When one door closes

“His palms are sweaty, knees weak arms are heavy. There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs”

Lately, I have been going through different versions of what Eminem rapped about in ‘Lose yourself.’ (You know things are a little crazy when you start quoting Eminem) It is a few days to the event croak and rhyme and if you have planned an event before, you know how crucial the last week is. You often find yourself in motion that involves two steps forward, five steps back. On top of that, life does not give you a break for one phase to end before another crops up, one has to find balance somehow. Up till last night, I was far from balance.  I was working on an application for a grant that if received, would change the lives of so many young women in Uganda. The more I got engrossed in it, the more I reflected upon life and the 40 days over 40 smiles dream. Now that I finally clicked ‘send,’ the anxiety of waiting for the outcome is going to follow- a feeling I didn’t think I would have to relive so soon. As December came to an end, a few friends encouraged me to apply for a fellowship I knew nothing about. I ignored the first two, but when four more people who don’t even know each other told me about it. I thought I would give it a shot. I looked around for references and clicked send on the day of the deadline in late January. Fast forward to an email informing me I was a semi-finalist and needed to do an interview. I began to believe that perhaps this was actually meant for me. Do you believe in signs? You know, you meet a ‘random’ person three times in the same place and start to think “Hmm, perhaps there is a reason; we should get to know each other?” Well, I started to think that perhaps these people getting in touch and my getting that far was a sign but I fought the urge to be excited or overzealous (albeit unsuccessfully) Eventually, I didn’t make the cut. I gave myself a week to mourn. It was filled with self pity, telling myself I wasn’t good enough or worth the trouble. No dramatic tears were shed but there was a huge lump in my throat that thankfully only lasted the duration of self pity. Once that was done, I went back to work.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

Ironically, about the same time in January,I had received a call from a friend of a friend.She was asking me what 40-40 needed in terms of capacity, which skills I would need to manage the organisation better and how best to train the team. I told her all our dreams and then some.I didn’t think much of it. Last month she called to share some good news. Her organisation (African Hope Network) had secured funding for capacity building within 40-40. Together with 5 other individuals, I had been selected to be a fellow for 2014. They did not want to support our projects but rather support us to become better at what we do for a period of 6 months to one year. Yaay us, right?! 😀 Someone finds you have fallen and are bruised, lonely with no place to go. She picks you up, takes care of the wounds and then gives you a place to stay, this is exactly what it felt like.

“I wished for someone to hold me up. Suddenly someone was there.”

When I suggested having a full time accountant as one of 40-40’s biggest needs at the moment and mentioned that we have not been able to afford remuneration for this position, she said the organisation would be happy to help! As if that wasn’t enough, a team member said he had always wanted to do more for the organisation and this was his opportunity.  He would quit his lucrative job to take the accountant’s position that comes with half his original salary and no benefits (except perhaps naps on  the office couch that we are yet to buy) Not to mention, after 6 months, chances are   his pay will be irregular if at all. I smiled to myself knowing that things had happened the way they had for a reason. The gift basket wasn’t quite empty and I learnt this a few weeks ago. When Justin posted a link and asked us to apply for the Tumaini awards, I didn’t know what they were about. I checked the website and found out that they are held annually and are organised by a group of NGOs including UNICEF, World Vision and Save the Children to reward individuals and organisations who are impacting communities in Uganda. I checked the deadline and confidently told him the day was long gone. He insisted on sending the application anyway. On 13th June, I received the award,thanks to his nomination, 1st place in the health category. To say that this came as a surprise is an understatement. This award also came with a 3,000,000 UGX cash prize. After I received the award I spoke to Justin and the phone conversation had one minute of silence between each sentence because he was as shocked as I was. Just a few days before we were joking about in and now-voila! When the prize money finally comes through, I am ready with a list of the things we need. It keeps changing but I am sure it will help us greatly. As a young organisation, all the recognition, funding and support that we receive is a great boost and gives us hope to carry on. Tumaini award pic

“… Because one who seeks the highest must not leave any path untried.”

Of course I wrote this so that you, who may have chanced upon this blog post can be reminded; a closed door isn’t the end of the road. You never know how many more are waiting to open but you will not see them if you keep looking back at the closed one.

“Each mistake teaches you something new about yourself. There is no failure, remember, except in no longer trying. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

In related News, we shall be opening doors (read gates) at 6.00p.m on Friday 4th July at the Uganda Museum. For only 10,000 UGX, you will get entertainment from the finest Ugandan  artists and poets. More info here There will be lots of food, drinks and great people to meet. Above all, here is a chance to change the lives of some awesome children while having fun. The children t Agape Children’s Home will have a better education and improved standards of living thanks to you. See you there, yes? 🙂

Akiba- “That which has been saved”

On Martyr’s day this year, the team at 40 days over 40 smiles decided to have lunch with the wonderful children of Akiba-Bless a child Foundation.

