A Year of Zimba!

ZIMBA WOMEN

We can’t believe a year has gone by. What started out as an experiment to digitize SME’s in Uganda has now grown to an ambitious mission to get every woman- led business online however small.
Across every platform, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and WordPress, we are toiling to lift businesses out of obscurity. With limited resources, we have reached approximately 100 businesses in one year of existence.
Three Zimba Sessions, One 3-day Workshop and Countless One on One Office Hours.
We have gained several partners in just this year; The Uganda Investment Authority, The Netherlands Trust Fund and Women Thrive.
We are finally rolling out the Zimba Mart.
We have travelled far and wide to spread the Zimba Mission; U.S.A, Brazil, Kenya and Ethiopia.
We have been recognized both locally and internationally; The New Vision and Women in Tech Africa.
We have garnered award nominations: Women in Tech, App Africa…

View original post 57 more words

My kind of Christmas

At last year’s children’s Christmas party, I was a little grenade. Bandaged cannula on one hand and dancing like I was being paid on the other. There is a video of us showing you how to ‘go down low’ (Hi Sheeba) hidden somewhere. After the party, I went to the hospital for a ‘routine drip’ and ended up spending the night. By my side were 5 of my closest friends who took turns watching me. I thought about it, and if God forbid anything had happened that night, I would still be happy. I would know I gave 120% to something I loved and had people with me who loved me too.

I honestly believe some of these incidents occur so that I can never forget where it is I have come from.

This year, my anticipation was twice as much. I barely slept the night before the party. We were opening a dormitory too! Yaay!

Fundraising for this second dormitory was not a walk in the park. How could we explain to ourselves that we managed to raise funds for a bigger, more expensive building but were failing at this one? It was not easy to deal with the pressure, internal and external.

.After several events and campaigns, we had meetings in which we would just whine or discuss every other matter but the elephant in the room. We were afraid to admit that we had not raised enough money and time was running out

. At the same time, the rain was destroying our building materials back in Bombo. Each time a phone call or text came in asking if any money would be sent ‘soon,’ the day became instantly miserable. I can relate it to a parent who fails to provide for their children and is unable to explain the circumstances.

Despite all this, we did it…yes WE, collectively, with friends and supporters from all over the place 🙂 *jumps*

On Saturday 12th December 2015, we unveiled this new home for 30 girls. Excitement filled the coaster as we headed to Bombo and upon arrival, we truly felt the reason for this season.

dorm view

 

dorm main

dance

 

I could not contain my heart when these little ones performed and threw a few thank yous into their performance

 

little ones,thank you

As if that was not enough, the older children had prepared a short play. It depicted the story of orphans and street children who were sworn to a life of suffering. After a while, one of them suggests that they get up and ‘cross the bridge’ to find a better life. Their first attempts are futile. That is until they get help from good Samaritans. Do you want to guess who those are? There was a happy ending as they chanted “We crossed the bridge!!!” <Where is the water from my keyboard coming from?>

play sad

 

play 4040

play smiles

From the food, to the performances; gift opening and cake, I could not have asked for a better Christmas gift.

One of the girls, Laila shared her joy with me. “ I am happy I shall sleep on a new pair of bed sheets, a new mattress, in a new dormitory.” I could feel the delight in every syllable.

santa helper

All some of these children asked for was undergarments. Things we found waiting for us in this world and can hardly relate to that kind of deprivation.

dorm christmas gifts

We ended the day with a serious dance party in which some people I shall not name and I were floored beyond recognition. It is safe to say that dance moves have evolved and our bones have aged kubanga the hustle was very real! It took some people two seconds to ‘get down’ and others almost a minute.

dorm cake

 

dorm

 

 

baloon burst

Builder

smiley face

joy

 

25th December is 8 days away and I am lucky enough to have a family to spend it with. While God blessed me with a beautiful family that I was born into, I am mighty glad he gave me a bigger one through the 4040 dream. I am much more because of all the experiences.

