Actions speak louder than words

26

A number of people have asked if 4040 is a Christian organisation; others have assumed. Many a time, I have heard expressions like “That 4040 event is for balokole (born again Christians) I can’t go.” Or been asked ” How come there was alcohol at your event? I thought you are saved.” The responses don’t vary too much. I don’t see reason is constantly justifying my beliefs.

I remember a 5 aside (soccer) event at Bush court a couple of years ago, vividly; Dora walked over to me,Guiness in hand, visibly tipsy.
She was yelling my name. Earlier that afternoon, I had been attacked by John* because he felt his team was cheated during a game. He had downloaded profanities, one after the other and left me feeling both insulted and repulsed.
While I later found out he was a perpetual trouble causer, his breath betrayed another reason for his increased confidence.
A friend had whisked me away in time, as John was threatening to beat me up. I could not wait for that day to end.
The tone of Dora’s voice simply made me think “Not again!” I turned around anyway.
She gripped my arm and said “Thank you.” I was puzzled. Although I had seen her before, I could not imagine I had done anything for her to warrant gratitude. That is when she told me that she herself had had a troubled childhood and was glad that 4040 was helping vulnerable children. She added that she was excited to also be supporting in a small way and was thinking of ways to do more. My eyes welled up. I spent sometime talking to her and blocked out the earlier incident with John.

What I am about to say can be interpreted and debated in several ways but I hope that the message shall be well articulated anyway; I subscribe to a brand of Christianity that encourages Doers. The word is important and so is sharing it especially to those who most need it(we,sinners);but I believe that if we spend all our time preaching, it will keep us from actually practicing that which we preach.
While the organisation upholds Christian values, we also do not turn away anyone-after all, we are all sinners alike.

Atheist,Agnostic,Traditionalist;so many of these individuals are more Christ-like than those who shout ‘Lord,Lord!’
( โ€œNot everyone who says to me, โ€˜Lord, Lord,โ€™ will enter the kingdom of heaven,but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”)

Millions have died at the hands of people practicing ‘religion,’ and using God’s name for these atrocities; It’s about time we stopped casting stones,and spent time saving our brothers and sisters so that by standers can see/feel the power of the mighty God we serve.

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Money matters

25

There are some figures that are ingrained in my mind, from this journey. These amounts are not necessarily the highest or smallest, but it is their significance that has stayed with me.
Over the years we have raised approximately $100,000 from individuals and entities (mostly the former) Here are some special moments.

In 2012, during the very first campaign,
Opolot, whom I had gone to school with (but wasn’t close to) reached out. He wanted to know how to lighten the load. Contributions were slow and I was worried. I jokingly asked for half a million shillings. He sent it to my phone, no questions asked. That boost made things so much easier and I always remember him.
I met a little boy of about 8 years old after the Young Achievers awards in December 2013. He came over to me with his mum. He said that after hearing my speech he was compelled to contribute the money he had. He handed me Ugx 5,000 (less than $2) I hugged him really tight. I have never forgotten him.

 

In the same year, two of Ritah’s nieces saved 20,000 (a little over $5) from their pocket money. They handed it over because they had met the children we were working with and were touched by their plight.

There are two Ugandans in the diaspora, Tom and Tim; they send through a contribution for pretty much every 4040 campaign. I have never met Tim personally and I only met Tom because of his support for our causes. These gentlemen humble me.

I barely knew Lucy when I opened up to her. We had been running campaigns to raise money for the dormitory we were building in Luweero at the time. We were out of options because a had organised events, ran campaigns and still weren’t hitting the target.
She invited me to meet her when she visited Uganda and handed me Ugx 1 million in cash. I was blown away. Lucky for us, she was present at the opening of the dorm later that year.

28 million. This was the amount we needed to raise for said dormitory. When we looked at it, we were certain we could never get it. We dillydallied,suggested we contribute half, second guesses ourselves-everything but admitted we were more capable than a have ourselves credit for. Finally, we decided to give it a try.
We organised and event and unveiled #BuyABrick. This campaign helped us raise 8 million shillings in 10 days, just on Facebook and Twitter alone>>with the help of mobile money for deposits to be made.
We succeeded, scratch that, we conquered! The dormitory is still up and running, capable of housing 210 boys and girls.
We were nobodies and people trusted us. We started with zero and somehow raised millions for a worthy cause.
These people are the unsung heroes.
As we grow, our needs increase and expectations are higher..but this 28 million was nothing short of a miracle.

All these people, their stories and their hearts, all of them are blessings without whom we’d be nothing.
I will never forget that.

