When you travel to the northern region of Uganda from Kampala, you will have to cross one of the world’s most famous rivers: the Nile. The Nile River is more than just an incredible force of water that flows with authority from Lake Victoria through to Lake Albert and on to South Sudan. For this largely agrarian country, the Nile River is truly a source of life.  The vast majority of Uganda lies in the Nile Basin, and this geographical reality helps to make the country a rich, fertile land. (more…)

In more than thirty years as a widow, I’ve never seen a group work with widows like this. Never.” - Kristin Lokwea Bungatira, Gulu District

Traveling through northern Uganda last week, the long rural roads led us to groups of women, typically waiting under the shade of an enormous tree. They had assembled together because we asked them to meet us as part of our survey of TCON’s agricultural initiatives. In March, we coordinated maize and bean seed to reach over 30,000 similar women- mostly widows, caring for children and orphans, working to rebuild stable lives in this post-conflict region. Now, with the first planting season of 2012 in the books, it was time to see the results of the seed given. (more…)

The first time I met Joseph Elotu it became clear that he was going to live up to his reputation as the Ugandan gentle giant. His taller stature and calm presence were evident from the start and the fatherly tone of his voice, which closely resembles James Earl Jones’ rendition of Mufasa in The Lion King, solidified my fondness for him almost instantaneously. Each opportunity that I have been afforded to interact with this humble man has only served to deepen this feeling.

On our most recent trip, Craig and I were provided plenty of drive-time where we could investigate further how Joseph came to be who he is today – one of TCON’s greatest assets. I learned of his childhood and how he was mistreated and neglected. I discovered that at the age of fourteen, Joseph was undeniably impacted by the civil war that lasted over two decades in his country, as he was separated from his family and forced to take care of himself while he was still just a boy. I realized that Joseph’s work ethic was born long before he became TCON’s Country Director. But perhaps most poignantly, I was touched deeply by the evidence of this man’s dedication to women and children facing immense hardship within his own community. (more…)

Spending Time with Immaculate in Soroti

One of the things I look forward to most whenever I visit Uganda is eating chapati. Before I returned to the US after a six-month stay in Uganda back in 2006, I attempted to learn firsthand how to create this flatbread from Immaculate, TCON’s infamous cook. Considering the only two ingredients in this flatbread are water and flour, one might presume that it is a relatively easy recipe to create. I had to sit through a handful of demonstrations by Immaculate, however, because without specific measurements I struggled to accomplish the right proportions of each of the ingredients. Now, over 5 years since I departed Uganda, I am still unable to master the art of chapati-making. In fact, I have given up trying and opt instead to get my chapati fix each time I visit Uganda.

I learned on this trip that Immaculate’s chapati is perhaps the best chapati in all of Soroti (the district where our Uganda office resides). So of course hers is likely to put my best effort to shame! In fact, Immaculate’s cooking in general is known to be exceptional. In a conversation with Immaculate on this recent trip I learned about how she began her own catering business on the side to fill her time and increase her income generation when she’s not working at the TCON house. (more…)

The holidays are drawing to a close, and its only natural that we begin to really think about the approaching new year- 2012 is nearly upon us! What kind of posture we have towards a new calendar year is largely tied to how we feel about the year we just finished. There is no shortage of people and media sources summarizing 2011. Top sellers, new trends, impact stories, and favorite movies are all being debated. (Isn’t it obvious? #1: Tree of Life #2: Muppets Movie) Four million people went to YouTube to let Google do the summarizing of 2011 for them.

More personally,

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There is no escaping the reminders of the quickly approaching holiday celebrations. From the five emails I awake to every morning debriefing me on the number of hours remaining to get that perfect deal at the clothing store I most often frequent, to the Christmas jingles playing in every restaurant and the Facebook indicators that 39 people have posted something about Christmas each day — the season is clearly upon us. (more…)

Wating for Dinner at Teso Widows Conference

Outside of the TCON conference center in Soroti, the cooks were preparing a meal for the ladies in the yard.  This was something I was interested in seeing during my first visit to Uganda.  Its one thing to imagine hundreds of women gathering together for several days at a widows conference, but the practical details like meal planning are harder to envision!  It’s safe to say that the size of the main pot cooking the beans was roughly equivalent to the size of my first car in high school. (more…)