How is February coming to an end already? I am shook! << Speaking of, are there any slangs you hate/find ridiculous and end up using them as a joke only for them to stick? Mine include ‘bae’ and now ‘shook.’ Yup, I am cringing as I type but here we are!

The past couple of months have been a rollercoaster. One day you have inexplicable joy because your person who has been out of a job for over two years has finally signed an awesome contract then out of the blue a wave of depression hits. You are half way into a sip of pina colada celebrating the gift of another year for your loved one only to receive news of the loss of another. I have asked “life kyeki?” <What is life?> silently and out loud, more times than I can remember since this year began. Some highlights have stayed with me nonetheless.

Moses* called me at the end of last month. He invited me to speak to a group of recovering addicts under his care. It was a busy time and I asked him to slot me in close to the end of February; Wednesday last week to be exact. I forgot about it. As the day drew nearer, I began to panic. What did I know about addiction? What could they possibly learn from me? Who made me an authority on any subject? Would they be able to tell that I was a fraud, preaching hope while crumbling inside? SOS!


Incidentally, I met Moses at a talk last year. He belonged to a mentorship group whose leader invited me to speak. I was told to expect 15 or more people. I walked into a well set up room complete with a podium and ‘high table.’ Only 5 people showed up. It was so bad that we each had to pack the snacks which had been prepared for a bigger group. BUT; It was also one of the most fulfilling sessions I have ever facilitated. The small group was so eager to learn, they took notes and kept flipping pages. I was so pumped, I just went on and on. I chose to sit with them in a semi-circle and encouraged them to interrupt at any point. They did! J It was doubly awesome because my fried Ritah joined in. We had plans later that evening and she offered to attend the talk as well. Her voice was a great addition to the discussion because she had experience as a volunteer. I did not have to give all the examples. She was right there to pitch in.


After several attempts, asking Monsieur Google to help me plan my talk, I decided to relax. Each time I have spoken from the heart, it has worked out just fine. I would do the same.

I got there almost an hour early. This gave me time to catch up with *Cathy who is an employee at the organisation.

The Christian non-profit supports individuals to overcome addiction. The residential program lasts a period of one year. During that period they are equipped with life skills as well as knowledge of the scripture.

I was told to expect 16 men between the ages of 16 and 50. My audience comprised of 14. I asked each of them to tell me their names and something about them, preferably something they like to do/something which makes them happy. Most of them mentioned football, cooking (pleasantly surprising) and God. I wasn’t ready when this gentleman’s turn came. He was arguably the oldest in the group. He calmly said. “Henry. I am a father.” 5 words, simple yet heavily loaded. For a few minutes I drifted off imagining how he got here, what his children thought and how he felt ‘hanging’ with teenagers in the same space. When I eventually snapped back, we were on to the last introduction. The next exercise involved them writing their biggest, boldest dreams on a sticky note. What they would do if they had limitless resources. I later jumbled them up and let each one read someone else’s dreams.

Almost all of them mentioned their intention to do more for a vulnerable group, from orphans to the elderly and recovering addicts. *Daniel called out “Esther, you haven’t told us your dream…” and that was the perfect intro for my story.

I spoke about my journey and openly shared about the 9,876,421 road blocks I have faced, I shared countless testimonies and told stories within stories. It was actually pretty mentally and emotionally draining going down memory lane. My audience was mostly quiet except for *Daniel and his neighbour, Aaron. They kept mumbling, taking notes, and I even saw a high 5. I thought to myself, “I am either really interesting or these guys are working on their own happy project.” Nonetheless, I continued, trying to engage everyone the best way I could. Finally, it came to an end, and I asked for questions or comments. Walala! I was NOT ready. First of all the pair that seemed busy throughout asked like 15 questions all on their own and then the rest. I had a 5pm meeting, meaning I needed to set off by 4.30 or so. I quickly realised it was going to be impossible to leave. I sneakily texted Kristine to let her know I would be late then gave these men my full attention. Their questions were deep, some of them silly, as if testing my sanity. All of them were engaging. I quickly noted who the ‘class clowns’ were. Henry did not say much else :/

Just as I thought the questions were coming to an end, Daniel asked “Can you please look at our proposal before you leave?”

Me: You mean you have written and completed a proposal during these 2 hours?

Him: *laughs* No, we started planning this 2 weeks ago and you came right in time.

This explained his questions about vision, mission and general organisational structure during the talk. I agreed to look at the proposal.

Finally, Jesse put up his hand. He had picked up on a part of my story where I mentioned difficulty in getting volunteers, discerning who is there for the right reasons and maintain friendships. He read a Bible verse in Colossians (Col 1:15-18)  and encouraged me to focus on God and not people and just as he was concluding Tom opened his Bible and to reiterate read “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Col 3:23) *Martin then added Proverbs 4:18 “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” I was overwhelmed but they weren’t done yet. Jesse asked if he could pray for me. They all stretched their hands and he started to pray. I had mentioned my struggle with insomnia briefly and here he was bringing it up. Jesse prayed for my family, friends, past, present and future, like an old friend or even a sage. The tears that I had controlled up till that more moment could no longer be held back. In that moment, I surrendered the baggage I had carried to this house and felt much lighter. By the time the ‘Amen’ came, I had forgotten where I was.