 

with team

 

group smiles

Every day, every month, every year, I am thankful for each one of you who has given their time, money, prayers, and other resources to ensure that we are still here.

I celebrate you.

photo selfie

Photo Credit: Phame

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours..and for 2016, tukikole neera…neera neera.

 

XX

Everywhere you go

If the first thing you think about is a certain telecom network, when you read that phrase. Stop

Okay, now let’s continue.

Over the past few years, I have found myself, living and breathing 4040. Sometimes, it becomes so natural, I do not realise when I am going on and on.

A few days ago, there was no internet connection in my room and I needed to work. I headed straight to the reception and started typing away. One of the supervisors sat next to me and asked ‘What is 40-40?” I was a bit surprised but quickly noticed what had brought out the question. My ‘I am 4040’ sticker sat proudly on the laptop. He has since called out “Miss 4040” each time we have bumped into each other. Re-baptising in progress.

This reminds of a night many months ago, when I was out with friends. At about 1 a.m when the music was at boiling point and the sugar height had escalated, I felt someone tapping my shoulder. I recognised him when I turned around. He was a common face at our fundraisers. With a straight face, he asked, “Is this a 40-40 fundraiser too? How come I didn’t know?” I looked around and noticed my ‘dancing troupe’ was made up 4040 team members, which might have been why he was asking. I laughed out loud. Really (read Riyalle) we shall not even paka kini without a connection being made.

For the past few days I have gotten to know a group of amazing people, and of course talking about myself also entails talking about my work. After bits of the 4040 story reached the trainers, they requested that I share insight on our model although it does not have much to do with the current training. Ooh the pride!

I happily shared a brief about who we are and what we do. At the end, one of the organisers walked up to me and said she had almost cried as she watched a video I shared. She was completely sold and promised to support us. Ambrose, who had earlier promised (in jest) to give 4040 $10,000, handed me 5,000 for the children. My cup overflows.

Many of the questions the group raised were relevant and a great reminder or what more we can do.

It is out of my comfort zone to coordinate work remotely but I have had to bear it for the past few days. * Quick shout out to the superstar who came up with mobile money.* whilst I have enjoyed my working trip, I must say my heart and mind have kept drifting back to this one thought, we are opening dormitory number 2 tomorrow!!!! I am actually yelling…in my head.

My excitement is palpable. I am completely unable to contain myself.

jump

“ASK AND YOU WILL RECEIVE” Yes, the caps are for emphasis. We have accomplished this because we asked you and you gave…oh so generously!

Tomorrow after we sing, dance and make merry at the Christmas party, we shall leave knowing the girls have a bigger, better home. This gives me so much joy.
Special thanks to everyone who has played a part in building a dorm, ‘being Santa’ or supporting this dream in any other way. You make us who we are.

Mostly, it is because God has been there from the very beginning, all glory to him!

Updates will be coming your way in full gear.
X.

 

Every teardrop is a waterfall

 

Do you have some habits that are ‘okay’ when you are among friends but seem bizarre when you are exposed to a new environment?

I find it difficult to stifle laughter. Loud laughter is widely accepted in my circles. In fact, I have consolation from people with worse laughs than my own :p

One friend (Hi friend) is so ahead of the game, that before a date, the best advice we can share is try not to laugh. It has gone as far as “Princess laugh” lessons. One would argue she should be herself so that the Prince knows what he is signing up for.

During this workshop, I have caught myself bursting into laughter several times,when the room is quiet only to find the others laughing at my laughter and not the joke. I find this trait more pleasant than a grumpy attitude so I have decided to embrace it, unashamedly. “We want more laughs” is the chant the little people in my head have come up with.

However, yesterday I was shaken when I abruptly found a reason to cry rather than attract stares for my outbursts.

For context, the training I am attending has participants from both Uganda and Burundi. Sessions are carried out in English and French.

I had engaged Ambrose* in a conversation about the situation back home over dinner once before. He gave me a summary based on his experience as a journalist talking about the media houses that have been shut down and the incessant censoring. We had moved swiftly to more appropriate dinner conversation.

