In 2002, Kenneth Mugayehwenkyi was living and working in the USA while his wife Miriam and their 4 boys waited to join him from their native Uganda. During this time, they sponsored two Ugandan girls who were in the care of their elderly grandmother, Elizabeth. The girls’ parents having died, Elizabeth was alone in caring for her young grandchildren. Government assistance for the elderly, such as social security, pensions, insurance, medical care, disability and other entitlement programs do not exist in Uganda. Thus, senior adults are dependent on the previous generation to help meet their basic needs; however, in the aftermath of the HIV/AIDS crisis and numerous wars, many elder adults find themselves caring for their grandchildren without the health and resources needed for either generation to thrive.
While visiting his family in Uganda and their sponsored children, Kenneth discovered that Elizabeth and her granddaughters were living in a old dilapidated shack (structure that appeared on the brink of collapse). He immediately sought to remedy their situation and within 2 weeks, Kenneth had gathered the resources from his friends and support network in the U.S. and constructed a simple home for Elizabeth. Upon returning to the states, Kenneth began to mobilize support from friends in Pennsylvania in order to help other grandmothers that he had met through his friendship with Elizabeth. He felt like his eyes had been opened to the dire situation of the elderly in Uganda and his heart burned to alleviate their distress. With help from friend, Gwen Kahler, Kenneth saw that God had changed his heart and he no longer felt compelled to bring his family to the US; but he felt called home to relieve the suffering of seniors in Uganda, whom the world seemed to have forgotten.
Thus, Kenneth Mugayehwenkyi with the support of his wife Miriam, launched Reach One Touch One Ministries in October of 2003.
OUR OFFICIAL LAUNCH IN UGANDA
Working together, Miriam supported their family financially; while Kenneth commenced the relational investments needed to start the Reach One Touch One ministry. He began with daily visits with Elizabeth, in a desire to learn her story and alleviate her pervasive loneliness. Through their relationship, Kenneth was soon introduced to several other senior ladies, affectionately called “Grannies,” who shared the same story of loss, pain, loneliness and poverty. Recognizing his own limitations amidst the depth of need, Kenneth asked Elizabeth if they could all meet at her home weekly to seek God’s guidance. This Weekly Fellowship as it became known, was a safe place to worship, pray and enjoy the camaraderie of others. It became so popular that attendees were reluctant to leave.
These senior adults offered Kenneth a glimpse into the challenges of raising grandchildren while struggling with aging bodies, poverty and loneliness in a place where healthcare is not available. Kenneth reached out to friends and through their help, started providing meals at the fellowship and working to meet additional needs, as he was able. Kenneth learned that in order to continue these services, he would need to register Reach One Touch One as a legal entity. So he approached long-time friend, Kenneth Kataryeba (Kenneth K) and others who willingly formed the first ROTOM board; making Kenneth K the first Board Chairman. Then in April 2004, Reach One, Touch One Ministries or ROTOM was legally registered as an NGO in Uganda.
After learning about Kenneth’s plan to return to Uganda and serve the elderly, his friends Gwen Kahler and Jimmy Shoemaker were inspired to financially support his labors. These friends raised funds through connections in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Texas. These efforts culminated into ROTOM USA in early 2004, becoming ROTOM’s first fellowship partner. Colorado Springs and Monument, CO has been the home of ROTOM USA from 2010 until 2023. Due to a change in executive staff, in fall of 2023, the headquarters moved to Tennessee.
Kenneth was introduced to Bill and Marlene Wyatt through his former pastor and his wife, Robert and Della Innes of Full Gospel Church in Antigonish, Canada. In 2006, the Wyatt’s became the Founding Directors of ROTOM Canada serving as the second fellowship partner.
In 2004 and 2005, Kenneth’s long-time friends, Siska Wunderlich, Thomas Knierim and Sonja Otto visited the ministry in Uganda. They were moved by the vast needs of the seniors Kenneth was serving and by his passion to alleviate their pain. Upon their return home, these friends rallied others and together they became the first German sponsors. Due to increasing interest and support in Germany, Kenneth realized a more formal structure would be necessary. In 2007, he reached out to his former employer Missionswerk Frohe Botschaft (MFB) and requested their assistance and support. MFB responded well to Kenneth’s request and eventually became ROTOM’s third fellowship partner.
During a visit to Uganda in 2008, Linda Hallett, a grandmother herself, fell in love with ROTOM’s work and the elderly it supported. Ms. Hallett made repeated visits to her new friends in Uganda, and on one such visit brought along her childhood friend, Adrienne Shaw. Ms. Shaw was a UK citizen who returned home and mobilized friends to support the work of Reach One, Touch One Ministries. Adrienne soon became the Founding CEO of ROTOM UK, our fourth fellowship partner.
In the Summer of 2014, ROTOM Board member, Jay Hartwell was on a mission trip sponsored by The Ascent Church in Monument, Colorado to work with a partner church in Ethiopian called, Debre Zeit Central Town Church. These two communities of faith had been working together for several years. During his visit to the local church, Mr. Hartwell was alarmed at the grave situation facing many of Ethiopia’s elderly citizens and the grandchildren who fell under their care. Upon Mr. Hartwell’s return to the United States, he began a campaign to champion for these seniors. Ultimately, this initiated ROTOM’s expansion into that country; thus ROTOM Ethiopia was established as our fifth fellowship partner.