as seen in The Burlington Free Press

August 13, 2008

T-Shirts Cover Aid For Ugandan Children

By Gail Callahan

SHELBURNE -- Kristine Owens sometimes finds inspiration in her Chevrolet Tahoe. A notebook is easily accessible so the Shelburne woman can keep track of ideas.

"I keep a pad handy in case I think of something," said Owens, 42. "I jot it down if I think it pertains to the mission of a project."

In most cases, the ideas wind up on the front of a T-shirt with a message that grabs people's attention. About a year ago, Owens brought her marketing and design skills to TOUCH Uganda, a local nonprofit organization overseen by a five-member board that supports Ugandan communities with medical care for sick or abandoned children.

"I've always had a soft spot for children in need," said Owens, who is the vice president of TOUCH Uganda (Touch One Ugandan Child).

Owens' community outreach starts with a black T-shirt. The question, "whataugandado?" is embossed across the front in multi-colored lettering.

"The T-shirt is meant to spread awareness about Uganda, and the person is the conduit," Owens said.

The project has netted $3,500 for TOUCH Uganda, and Owens said about 175 shirts were sold. "Selfishly, it feels really good to help," she said.

The small African nation is known as the "pearl of Africa." It is battling poverty, civil unrest, illness and food shortages, Owens said.

The idea for TOUCH Uganda came more than two years ago. Sheila Morrissey, 45, of Shelburne visited Uganda and was moved by what she saw. She met a 2-year-old boy in Entebbe, and she was startled by his condition.

He weighed less than 10 pounds, suffered from a host of ailments, including malaria and severe malnourishment. The boy recovered after several months of proper medical attention, Morrissey said.

"I went not knowing what to expect," said Morrissey, TOUCH Uganda's president. "We saw what a difference someone can make in a child's life."

The organization donated $40,000 to outfit the Bwindi Health Center's new pediatric unit. "The mission is to go to Uganda communities that need financial assis- tance," Morrissey said.

Three to five board members of TOUCH Uganda plan to visit the country this fall, Owens said.

Get a T-shirt

T-shirts from TOUCH Uganda are available for $20 in sizes for children, men and women. Onesies with the same message are teamed with yoga pants for $25. The line is expected to expand next month, Kristine Owens said.

For more information on TOUCH Uganda, visit