Long Journey To Africa « Hackers For Charity

The Long Journey to the US!

Screen Shot 2016-07-31 at 2.24.36 PMBig announcement for the Long family! We are moving back to the US for a while. While it’s typical for most ex-pats / missionaries to schedule home visits on a regular basis, we haven’t had any real time “back home” in seven years, and a “return home” is long overdue.

Honestly we are burned out, and have been for a while, but that’s not the only reason we’re coming back. We need to get Trevor settled into his first year of college, get Makenna settled into her second year and with high-school looming in two short years for Declan (and with RVA full) we need to start shopping around now. We’ve been blessed to have a great education for Declan through the years, but quality high school education is simply non-existent in our area.

We also really need to fellowship with a church in the US and spend some time as members of a church community. This is something we have desperately missed (and something we desperately needed but never had) in the years we have been here.

One of the biggest reasons we are coming back now is because our programs in Uganda (The Computer Training Center, the Keep and the Ngozi Creations leather program) are all finally ready to run on their own. This is incredibly exciting for us because it was never our intention to oversee and run these programs forever. We always dreamed of handing them over to an amazing Ugandan staff and it seems we finally have that staff and they are finally ready!

We will be looking for someone to rent our (furnished) house while we are away so that the leather program can continue without major disruption, our home staff can continue in their current positions and we can come back to Uganda relatively easily if we feel called to.

While in the US, I’m hoping to work with the many US-based volunteers that have faithfully asked, “What can I do to help?” For years my answer to that question was two-fold: send financial support or come to Uganda. This support was amazingly helpful but my goal for HFC was never for it to be all about Uganda. I’ve always wanted to work with hackers in their local areas, doing good work with tech knowledge and showing the positive side of the hacker community. Finally, I’ll be able to work directly with HFC volunteers in their own communities providing technology training and support to organizations that need it the most.

Specifically, I hope to do “tech roadshows” or “tech camps” in disaffected areas to engage kids and train teachers in maker skills (3D printing, robotics, CNC, hardware hacking, Pi, Arduino, etc). I’ve seen how transformative tech and maker training can be but I’ve also seen how wide the gap is for many schools and individuals that don’t have the budget to get into high-end tech skills. We’ll be looking for creative ways to excite teachers and students and find ways to provide tech gear and curriculum so that the fun and learning can continue after we’ve gone. I also plan on getting to as many smaller conferences as I can so I can meet, hang out with and hear from the hacker community that makes this all possible. I’m also not entirely opposed to setting up a US-based HFC maker space so that we have a space where folks can get access to the skills and gear to pursue their high-tech dreams.

My goal is to one day be able to work full-time for HFC but right now we frankly don’t have the budget. So I’m likely going to have to find a part or even full time job to make ends meet, and right now the details are pretty sketchy. I’ve been “out of work” for seven years, and getting back into the workplace is a pretty scary proposition. We also have to figure out healthcare, schooling and so many things that are frankly terrifying, but I’m still convinced that we need this time in the US and I’m willing to do whatever I can to continue the work of HFC, even if that means becoming a full-time volunteer once again.

So that’s our big news. We leave in less than two weeks and will be based in Northwest Arkansas but I hope to be traveling around so I can meet the thousands of you that have faithfully supported our work through the years.

Thank you so much for all the kindness, love, prayers and support. We couldn’t have done it without you!

