A mother’s love

Is it possible, really, that there are things I have not said about this woman? Well, perhaps it isn’t always what you say but how you say it. For her birthday this year, I will revisit some of the lessons she has taught me. I know other people have learnt from them so I shall speak for all of us 🙂

I just read this and although I wrote it last year, it covers most of what I want to say, so perhaps today I will only make a few more additions to what may one day become a collection of letters to my mother, our mother.

“My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.”

1. Your guests are royalty

You need to be fly on the wall when we are receiving guests. Each one requires a special kind of welcome down to even buying them their favourite drink if mum knows which one it is. I have seen some of these people for years, so I will know they are coming and still go on about my business but no, one must give them special treatment till they leave. It is worse if they are spending the night. Even if they came on a bicycle, bus or plane, you shall press the best bed sheets and give them 5 star treatment, even when it is your room that is now becoming theirs 😀

It is so ‘bad’ that even my very own dear brothers who don’t stay at home have to be treated like kings when they visit. Breakfast menus change, suddenly they need a chauffeur and one must pick after these grown men. Hehe, I grew up and stopped complaining. I am now happy to play my part in making their stay grand because one needs to make the best of all the time spent with family. *once in a while a side eye shall escape *

2.Stay up, listen, be present

My brother says that when he was a student far away from home, he would buy a call card specifically to catch up with mum. He would have the issues to discuss noted down so that nothing was left out but alas! Mum would give him so much ‘kaboozi,’ he would even forget why he called and his list would have to wait for the next week or month. Knowing her, the first part is about healthy eating and questions about your weight, vegetables et al, then everything follows.

Nonetheless, she is an amazing listener who will keep in mind all your milestones and pray about your trials.

When guests come home, the television is to be switched off, as you speak to her, your phone should be far away. Those things you do where you look at your phone and reply a text but keep going ‘Yeah, uh huh…’ will not cut it. It is only fair you return the attention she gives.

There are so many times I have come late after a long day. I neither want to eat nor talk, just a bath and my bed. She will wait and give you company as you eat or just ask ‘How was your day?’ Whether you give the short version or long one, you know that someone cares to ask and usually, that is enough.

3. Mother knows everything, even when she doesn’t

She is always right, always. Instead of asking a fortune teller, just bring your boyfriend/boss/best friend home for tea. After that evening, she will most likely tell you many things that you looked at but didn’t see, heard but didn’t listen to.

It is from very simple things to actual life changing ones.Before the rains even began recently, she saw me walk out of the house and asked me why I wasn’t wearing closed shoes. I didn’t have a good reason except that  wanted to wear sandals. Two hours into my errands and the skies growled and gave way to endless rain. I died in my movie.

From a young age I have taken her predictions seriously, and I can still hear her voice when I am about to fall off the right road.

4. Compromise

I love road side chicken and in mum’s eyes it is unhygienic and deadly. However, when I am under the weather, she will bring it home and even get mad if I eat too little. See a team player!

I borrow her car all the time and sometimes she needs it or me but as soon as I share my plans- she is willing to compromise. She owns the car and me, technically, but never to rub those things in my face.

Speaking of rubbing things in faces, today her reply to my birthday text had a ‘LOUD HINT.’ Unless I get grandchildren, I have no reason to live for many more years.’ Well played mummy dearest. (CC the rest of you guilty clan members)

5.Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Today is her birthday so I can’t say negative things,right? Are you sure?

Have you met someone who arrives at parties before the host? This one time we were so early, that the priest ended up making me a ‘one-woman choir’ because there was no one else (They all came late, including the host!) I came up with the order of mass, hymns and all this time hoped she was getting all my side glances. *fail*

Thanks to her, I value my appointments and time but sometimes, the ‘recipients’ fail me. How do I know that it is bad? These days she sees me panicking and says “Why are you in a hurry yet you know that they will be late?”

It isn’t just time, she is a perfectionist with everything else from furniture alignment to dress code, no matter how old you are!

Recently, I got home exhausted at about 11.00 p.m and ‘they’ asked me why my shirt was creased. “Is that how you were the whole day?” I rest my case.