We were greeted with warm hugs and shy smiles before getting into the house to get to know the children  and tour the home.

We are happy to receive you 'welocome'

We are happy to receive you ‘welocome’

ben zindzi

 

The home looks after children who have cancer, whose parents lack means to pay for treatment. Each child comes with a caretaker who watches over them during the course of treatment. The home takes care of all their needs.

Brian, who started this home four years ago-took us through their history in brief. The room fell silent when he told us of the multiple deaths they had to deal with in 2012 when the health Ministry delayed to  dispatch medicine, only to release a batch of expired drugs too little, too late. He confessed that he was unprepared to lose any child and when the first death occurred, him and his staff were confused, unsure how to deal with the situation.

He must have noticed the grim looks because he quickly told us that ‘Akiba,’ means to be saved and children come to this home for exactly that. Many of them have walked out of their doors cancer free while others get to spend their last days in a fun, loving environment. That was comforting enough.

One success story is told of a little boy who was brought too
the home looking frail and weak. Doctors gave him about a week to live. He has been at the home for three years now and it has actually become his home-literally..

His nick name is ‘Kazeeyi‘ (old man) because he could not walk and limped like an old man. He is fearless, fun and so full of energy. We all tried to steal moments with him so his happiness could rub off. It worked! 😀
See below.

kazeeyi

 

Can’t touch this!

He drew a roundish shape on the black board and told me that was a head. When I asked whose head, he said 'Kapeere's.' I laughed heartily but when I asked for mine to be drawn, it was just as shapeless :D

He drew a roundish shape on the black board and told me that was a head. When I asked whose head, he said ‘Kapeere’s.’
I laughed heartily but when I asked for mine to be drawn, it was just as shapeless 😀

Kazeeyi and Kapere showing off their skills

Kazeeyi and Kapere showing off their skills

We decided to act a skit for the kids. It was based on the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. It was lovely to watch them laugh out loud though it seems the adults laughed harder.

Beaten and left for dead

Beaten and left for dead

The Good Samaritan and his loyal donkey come to save the day

The Good Samaritan and his loyal donkey come to save the day

 

The home is so free of anything that reminds you of illness. You can actually forget where you are.
They have plenty of games. It was a chance for us to bring out our inner child.

I spoke to a self proclaimed cynic who came with us on that day. He said our methods are ‘childish’ but somehow they work. I tend to agree somewhat. The heart that the team at 40-40 comes with might not always be ‘mature’ but it is the reason we (breaks into song) ‘we ain’t going nowhere, we ain’t going nowhere, we can’t even stop now….’ *moving on*

Anyway, when was the last time you had a swing all to yourself? 🙂

We couldn’t resist. In fact when it came to departure time, some people whose names shall remain withheld for security reasons,simply failed to get up.

josh swing

 

gloria

Es and talba

 

 

Hug a boda guy today :)

Hug a boda guy today 🙂

 

Lunch was so scrumptious there are no pictures. By the time the camera man came to get evidence, only bones surfaced.

Some of the amazing ladies who are part time chefs

Some of the amazing ladies who are part time chefs

 

We decided to play a game of football. Team 40-40 Vs Team Akiba. There was sweat and blood, literally.

goal keeper

This ‘gentleman’ kept whispering “You are finished.” or “I will cut off your nose” and “You are dead.” before attempting to score.

My life was in danger! 😀

The whole time I was thinking;it is never that serious. However, people were out to win. If it was a real match we would have gone into ‘extra extra time.’ When it was 10 goals to 9, I fled for the more ‘safe’ pass time- swinging 🙂

You want more photos? I have 🙂

amma

 

 

nick and kids

 

Talba

 

Overall, it was a very beautiful day. Every moment was an actual celebration and I know those who showed up left with a new supply of joy. So many moments brought ‘oooohhhs’ and ‘awwws’ both silently and quite loudly 😉

One thing remained on my mind and I need some answers plus a better understanding. It was mentioned in passing that Uganda has only one radiotherapy machine at Mulago, which was purchased in the 1950’s. That means all cancer patients that need it must rely on that one. Google ‘said’ a new one is $70,000(approximately 175 million UGX) Of course there are shipping costs et al but surely we can get one of these, or more? Those who are as disturbed as I am, please feel free to poke for answers ad of course be part of the solution. I am convinced that we can do something about it.

Did I mention this? Brian funds treatment for these children almost entirely on his own, using funds from his business.Whereas this must be difficult financially, I believe the emotional strain is unimaginable.

However, when you see those beautiful children and hear that 400-500 children have been treated and given the time of their lives thanks to Akiba Foundation-you know that is oh so worth it.

We would love to make the home even more vibrant, a mini-Disney world of sorts. You can join us to make this happen 🙂