New year, new man

Disclaimer: I suspect that this will be an unpopular post because it seems heavy-handed and I talk about God, and spiritual matters. I’m sorry if this offends you. This is a personal post, and since I don’t have a personal blog, I’m posting it here. Note that HFC is not religiously-affiliated, although I (Johnny) am a Christian.
 I had a birthday recently. Yeah. It was an interesting time for me because I really faced it head-on. Normally, I do my best to avoid any mention of it because I didn’t want to be reminded that I had lost another year. But this year, for whatever reason, my reasoning was reversed. Next year, I want to celebrate a gained year on my birthday, not mourn another lost one. In short, it’s a new year, and I hope that this is the birth of a new man.
 Looking back, I realize I’ve wasted a lot of years. In order to change that, I’m going to have to be very proactive, and that begins with having a plan, and to make sure I actually stick to it, I plan to go public with my plan. This is that.
 First, I want to grow spiritually. I want to get to that place where I can stop playing “catch up” with God, and just walk with Him all the time. I want to stop asking for forgiveness and just go where He leads and do what He says. I want to be purposeful in this because when I am, amazing things happen and when I’m not, tragic things happen. I’m sorry God, I’ve strayed and I’m sorry I haven’t been purposeful sooner. I promise to do better and know you’ll help me.
 Second, I want to be a better husband and a better father. I haven’t been a great husband or father for a long time for lots of reasons. Some of the reasons are horrible reasons, but some of them are actually good reasons: I’ve tried to be a “good provider” and “do good work in Uganda” and “leave a legacy”. On the surface these are good things, but they aren’t good things when they interfere with my relationship and my proper role as a husband and father. I’m sorry, Jen, Makenna, Trevor and Declan for screwing up so often and not being all I could be. I promise to do better, with God’s help.
 Third, I haven’t done a great job with HFC. I’ve tried too hard to “do good” and “do the right things”. In the midst of this, it became a challenge to prove that HFC could be viable and to prove that it was a good idea to jump off the ladder and leave everything behind. I lost sight of things, and everything got complicated, but HFC was founded with a clear vision: sharing that feeling I felt the first time I came to Uganda and gave of myself. And at the heart of that was people. As a result, very few people have experienced what I experience and I want to change that. I want to find a way to get people involved. After all, it’s about helping people, and helping people help people. I’m sorry I lost track of the core of what HFC is about, and I promise to get back on track. I’ll begin by posting volunteer opportunities in Uganda and working on other domestic opportunities to allow interested volunteers to “get their hands dirty”.
 That leads me to the HFC supporters and donors. In the midst of trying to make “this all work” I find myself working 15-hour days keeping all the plates spinning. I get so overwhelmed that days and weeks go by and I don’t even post to tell you what’s going on. I am so under water that I’ll miss emails from people who care, and I’ve even missed donors who gave of themselves (whether directly or through an event) and months and months will go by before I even realize they pitched in and then it’s just awkward to even say “thanks” without seeming unauthentic. I get angry and irritated when I donate something to a school or individual and I don’t hear anything back. That double standard is quite unacceptable. I’m sorry if I’ve made you feel slighted or if I’ve blown you off. It wasn’t on purpose, but it’s unacceptable either way. I’m deeply thankful for every single contribution, and I promise to do better to let you know that.
 Last but certainly not least, there are people that I have hurt directly by being a poor reflection of Christ. All I can say is that I am deeply sorry. I never meant to hurt anyone, and I never meant to stray. I hope you can forgive me. I can’t promise that I’ll be perfect but I can promise to keep my eyes on God and live unselfishly and focused on what He wants for my life.

Hack3rCon II

Hackers for Charity and the 304Geeks Present Hack3rCon II

For the second year in a row, Hackers for Charity and the 304Geeks will bring you, Hack3rCon. Back in the capitol city, Hack3rCon II will be from October 21st-23rd, 2011 at the Charleston House Hotel and Conference Center in Charleston, WV.

The conference will feature nationally re-known speakers and published authors from around the country, focusing on a wide range of information security topics. In addition, we have added a new event. This year we will be offering several live workshops where attendees can spend time with experts earning valuable hands-on experience.

In addition to the talks and workshops, 304Geeks will sponsor a party featuring musical guests Dual Core. The party will give attendees an opportunity to network with speakers, industry leaders, and other attendees. Friday night will also feature a podcast party with podcasters from the InfoSec Daily Podcast.

Back by popular demand, the Network King of the Hill (NetKotH) challenge returns. Top prizes for the winner!

Tickets are now on sale at http://Hack3rCon.org.

Tim Kettering visited with us today at the Computer Training Center. A former member of Geek Squad, Tim came to Jinja to work with Tukula.org, Ekisa and Amani. He heard about Hackers for Charity and wanted to help us any way he could. I thought first of our technicians, Gerald and Sparks who have been swamped with repair work lately.



Yesterday was a horrible day. More on that later. I did help one lady that came in, and I see that as my single accomplishment. She brought in this thumb drive she had taken to a print shop in town. They put it in their computer and it stopped working. Take a guess why. One computer did this.


I’m back from the US and I just wanted to send a quick thank you to the folks that put in the time and energy to send us gear this time around.

– Sam Kinch for downloading Rachel (again) along with lots of other goodies too big for us to download ourselves.. And for the Tableau.
– ‘Chrisnguyet’ for the load of beef jerky
– Frank Forrester for the hard drive and the massive downloads
– Regina for the really fun LOTR posters
– Andy Rosenzweig at Merit for (still!) handling the packages for us

I really appreciate each and every one of you!

Thanks again!

Children of Grace

We have worked with Children of Grace (link) for quite awhile. This week we trained more than 30 of their kids in our computer training center. They were all Senior students (high school equivalent) with limited computer training. We provided classes in typing, Microsoft Word and Excel and gave them free time at the machines to play around. The training lasted for three days and along with our other students really packed the place. The first set of pictures show our center which is completely packed out with students. You’ll see our staff members Teo, Andrew and Gerald hard at work helping instruct and assist the students.

We also worked in the COG office. Their office is very modern, with new furniture and equipment, but it’s also one of the more complex setups we’ve worked with here in Uganda. We helped them troubleshoot some network problems and updated the high-speed Internet setup which we installed a few months ago. The last two photos gives you an idea of the setup we’re supporting for Children of Grace.

Even though they’ve had a few hiccups, they are very happy with their office setup and we’re happy to support them in their mission to assist the vulnerable children here in Uganda.

Riots in Kampala

It started with this and ended up looking like this. We’re OK.

Solomon – You Say It Best


Here’s a short compilation of Solomon, a young guy that lives here in Uganda. I met him about two years ago, and then he disappeared. It turns out he was in Iraq working alongside the US military. That’s a story in itself.