6. Make new friends, but keep the old

When mum tells me of the friends she has had for over 30 years, I listen in awe. They still talk and laugh like little girls. Their friendships are not marred by many vices that I see in young people today and it is refreshing. I envy what they have/had and hope that we can emulate at least half.

She has taught me not to mix friendships and to compartmentalize. It is possible to have friends that are geeks-introverts-fashionistas-introverts and sustain all of them in their capacities, even if they never meet.

I have also learnt to maintain privacy even when the rest of the world sees the picture they want to see.

Speaking of privacy , she hates photographs of her taken but after my brother and I took 8,765 pictures without her knowledge, one or two surfaced *evil grin*

mom

7. Beauty that is skin deep

What can I say, she is gorgeous! No pricked ears, minimal jewellery at all times, nail varnish, huh? What is that? And yet her beauty is natural and simply timeless. She can come to me and tell me how mosquitoes bit her and she has swellings and I am like ‘Huh, I only see beauty spots.’ It is really true that love blinds us to all imperfections because I see only her beautiful self.

She has her own style and it works. Recently, a friend asked me when I had bought the ‘new’ bag I was holding. I told him I had had it for at least two years, then it hit me. I am becoming her! She will carry one bag for weeks before switching to the next one which will also work plenty of weeks before the next switch. *See our lives*

If there is anyone I know whose life is a gospel, it is my mother. Through pain and sorrow, joy and grace, she remains her.

She does not need to tell you she is a Christian because she walks the talk-

She tells us she loves us, but she doesn’t need to because her every action screams of love that is clear for anyone to see.

In Mother Theresa’s words;

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

That right there is how my mother lives her life and the rest of us try to walk in her footsteps. Thankfully, they are wide enough for us to fit and have room for us to grow into them.

If you listen to her prayers, they will revolve around everyone but her and on this day, I pray that she will have many amazing years filled with joy derived from her friends and family but also her own for the jewel that she is.

Happy birthday dear mommy, I love you forever and a day :-*

 

On becoming a champion

On November 9th last year,I watched this young lad perform. His song was fairly new and not many people knew it or him for that matter. About a handful of people were singing along while the rest quietly watched or chatted with friend.

After his performance, he walked up to me and said “Thank you for the opportunity to perform here.” I do not know if he could see the shock on my face.  Whereas it wasn’t the first time 40 days over 40 smiles had been in contact with artists at our events, it was rare that they would be the ones to show gratitude and not the other way around.

He later added that he was so impressed with the work we did, he wanted to have a concert and have proceeds dedicated to the cause on May 8th 2014.

The Champion Concert was indeed held on May 8th 2014 and Benezeri fulfilled his promise.

Big dreams

How does a 20 year old choose to have a concert on a Thursday at the MTN arena and expect people to come? There is work/school the next day and this is not the most convenient location. Also,it is Hip hop for crying out loud, it isn’t even that popular. What? You want people to donate books too, and carry them to a concert? I knew you were crazy but that is plane insane.

There were over 500 people who came out that night, they sang, danced and screamed. They watched artists who have been around for a while and then got a taste of some ‘newbies,’ they were were the first audience to listen to Benezeri’s maiden album and they were given exactly that.

Books? Oh yes, people carried books to a ‘Hip Hap’ concert, about 120 of them to be exact, in boxes even.

benezeri with gloves

There are several Ugandan artists who are comfortable with having a few hits that they are known for, which they shall perform at ‘grand events’ but the best position they can take is that of a ‘curtain raiser.’ They have no album to their name and that isn’t such a big deal because they still make money off the hits and remain popular. Other have made great videos. You look at them and can’t remember what the song was about but you know that this person invested in his product. Others shall have album launches every other day, it doesn’t matter if there are 8 songs including remixes of songs from the one before.

A couple of days ago, Benezeri decided to put his entire album online for free. That is right, all of it.

You don’t believe me? Check here Champion or here yup, FREE!

I caught up with him to find out why he decided to make such a bold move and also picked his brain a bit on music and life.

benezeri 1

 

A little over one week later,how do you feel about the show- the support the hip hop fraternity gave you and the fans that showed up for the Champion concert?