Silver linings

24

Yesterday I made some follow up calls again, to potential sponsors for our anniversary dinner. Indeed, some people avoided them-again.
Cathy picked up.
She knows who I am but she let me go through a lengthy introduction. That was fine.
Finally, I reminded her that I had been following up and needed to know when the best time was for me to check in for the verdict.
Her: Don’t call me. I am the one who will call you!
Her tone! Gosh,not even the tinniest ant was bigger than me in that moment.
I said thank you, hang up and looked up to the heavens like ‘WHY, God, WHY?!
It seemed like for every two steps made, I go back 10.
A few hours later, I went to the 4040 meeting and we discussed our plans. The memory was fresh in my mind, along with all the disappointments that seem to occur daily. Then during the meeting, I had a moment.
I looked around, I was in the company of 4 friends, two of whom had their babies back at home.
Each of these individuals could have been anywhere else but here they were brainstorming away, past 9pm on a work day. The staff of the restaurant started to clean up as a hint, but there we were planning away.
Them,together with several others have sacrificed a good chunk of their time,resources, skills,emotions and so much more to make the dream work.
Some have come and gone but their impact is still felt and they made their contribution.
In the beginning, I did almost everything single handedly because I couldn’t bear to be let down by another;to have someone else to blame. But here we are, 5 years later; still meeting weekly;bonding over that black tea๐Ÿต and doing whatever it takes to stick together like the family we now are.
I do not take that for granted.

 


So, of course these ‘worldly disappointments’ will knock me down now and again..but I hope I never lose sight of all the little miracles that have come my way along this journey. One of these miracles at the very top, is this amazing team that I am proud of, now, always.

Originally posted on 24th March

Humble beginnings

Playing catch up, here is 22 and 23

22

When 40-40 began, I had no real plan for continuity. As such I had not given any thought to things like logos, which are important for a brand. Thankfully, God had that covered. One fine morning at work, my colleague Noah walked over to me with different versions of the 40-40 logo we now use. It was (is) beautiful! It was even more meaningful because he took his own initiative. Many years from today, I will still look at it and remember how it came to be. ๐Ÿ™‚

23

In 2014, we scheduled a strategy session for the team and invited an expert in Social work to speak to us. One of the resounding messages that day was โ€œStop playing small.โ€
When I got home I spoke to mum about it and toyed with the idea of finding office space. She immediately told me someone was vacating a nice spot near her work place and I could check it out. I went by and liked it immediately. I felt like this was a sign. The rent on the other hand, I did not even have 10% and yet we had to make a huge down payment. In the weeks that followed, I was able to secure small loans from friends (and members of the team) and a small grant from the father. Thankfully, payment could be made over time. The year is 2017 and we only got some real furniture last year.
Each time people walked in, they felt like we were just moving in and could not believe it has been around for a while.
A couple of months ago, I began to make some small changes to make it feel homey and (kind of) professional. The process is slow because there is no ‘bottomless’ fund to pick from but I am still proud of it nonetheless.
So many things in my life, in the 40-40 story have taken longer, appeared more complex or difficult and been surrounded by endless hurdles but in everything I have learnt not to despise humble beginnings- neither should you.

In everything, give thanks.

Our first 4040 baby

21

Dear Penda,
When your mama first told me she was expecting you, I laughed. She always has a joke up her sleeves so I didn’t think she was serious.
The drive home from Bugolobi got a little quiet and I started to wonder if she’d actually meant what she said.

Before long, she started to glow. Pregnancy certainly looked good on her. I am sure by now you have figured out where you got your good looks, and free spirit..and and…
The journey was exciting and it was also a learning experience for me. Being a last born myself, I didn’t really get to watch all these beautiful steps to motherhood.
Your mama was incredibly active, even when we begged her to slow down.
You attended meetings, ‘worked’ at events, paka-chinied, eh, your womb experience must have been an adventure! No wonder you can play for hours on and and it is incredibly difficult to put to bed.

Your mama also loved bread! When they say bun in the oven, they don’t mean her because she had a bakery in there๐Ÿ˜
I like to tell the story of how she would carry her loaf of bread to 4040 meetings and some members of the team would tease her. That is before they would punch a slice or 3๐Ÿ˜’ (Names withheld)
I anticipated your arrival like my life depended on it.

March 22nd
I had been under the weather that week and feared that you’d make an appearance in my absence. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. As fate would have it, your mama was admitted to a hospital next door to home. *You can see why we are neighbours๐Ÿ˜‰*
That was one loooonnngg day.
Your mama paced, paced and paced some more.
Then they took her to the theatre and it was my turn๐Ÿ˜ง
Pace. Sit. Stand. Pace. Repeat. Text a friend. Call mum. Stalk the medical personnel.Pace. Sit. Stand.
Finally, the nurse came out and handed you to me. My heart, oh my heart!
It burst like that ribena berry (I will need to show you video evidence of what I mean)
When your mommy saw you, everything fell in place. You are her life.

You have grown at a scary rate.This morning, I was looking at your baby pictures in awe. I now kind of understand what parents go through watching their children grow too fast.
You’re such a joy to be around,the only therapy that I need.
Your smile, infectious laughter, killer dance moves, ever-growing vocabulary, crazy energy and everything in between.

For many of us, your aunties, the 4040 team, you’re our baby too. When we dot over you, relish it, it’s from the deepest corners of our loving hearts. We promise to be here, for you, for mummy, for always.

It’s an absolute pleasure to watch you grow. As you find yourself, I pray that you continue to know. I hope that your bright light will continue to shine because it allows others to shine too๐Ÿ˜Š

We thank your mama for giving us the opportunity to raise you, to spoil you, to be there every step of the way. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store!

