While I was chatting with Barns last night, after we won the award, he ended with “I will await the blog post.” So..here it is!
For the past couple of years I would see the advert for the NSSF torch awards but I felt we were not ready. We needed to have something to our name and present a good plan. This year, when I looked at it, I felt it was time.
Thankfully, when I shared with the team, one of the members, Benjamin said he had a plan. It was then that a small team came together (virtually) to concretise this plan and send in our proposal. We joked about winning for a bit but then went back to work and ‘forgot’ about it.
A little over 10 days ago, I received a call. We were shortlisted and they needed to visit our offices to shoot a video as soon as possible. I was unavailable and found most of the team was too. Trying to put all of it together took the joy out of the News. We agreed to do the shoot that Saturday (18th) We participated in a charity walk organised by Wakisa Ministries to raise awareness for teen moms and then walked slowly to the office (because we had so much energy that need to be exhausted) to await the Nssf team.
When we saw the camera crew, it began to sink in. We asked about the other nominees and I can swear my insomnia worsened from that night onward . What if we win? What will this mean? Can we actually do this?
Fast forward to last night. I was glad we were able to secure invites for everyone who worked on the proposal so they could at least have a nice dinner if we didn’t win. We noticed early in the evening that we were the ‘wohoo’ table. We made more noise for the other winners than they did for themselves.
The past winners shared their testimonies and renewed our hope in humanity. Then came this year’s nominees and their incredible work from making sanitary towels for school girls to providing training for secondary school students left us in awe.
I am a bowl of nerves whether it is a competition or a celebration so you can imagine what was happening. It was so bad that Zindzi, a team member said she had felt nothing from the start but our anxiety quickly spread to her as well. We were leaving no one behind!
Different regions were awarded as we tensed up and held hands, cracked stale jokes and sang along to the band’s music. Anything for a distraction! Finally, they got to Central region and we were NOT mentioned. The young lady who won happens to be called Esther. She is only 19 and working to protect young mothers under her organisation Child care and Rescue Program. I was amazed by this teenager!
We celebrated her while trying not to think about our own disappointment. Only one award was left, the national award and that couldn’t be us. Could it?
some suspense and finally they mentioned that the next organisation had impressed the most and would win the coveted Ugx 20 million cash prize handed over by the First lady, Hon. Janet Museveni. That group happened to be…Yes, you guessed it 4040 !
What happened next is still a bit of a blur. We pretty much broke into tears at the same time. There were cameras, people and.. more cameras and more people. Somehow, we got strength to walk up to the podium.
I kept crying and the handshake with the First lady quickly ‘evolved’ into a hug. There I was weeping and she took me into her arms and it was not awkward at all (really?) The team that had gathered around hugged her in turns. *this was all normal* She handed over the award and dummy cheque (for 20 million shillings!!) along with Hon. Bahati, the NSSF Managing Director Mr. Richard Byarugaba and his pleasant Deputy, Geraldine.
We were ushered off the stage for the guest of honour to give her speech. She spent the first few minutes applauding our work. I can’t confirm this for sure because I was high on emotions but amidst my astonishment, I think I heard her say that ‘Uganda’s future is secure if it has young people like these (4040) doing such work.
After a few photographs, she left the function (before we could exchange phone numbers, sigh)
These were all side shows after we saw that cheque.
Breaks into song “It’s not about the money money money, We don’t need your money money, money.” *NOT!*
I kid. That moment itself, in its entirety was really everything.
While at the washrooms, a lady came in and said “Congratulations.” Just as I was completing my thank yous, she added “But you are so emotional!” Neither her tone nor facial expression suggested this was a compliment (Apparently washrooms are not free of judgement) While the other ladies who were with me exclaimed at her reaction, so many thoughts quickly went through my mind. Wouldn’t she be emotional if she had gone through what we have? Does she know how many proposals we have written and been turned down? Could she comprehend the gravity of this win for us? Well, I guess my questions shall remain unanswered and it’s okay because I certainly do not think anyone needs to justify their tears, or laughter for that matter.
We stayed and danced to every song the band played and when they were done, we turned to the DJ’s music. Thankfully, Mr.MD stayed for a while so we had more time to ‘celebrate’ but sadly, every good thing does come to an end. What an amazing Monday it was!
I barely slept and my poor mother has confessed that after we spoke just before midnight, her sleep did not return till much later. I did realise in that moment, as I do now that not everyone gets an opportunity to chase their dreams, have a great support system and also live to tale. It is for that very reason that I will share this story for as long as I can talk, write and breathe.
Unlike many of the previous awards, the public’s vote did not count. A panel chose us from the over 350 applications received from all over the country. However, if it wasn’t for the public’s support up till now, we would never have achieved enough to achieve the level of credibility we can now boast of and for that we are eternally grateful.
Our (winning) proposal *yaay* was for a children’s community library in Luweero because we believe in education and strongly advocate for literacy. Even if this amount can have us complete our dormitory in days (literally) we have to stick to what it was meant for. The good News is, by the end of this year we shall have a dormitory and a library up and running. How awesome is that?
This award means more to us because a Uganda company is supporting us, a Ugandan organisation. This represents one of the core messages we like to share which is that we are perfectly capable of writing our very own happy Ugandan tale, and essentially African tale by supporting our own. It takes a village to raise a child and we have plenty of villages..and children, so why not?
Thank you NSSF for believing in us and other local organisations. I am also grateful to everyone for supporting us thus far and the amazing behind the scenes 4040 team.
To God be the glory 🙂
A luta Continua!