The night of May 8th seems like a dream. A recent dream.  It was such a glorious night. So many people to thank. Every musician that came through and spared a few hours to be, and perform, at the concert, I’m really grateful. I can’t remember any time I saw all those people in one place, especially just out of love and support. It was deep. Im forever grateful to the people that came through to attend the show. It was such a humbling and satisfying feeling to see each and everyone of them. The support I received after too, was special. It’s like everybody was genuinely happy for me . It’s been a rewarding experience.

 

What were some of your biggest challenges as you planned this concert?

I think the biggest challenge was finding the resources to pay for the venue, the events company and many other costs.

Lessons learnt?
I learnt so many lessons. But one of them was that if you believe and trust in God, and you back that up with persistence and a good team, nothing is impossible.

You have decided to put your album up for free download, this isn’t something you hear everyday. What drove you to make this decision? What has the reaction been so far?

As expected, I have received a lot of condemnation and criticism, but mostly from “industry” people. I have got tonnes of calls, whatsapps and messages asking me whether I’m in my normal mind frame. The consumers though, are very happy and are listening. They like the songs which is such a huge reward for me.

I put up the album for free download for many reasons. The main reason being, I really wanted people to listen to the album and share it. When I made this album, I wasn’t thinking about how much money I wanted to make. I was thinking about how much I wanted people to hear it. 


Secondly, if Kanye West or Chris Brown or even Ice Prince releases an album, I will be able to access and download it the next day.It  doesn’t matter whether or not it’s the artiste that puts it  up for download. What matters is that it is accessible and it indirectly benefits the artiste because people are able to listen and that is every musician’s greatest reward.

Next, the people that buy CD’s  don’t do so because they can’t find the song somewhere else. An avid fan will first download the songs and then if they have the money, they will purchase the CD. The 2 are not mutually exclusive. Actually, people that buy CD’s in this day and age consider the CD a souvenir or something they can look at and be proud of and keep. That’s why the “Champion” CD can also be bought at Soundcup (Garden city) for UGX 20,000.
Finally, ‘it’s not about the money, we just wanna make the world dance.’ Of course not literally, I’m not a dancehall artiste. But, I definitely will not let money cloud my judgement and decisions. As somebody said in one of the online debates that ensued after my announcement, “Open your eyes, money is not the only reward in life”

What is next for benezeri?

The next thing I’m working on is a few very nice videos for the songs I have recorded. Look out for those.

Slowly by slowly,I shall also be working on  my next album for 2016. I’m also hoping to graduate in early 2016.

What message do you have for young dreamers?

My message to young dreamers is, no one else will ever see your vision as clearly as you, so stop wasting time debating it with people and seeking their approval. Instead, get started. Also, people are fond of “advising”and discouraging. One of my favorite quotes from Kanye West is “How are you going to convince me that I will not succeed in something, by giving me an example of how you failed in another?” There’s always a first time for everything.

There you have it, follow the links for Benezeri’s free music and purchase a copy of the CD ‘for free’ at only 20,000 UGX. Sound Cup (Third floor,Garden City Mall)

Happy Listening!

Writer’s Note: If we look close enough,we shall realise that all the role models we are looking for are right here, at home-doing extraordinary things with the least resources. If we support them, their limitless potential shall have limitless results-

 

 

Against all odds

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” 

 

A confident 30 something corporate lady walked into the board room at an investment firm. She was one of four short listed candidates for a top job.

She was asked several questions among which was the popular, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” She didn’t hesitate. She explained that she could not see that far and would rather discuss the ‘now’ because it is more realistic. She went ahead to add that her past five years had been filled with impulsive decisions that made her who she was today and she would rather not play the game as it should be but rather re-invent the wheel. Her job experience was impressive and her eloquence matched it. The panelists exchanged looks and promised to call her back as they parted ways.

She was the last interviewee and upon her departure, two out of the three panelists scoffed and sneered. In short, she was not traditional enough. Only one defended her ‘out of the box’ thinking.