This time, it was different.

Ambrose had been helping the facilitators to translate during certain sessions. This time after the trainer finished submitting a point, she turned to find a pensive Ambrose. He was lost in thought and did not move until he was called three times.

He was startled back to reality and explained the reason for his distraction.

“Every now and again, my mind drifts off to my people back home. There are several triggers from simple words or actions that constantly take me away from here. I do not know who is safe anymore and that makes me uncomfortable,” he said.
He went on to add, “I am happy to be spending this week in Uganda. At least I am sure that I will safely go to sleep and wake up to a peaceful environment the next day. I cannot say the same for my people.”

Sigh.

I do not know what got into my eyes at this point but it instantly became a waterfall.

We might be helpless in many ways, but depending on who/what you believe in, do spare time and pray for Burundi.

We have more than we can ever be grateful for in one lifetime.

prayer

On call

 

Scenario

9pm on a Friday night

Julie: What are you doing tonight?

Me: Nothing much. Listening to music till I sleep off

Her: Great, I am in the mood to go out. Let’s do something fun

Me: Maybe another time (Read, I am already in my PJs and it would take an emergency to get me out of the house)

Her: I can even pick you up

Me: Please don’t make this hard.

Her: Okay, I guess I can find someone else.
Me: Hope so. Have fun for two.
If this conversation happened on Monday that week to plan for Friday, chances are I would have joined Julie. I have come to admit that I am not in the top 1 billion spontaneous people on this planet. The good News is, I am consciously trying. However, If God forbid, something happened to Julie  that very night and I got a call, I would not hesitate to throw on a jumper and leave the house. Such is the system that I am accustomed too.

This Saturday as we had a 4040 annual review meeting, my colleague got a call. Deutsche Welle (DW) was holding a workshop and they had a last minute request for me to attend. It was starting the next day (Sunday) for 5 days. I had a wedding to attend that Sunday and several commitments the next week. My answer was was a stern no without even thinking about it.

Fortunately or unfortunately, some members of my team were present as I made this decision. They started to give me all the reasons why I needed to attend. I called the organiser to explain why I could not attend and she too countered the ‘excuses.’ I said I would sleep on it.

That evening when I got home, I found the mother awake and explained my conundrum. Surprisingly, she encouraged me to pack my bags.

When I contacted the organisers about travelling on Monday, they were more than willing.

Long story long, as I type this, I am in the very beautiful Garuga for the next few days. Training by day, working by (every) break and taking in the scenery+air constantly.

My mother loves everything green and this would be the perfect place to carry her and force her to relax. When I sent my friend a photo last night she asked “Did you carry your mom secretly in your handbag?” I laughed because those were my exact thoughts.

What am I trying to say? Yes, despite having all the responsibilities in the world, sometimes you just have to let go.

Here I am learning and working and I could not have picked a better location. (Also, I would not be able to afford full board accommodation for myself, not yet that is)

Truth is, I have had to sneak out and make calls during sessions, put in extra hours here and there but I think it is worth it. Also, nature really agrees with my entire system. The moment I got here, half my problems vanished 🙂

I am telling you in time for next year, perhaps. If like me, you have not visited this Lake resort before (till now), start saving. Bring your spouse, friends or family for a day or weekend and just appreciate the beauty that is Uganda.

Oh,it would be great for team buildings too.

The service has been impeccable too. We had lunch by the lake, literally. Imagine all this goodness with…..*fill in the blanks*

garuga 2

They have rooms and family cottages ranging from $70-120. Considering the activities and beauty, I think it is totally worth it. Also, what good is money if you cannot spend and enjoy the fruits when you are alive?

Did I mention how I must have added 2kgs already? The food, oooh the food! It is sumptuous as it is plenty. Speaking of food, let me run and get my cup of tea. Apparently dinner tonight is mongolian.

Related, there is chai in the bedrooms for any time of the night when you feel the urge, yes plus a kettle. An establishment after my own heart I tell you.

Garuga 1

More soon!

Xoxo