Everyone who needed an extra word, came over after the talk.

Jesse recommended a book.

Rodney offered to cook for me on his day off as a thank you. (I believe they earn these after 3-4 months)

Jeff asked me to check out a home for street children he helped set up.

Eventually, I sat with Daniel and Aaron to go through the proposal. Daniel’s energy constantly at 100 “I did not finish school so I am not good at writing, but I am a good talker. My boy here does the writing.” (patting Aaron) I read through and talked them through the alterations. They are looking to seek permission from the organisation; to do some work within their community. They hope the organisation can contribute half the start up capital and they (students) can fundraise the rest.  They want to use their spare time to clean homes, fumigate, garden and other related activities; to utilise their time and energy plus make extra income. It was quite humbling.

I invited all of them to our annual football fundraiser #5AsideUG slated for March 10th. I was worried about it because they have to ‘earn’ their days off and there will be alcohol sold at the event. I asked the administration to weigh the pros and cons then get back to me.

Cathy sent me a message a couple of days ago. The students are looking to put together a football team and contribute. I explained that my invitation meant that they attend at no cost. She said they knew that and wanted to contribute the little they could regardless. *Sniff*

I hope they can make it, if only to have some fun, a connection with the real world and bear witness that dreams do come true.



This week is all about children and Ugandan books at the 4040 camp. To be fair, it is also always about the children 🙂

Here is what Ernest Bazanye thinks about Ugandan stories.

The problem with being a child is that no matter how clever you are, still, a lot of your thinking is being done for you. You still depend on other people to interpret things to you and you don’t know yet how wrong so many of them are so much of the time. If you are a clever child this is even worse, because you ask a lot of questions, and you ask people who aren’t as clever as you are, and they tell you things you would have been better off not hearing. Things you would have been better off figuring out for yourself. You are bombarded by perspectives and views and opinions and ideologies from all angles and, especially if you are a clever child, you won’t even be satisfied with these, you will seek others. And so you will read books. That is where the problem with being a child, particularly a clever one, becomes even more intense. There is a vast selection of books for children available now, and it’s great. It opens doors to so many different experiences that one may never have otherwise been able to benefit from. Books are great, not just because they entertain, but because they show you parts of life other than your own, and show you more of life that way. You learn. Not just “education”, but learning. Each book is a different eye through which we see a different angle of this multifaceted thing called the world. And we can put these together in the back of our minds to build a cohesive picture of this world. That’s how you get clever children to become educated and cultured adults.

Because we get so many of our books from America and Britain, what we tend to see is an American or a British life. An American or a British world. It is already apparent among grown up generations that this sort of thing takes effect and doesn’t let go. Many of us now think of modern Western culture as the default. That is how the world is. October 31st is Halloween, marriage is monogamy, kings are noble and wealthy, boys ask girls out on dates, intelligent people become scientists, buttocks are things to be ashamed of, physical beauty is a virtue and other cultural tropes which are in actuality uniquely western, are taken as universal. Then it gets worse. That is not actually our world. We fall in step and sync ourselves with it, but western culture is not really ours. There are resemblances and places where we borrow and share, but it is not really ours. It is theirs. And so when these books rarely mention our Ugandan or even African lives, and when they mention them only in regard to how they fit in with Wisconsin, Winchester of Wyoming or Westeros life, we will feel as if we have been relegated to the margins. We assumed that we were fully certified members of the world, full participants in it. And this is a portrayal of the world. Why is it that in this picture we are cast to the margins? It can cause some subconscious self-bigotry, a feeling that African lives are in fact incidental, less significant and inferior in the great scheme of things. Our literature and especially the literature that our children read is partly responsible for the idea that we are less than the rest of the world. But can you ask yourself why? Did any writer, or did any group of writers decide to create and present this ideology to us? Was there a plan to ruin our children’s faith in themselves? There have been councils and conspiracies against us, yes, but I don’t think this was one of them. I think CS Lewis, Enid Blyton, JK Rowling… all did what storytellers do everywhere. Including here in Uganda, and in Africa. They told stories, they drew a picture from their point of view and shared it and added it to the general tapestry of the planet’s stories.

Which means that the mishap was here, on our end; that our own storytellers were not doing the same. There are many reasons why so many of the fifty five years of Uganda went by without Ugandan children’s books. Now, finally, we are able to change that. We have not just one writer, but several writers, not just one book but several books, all here to tell stories, to show life, to define the world, to help shape our children’s view of it, to help them see that they count in it, that they are just as much a part of this planet’s people as every other child, and even to teach children from America and Britain a little about Uganda.