Yesterday as I was filling an application I got into a similar mental dilemma. I was asked for my 5 year career plan and I quickly filled all the dreams I have for 40-40. I re-read the question and realised it was personal. That meant my replies needed to begin with ‘I’ instead.  As if that wasn’t enough, the next question was “What is your long term career plan?” I am sorry, 5 years was not enough? I closed the page and moved on to other things hoping I would later be inspired.

It is about 8 months since I got out of gainful employment and it seems there is no limit to what can possibly be learnt about people and life in general. I have had to ‘cram’ responses to questions like ‘What next?’ because to them what I am doing is temporary and I should soon snap out of it.

On Saturday a close relative said to me, “ Why don’t you go back to school and do something with your life, you are not Mother Theresa, you know? ” Hehe,  the comeback for that one took a little longer than usual. However, yesterday poor Mother T (rest her soul) ‘came back’ for me. A concerned well wisher asked me what I wanted to do to grow career wise. We discussed options before he remarked, “I understand if your purpose in life is to be Mother Theresa and inspire people. I shall not hold it against you.”

He must have wondered why I burst out laughing after. It was just a weird coincidence that she had come up one more time. Is it strange that I am discomforted by this ‘association’? I haven’t even sacrificed 0.000000001% of what she did for the poorest of the poor. This is not even up for discussion (shakes head), let’s move along.

Why do we have to label everything? Why can’t someone just be who they are?

You are single or married, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, a believer of God or an atheist. When are you just you, a human being?

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 

Joy, is 36, unmarried and more independent than anyone I know. She has had a series of bad relationships, the most recent being the most peculiar seeing as guy X ran away with several household items because he was apparently broke. She has more money than she can spend so this not so wise gentleman might as well have swallowed his ego and asked. No? Theft works better? Yes? Okay.

Before that she went from one guy to another simply to ‘fit in’ wit the married lot but she has decided to take a well deserved break.

She has reached the peak of her career, takes annual vacations and has pretty much anything money can buy. Is it her fault that she isn’t ‘settled’ yet? What is settling any way?

Society does not want to know her past. This person called society is more concerned about the ring-less finger and her poor ovaries. How shall she manage? Bambi..

Eve, on the other hand, played by the book. We graduated from University at about the same time. Months later she got married to her High School sweetheart and has two adorable children. This is how it should be done, right? She is settled and ‘knows what she wants,’ yes? So how come her and Mark only appear at church and parties together but don’t share a room in their own house? Why does she want to get a divorce but is afraid she will not get custody of her children? Is it her fault? Did she not do what she was ‘supposed’ to do?

Joy and Evelyn represent a world of women and men stuck in situations that are not new or surreal. It is just life being life and male, female, millionaire or pauper, we all have a story and it is even more beautiful if it is uniquely yours!

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

You, dear reader, know countless stories of people that are living a life that is not theirs, heck you might be too. The decisions you make are entirely yours to deal with. God knows all the mistakes I am constantly making are copyrighted. I shall not let anyone take the blame let alone consciously blame them!

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

The business executive who might not get the job because her responses weren’t conventional enough sleeps a lot better than the rest of us who walk with our heads up high because we are conforming to society’s idea of who we are or must be.

I can’t emphasise enough the value of being true to oneself.

If you find people struggling to label you, to explain where you belong or even ‘force’ you to belong somewhere because it will make them feel better, make them understand you or worse still make you just like them, that will be a good time to slowly walk away.

The road to the top is lonely and also narrow, you decide what or who gets to take it with you.

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” 

be you

The time to complain was yesterday; The time to act is NOW

Yesterday we visited some children’s homes, as part of our ground work to establish which ones have the most needs or are best suited to the kind of support that we offer. There were lessons to learn from several and it was especially pleasing to note that we have now learnt which questions to ask, how to be objective and carry out due diligence among other things.

I remember our first project two years ago was driven by 1% by a whim and 99% by emotions. We surely have grown.

Our main focus as we did this tour was the need for sustainability. This means that even though we know one of the homes we visited has children who survive on one a meal a day; we shall not rush to a retail shop, fill a truck with maize flour and carry it to the house. Instead, we shall give the caretakers capacity to purchase these supplies and allow them the pride that comes with knowing that their hard work paid off.

