans have been driven from their homes because of the LRA. Over a quarter of a million have been murdered, and most sickeningly, thousands of the country’s most vulnerable, the children, have been turned into orphans, sex slaves, prostitutes, or killing machines.

POH’s mission is to provide aftercare to girls who have been trafficked and/or forced into the commercial sex industry. Part of that care includes giving the girls a voice and empowering them through their testimony. It’s my prayer that as Annet speaks, we will listen. Really listen.

Then act.