While traveling around Uganda I received a message from our friend Mira Seewald.
“Are you going to Fort Portal?”
“I think so.”
“Well, if you do can you do me a favor and give a donation to Jonathan at the Single Mothers Foundation for me?” I was intrigued. We would visit Fort Portal.
We met Mira and her husband, Ivo, months before in Chilean Patagonia. They were spending 6 months traveling for their honeymoon. They visited Uganda before us and Mira had provided a lot of useful advice for us.
When we arrived in Fort Portal Mira wired me some money with instructions to use it in any was we saw fit to help the foundation. Unfortunately, Jonathan Mutegeki, chairman and founder of the Single Mothers Foundation, could not be reached on any of the numbers we tried. Luckily, we travel slowly and we tried for three more days to reach him, but we had no luck. On our last scheduled day in Fort Portal we got a call from a frantic and very apologetically Jonathan. It turns out another man had taken his phone to the capital of Kampala on accident.
We met Jonathan at his tiny office near a petrol station. Jonathan is a handsome and charismatic young man. His enthusiasm is infectious and we immediately became friends. He told us that he started the foundation because of his own childhood. His father was a truck driver and despite being married to his mother had girlfriends in any different towns. Girlfriends turned into multiple wives, which is not uncommon in Uganda. His father was mostly absent from Jonathan’s life from an early age, leaving Jonathan’s mother to raise him by herself. Jonathan’s childhood was full of struggles and he had to grow up fast.
As an adult Jonathan has vowed to help women and children going through similar situations. He created the Single Mothers Foundation. The Foundation assists 40 mothers and over 80 of their children. Assistance is based on each mother’s individual needs. It can include food, job opportunities, workshops, housings, and anything else that Jonathan can help with.
Mira’s donation provided the bulk of the funds we needed to make our donation. We decided to buy 150kg of rice and 50kg of sugar. Giving sugar to children with limited access to dental care is not the best idea, but it was almost Christmas. This would be a rare treat for them. Sometimes a bit of indulgence can be good, and these children and mothers certainly deserved it.
We spent a full morning purchasing, carrying, packing and delivering the goods to a small village where most of the mothers live near Fort Portal. 50 kilos of sugar is heavy and my back is still recovering. The rice came in much more manageable 25kg sacks that we loaded onto a single motorcycle. It’s amazing how much you can load onto two wheels.
About 15 of the mothers live in a single two room house with their children. We used this home and their front yard as a base of operations. Most of the 40 mothers attended. Their smiles were beautiful and we felt privileged to meet them, hear some of their stories, and give them a small bit of assistance.
Upon entering their home I immediately wanted to build modular bunk beds for the mothers. Currently, all of the mothers and children sleep on the floor. This is both uncomfortable and an inefficient use of space. The foundation does not own the houses they help provide, so any furniture the foundation provides must be able to be moved and adaptable to a variety of spaces. A few sheets of plywood and an afternoon could provide a real bed for these amazing people and if we ever go back I will build it for them.
We spent some time introducing ourselves and watching a small dance performance by the children. After these formalities we began sorting the rice and sugar into smaller divided rations for each of the 40 mothers. Valerie sat in the dirt while we did this, giving her chair to one of the mothers. She was immediately embraced as a rockstar.
Jonathan was in constant motion. His work is making a profound difference and his passion is obvious. Just by being together this group of mothers give each other strength and support. Being a single mother in Uganda carries a stigma and self-esteem is a big problem. By banding together the mothers are able to build confidence, and that confidence helps them find happiness and acceptance.
This was one of the most rewarding experiences we had in all of our travels throughout in Africa. We encourage anyone heading to Uganda to consider adding a visit to the mothers to their itinerary. Every bit of help makes a real difference.
To get involved contact:
+256 777 638415
PO BOX 749 Lugard Street
Fort Portal Uganda