It was amazing to see some children already actively involved in economic activities. For one of the homes, the crafts are actually sold by the children to raise school fees directly. If their school fees is 150,000, they know that they have to make that much if they are to see a blackboard the next term, which makes them that much more determined. Is it fair for a 12 year old boy to trek under the scotching sun to get an education? No. Will you back that ‘No’ with a better solution? (….) Are we going to find ways to make the situation better while promoting his skill and nurturing his work ethic? Heck yes!!

I was particularly astonished to see that despite the limited space at one of these homes, they had  make shift reading tables for the children, especially those sitting for finals this year.

One of the boys, David has a profile that reads “I want to become a lawyer, so that I can become a politician then a president and change my country.” Enough said.

An elderly woman who looks after several women said she would love to cook a few snacks for sell to earn an extra income. Little things like samosas, fried cassava, mandazi etc. A moment later she changed her mind. She explained how complex it would be. “How do I continue frying when one of my children is staring at me with hunger written all over his face? Of course I will give him one and that won’t be enough so he will want another. The cycle continues.” She said as we shared a light moment laden with words unspoken. She looks after vulnerable children n her own house.

How heartbreaking it was as we left when she asked us to keep checking in. “I lost my son five months ago just before he graduated from Makerere, she said as she motioned towards a photograph of him.

“When I see young people like you I am reminded of him and I don’t feel lonely anymore,” she added with a sad smile.

Some moments stay with you forever.

Policy is important but how do you explain to an individual who has raised so many children at hear home that it is illegal to have that many under that roof? While we are still responding to that, let us put into consideration the fact that there would probably not be any place to take them if they were moved because only a handful of state-run children’s homes exist and not without their own shortcomings.

This isn’t one of those posts where I will suddenly request that the president intervenes. But then again,even if I did, he is quite busy opening taps and all.

The truth is that we (40-40) are not experts but I would rather passionate amateurs than lazy specialists.

About a year ago a pre-teenage boy thanked me for convincing him to stay off the street. I have no psychology major. Are you still going to blame your lack of action on absence of skill? I dare you.

I may not have 20,000 in my purse but as a team, we at 40-40 have raised over 100 million shillings to support vulnerable children.

I know that a Government official can steal this in a day and a corporate company signs such cheques in minutes but this is no competition.

I have seen the sweat, tears and sleepless nights that have led to this moment when I can talk about such a sum.

I have seen sacrifice redefined by individuals who have nothing to their name.

This post is not about what could have been, it is about what is and will be.

It s about what you can do in your own capacity visa vis what you can promise to do all your life.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

If a 40-40 volunteer who doesn’t even have a first degree can sit through a meeting and come up with brilliant ideas but more so implementation strategies, what excuse do our Members of Parliament have?

You have an i pad that you use mainly for solitaire, a chauffeur for your 4 wheel drive that has seen more lodge parking lots than it has your garage at home but pupils in your constituency still walk barefooted for several kilometres on dirt roads to get some sorry excuse of an education they may never utilise.

Toddlers in your community still die from diseases that can be immunised  and midwives use torches during child delivery, but this is normal,right?

So we sit and say “I will never vote, nothing ever changes.” Or “I voted and elections were rigged so my candidate lost.” Nothing is ever your fault and you are okay with that.

We all have our rights, we can choose to or not to exercise them but your greatest right should be your right to do right.

No education, Government or self help book can teach you do this.

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”  Ghandi

Amidst all this bent up frustration lies a message about a group of people that knows they can’t solve every problem but decided to start small and work their way up. I am proud to be part of this group.

We work with children, perhaps you are most disturbed by the environment and the fact that we barely recycle. How about you do something about that?

But when it comes to us;

Here  I am saying that if you had a rough childhood, you can still be part of making a better one for someone who deserves a second chance.

If you had  good one, allow another child to get a glimpse of what you had.

The supporters and well wishers of 40-40 have trusted us and I am asking them to trust us again because we are in this for the long haul.

If you still have your doubts, we understand you, join us to visit these children and see what we mean.

When we promise, demand delivery, if we slack, ask why.

The only person responsible for making a difference in your life, your community is you. The sooner we acknowledge this, the faster we can create the Uganda and eventually the world we want to see.

kids