As you watch frozen for the 4,519th time, we celebrate you. Because of you, we have an extra reason to be happy today.
Happy 3rd birthday our Penda, you’re a blessing to us.

 

With so much love,
Your lovestruck God mommy.
Xoxo

Note: Originally posted on 22nd March.

Uber volunteer

20

Another real time tale

I met an old friend today and during our conversation I told him I miss being incognito; that I love being in places where I don’t have to explain who I am or what I do.
Shortly after, I ordered an Uber.
After the pleasantries
Driver: Aren’t you that lady from that charity
Me: Huh?
Him: 40 days over 40 Smiles
Me: * so much for being incognito& ๐Ÿ™†
Me: Uhm..Yes๐Ÿ™ˆ Have we met?
Him: No, I have seen you on tv and online
Me:But it’s dark, how did you even recognise me?
Him: I just knew it was you.
He goes on to ask about our upcoming events and I lay out the entire calendar. What happened next surprised me in the best way possible.๐Ÿ˜„
He asked “Besides the events, do you have volunteer opportunities?”
“Yes!” I almost squealed.
Him: That’s what I am interested in.
He went on to tell me his mum works for a rehabilitation centre and he has always been around children.
I ask a few questions and get to know him. We are now around Old Kampala, nearing home.
Him: God works in mysterious ways. This week I have been applying for volunteer opportunities and God sends the overall head of charity to my doorstep
Me: *silently* I am not exactly the head but…
Him: When you truly want something and give it your all, it often finds you
Me: I agree.๐Ÿ˜Š
Anyway, as I speak, I have added him to the whatsapp group for volunteers. He was excited when I told him it even exists and that he will join.
Oh, his name is Peter by the way..and boy am I glad he was my Uber driver this evening! ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ˜Š

 

 

Note: Originally posted on March, 21.

Lights, Camera, Action

19

As a child, I was anything but timid.
I found my true-self when I hit the stage.
MDD (Music Dance and Drama *Musilu Ddala Ddala๐Ÿ˜›* was my calling. At the time it didn’t matter that your voice didn’t sound even remotely like Adele’s. I know this because I got away with solo performances and I can’t even sing to get free rolex๐Ÿ˜ญ
I played local instruments in the instrumentals, I participated in pretty much every traditional dance, the folk songs and even performed poetry.
I loved acting the most.
All this was at school during class competitions and later when I joined the School choir.

Over the weekends, my brother ย and I provided some back up dancing services to live bands. You didn’t need to call our manager or book in advance. We just showed up with our folks and got in formation shortly after. We were reliable like that.
We also got paid handsomely by revellers. That was until mum kept the money for us๐Ÿ˜’
I am sure you know how that story ends.
When we asked for our $$, we were given a list of all the things we had not paid for since leaving the womb๐Ÿ˜ž

 

Fast forward to adulthood.
I dislike crowds. Along the way I lost the childhood innocence and became self conscious. I become shy even when everything in me tells me there is no reason to be and getting on stage is not fun for me anymore. It is scary.
Younger me would definitely scoff at this boring version.๐Ÿ˜ณ

All my dreams of Actor-Model-Writer-Airhostess-Lawyer-Journalist-Writer again (in that order, I think) have not quite materialised.

Nonetheless, I would like to believe every stage along the way prepared me for something else. Many of my public speaking sessions are probably fueled by that past acting spark to be honest. I get up intimidated by the crowd, anxious,nauseous, stomach rumbling and somehow manage to speak sense (or so I hope) and leave without fainting. Little miracles those ones.

Don’t get me started on this 5 year journey of ‘begging.’ It is difficult for me to even ask a friend (not stranger or acquaintance) to lend me a small sum of money let alone give me something I can’t return. And what do I have here? A 5-year ‘career’ in hounding friends, acquaintances, strangers and the internet world at large to give,give,give-time,resources, skills, everything!๐Ÿ˜ฎ

I recently met someone (with whom I am acquainted) on the street and they asked “What are you collecting money for this time?” I chocked a little, afterwhich I responded, “Good afternoon, how are you?”
Basically,his mind told him that the greeting I now deserve is “How much do you want?”

Most of this journey has been filled with ironies, in different shades.
We are complex, ever-changing and if we embrace change, it opens our eyes,minds and hearts to the multiple things that we can be, that we can become. We need to allow ourselves to change, to grow, to learn.

Human beings are not one-dimensional;we are multi-faceted; not even what you see on the surface is a representation of who someone truly is.
We can be weak and strong; we can be bullies and still be emotional, confident yet anxious and so much more.
There’s so much beauty in being unapologetically authentic.

There’s no use watering down who you are or toning down your awesome because the world isn’t ready. Make them ready๐Ÿ’ช๐Ÿ’ƒand if they fail to be, their loss๐Ÿ˜ˆ
On that note;
Perhaps at 68,someone will write a script that will touch my heart and I will hit the stage one more time. Maybe I’ll act the role of a granny in denial, asking her grandchildren to call her “Aunt Essie”
Till then;
Go forth and explore the multiple versions of the amazing soul that is YOU.