The Family First Parent Empowerment Program was started in direct response to the desperation we found when we reopened our center after the COVID lockdown of 2020. We were overwhelmed with the needs of families being evicted from their homes, parents struggling to feed their hungry children, and sick babies whose parents had no access to the medical care they required. Families were struggling and we needed a new tool to help them find stability and independence. 


The program’s goal is to get to the root issues that keep people locked in poverty and dependency. We started with 18 families, providing basic business classes, a loan, and tutoring for their children who were under the age of 5. Six months later, 16 of those families had growing businesses that were able to provide for all the needs of their families! But we knew even more was needed. We expanded the program into an intensive year-long program focusing on three core issues that keep adults in our community from an independent, bright future: deep psychological trauma, learned helplessness, and limited access to business development tools.

Healing Past Trauma

The Family First Center is situated inside a densely populated slum area in Kampala, Uganda. This area is predominantly a resettlement area for long-term refugees fleeing the atrocities of war in Congo. Every day we have people come to our office telling horrific stories of surviving war. Many have survived multiple traumas including rape, violent attacks, or debilitating injury.  They have seen the death of parents, spouses, or children. Their trauma is rekindled every time they tell their story and keeps them locked in the past, preventing them from experiencing a better future. 


Family First believes that the first step in helping refugees break the cycle of poverty and dependency is to resolve that past trauma. A group of local counselors visit our center each week to provide group and one-on-one counseling sessions. We acknowledge the real and debilitating trauma experienced by the community that we serve and want to see them set free to enter a future that is not limited by those experiences.

Eliminating Learned Helplessness

“Learned helplessness is a state that occurs after a person has experienced a stressful situation repeatedly. They come to believe that they are unable to control or change the situation, so they do not try — even when opportunities for change become available.” (Medical News Today) Learned helplessness is one of the barriers our participants experience when trying to break free from the cycle of dependency. Their lives have been full of hardship and grief. It is vulnerable to want to strive for a good life when your experience has conditioned you to believe that you do not control your own life. 


In addition to working with a skilled counselor, each person works through a personal empowerment program designed to foster independence and allow participants to see a future where they are not reliant on continued support. Participants learn strategies for believing in themselves, growing personally, making goals for their future, and finding supportive communities that help keep them on track and allow them to support others in their growth.

Building a Successful Business

As each participant is progressing in counseling and their own path to personal empowerment, they also begin the business training portion of the program. We work with each person to develop a business plan based on their personal talents, family needs, and environment. Each participant attends classes on marketing, business management, bookkeeping, English, and many other skills to help their business thrive. By the time they receive the business loan, they are equipped to manage every aspect of their new venture. We continue to provide support in real time with accounting, marketing, and inventory.


As participants kick off their businesses, they commit to a savings plan that will support both the needs of their business and family. This includes a savings plan for the continued education of their child who has been enrolled in our Early Childhood Education Program. Our goal is that by the end of one year they will leave the program a successful business owner, independent and thriving, able to support their family and community.