On the 11th of November, 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation will be launching a series of children’s storybooks written by Ugandans, for Ugandans and telling Ugandan stories. I was asked to write reviews, but please forgive me, I am skeptical of reviews. Too many critics get it wrong. They say a book is bad, and then the book brings joy to readers. Or they say a book is a masterpiece but the public loathes it. Ultimately, I find that you should make your own judgment for yourself. I love Wimpy Kid, but I don’t like Harry Potter, so what do I know? I loved Moses series, but I wouldn’t recommend them to younger children. Those boys used to escape from school to drink. I enjoy Winnie the Pooh more as an adult than I did as a child, and I find Famous Five flaccid and charmless. So no reviews. But I will say this. It is about time this happened. And we should be glad, proud and grateful that it did. This is a time when we need a generation that will think better than us, one that will be keener, more conscious and more ready to make the changes the world needs.


book launch poster



We need Ugandan books for Ugandan kids.

My birthday wish

Every little bit of me is excited and full of cheer not because everything is going my way but because I have life and oh what joy that brings me, especially today! 😄

September is a special month for me for two reasons; it is the month I was born and also the same one I chose to take a leap of faith and leave formal employment to build my dream.
This post has a little something to do with both.
Four years after quitting my job, and 5 after starting this 40-40 journey and it is still such a struggle, so much fatigue and heartache. I am still mostly clueless and some days are longer than years.
That is the truth.
The other truth is that it is an extremely rewarding gift, that keeps giving. So many lives have been transformed, including my own and I am convinced that the best is yet to come!

This year I thought I would travel to an exotic destination to mark the passing of a decade. After a while, I joked to my friends that all I wanted for my birthday was money. I have a long list of needs and I would help them help me. They gift me with cash, I buy stuff I actually want/need instead of a gift I might just look at, unable to re-gift it or use it. In my genius plan,everyone wins😛
Buttttt…there are some things more important to me  than the Maldives and Jimmy Choos.
One of those things is the dream that is 4040. A chance for all of us to play our part to make the world a better place.
I now have a birthday wish that is less about me and more about some beautiful children, some of whom I am yet to meet- getting more resources to make their lives better and we can get them there-together!

A month ago, I signed us up to this platform called Global giving. It presents an opportunity for people all over the world to contribute to causes they believe in and you stand a chance to have your donations matched.

The catch is that we need to raise a minimum of $5,000 (approximately 18 million) to stay on as permanent partners and receive access to new donors.
The other catch is that we have until 29th September to make this happen.
This $5,000 will bring us closer to our dream of setting up learning centres for vulnerable children. These centres will have books,toys, computers and learning aids availed at absolutely no cost.

You can watch a short video that summarises our dream here

These centres will also give individuals an opportunity to train children in different skills.
You get to spend your free time and weekends teaching the children an a centre near you how to play guitar, code or fix a car. The opportunities are limitless!
These children will not only learn but also get exposed and hopefully inspired by your success stories. These activities will also keep them occupied instead of being engaged in child labour or crime.

The first centre will help us test various interventions, learn and improve so that we can put up many more for children who most deserve it.

So how do we do this? We do it together!
You can follow the link and make your donation here. 

Will you be our first? 🙂

Donations can only be made online using a debit/credit card.

I do have another suggestion though. If your preference is mobile money and it is what you can access easily, we can make it happen too.
I am happy to share my number (which is registered in my names so your heart is at rest) 077-749-9991

Every donation that will come on there shall then be converted to dollars and I will find someone to donate the equivalent on the platform.
I will then send you evidence of your donation on the website.

We need 500 people donating $10 each/250 people donating $20 dollars, 100 people donating $50 dollars each or 50 people donating  $100.
That is approximately Ugx 36,000,72,000,180,000 and 360,000 respectively.

Lucky for me, I believe in the impossible; Not only because I am a dreamer but also because I have seen the power of people almost daily, for the most part of this beautiful journey.
We can do this!💪

Check out our Website, Facebook and Twitter to get acquainted with our work if this is the first time you are hearing of it.

Also, here is a picture of me doing that which makes my heart leap for those who don’t know me personally but will come across this blog post.

Es black and white

Please join me to make my birthday wish come true.  So many lives will be better for it.

Thank you in advance!


I have not written here in so long. What better way to come back into the game than with a piece of writing about something I hold so dear?

For context, ‘Angaza’ is Swahili for shine/illuminate. We chose it to represent all the light the children we work with will beam into the world. Our Angaza program is not just about children learning to read and write better, but also changing the world in their own little ways.

I will not say much more. Let me go ahead and share this beautiful piece by one of our volunteers.


Let there be light that burns like the midnight oil

Like candle wax that drips like sweat

Or the tears of a parent

Or the glint of rainbow hues

Sparkling through the dews on morning grass – bare cracked feet swooshing past

Wading through swamps – feet lifted dainty like the hem of a skirt

Trudging over hot sand – one eye out for snakes and such…

It is said that in the olden days, finding knowledge was harsh

Now we realise that it’s gotten much worse

But beneath the light of Angaza –

Watch how the ground is compelled to split in half

How the seeds that fell along the path and on the rocks and among the thorns-

Sprout and curve

Stop a moment and make low bows to the clouds

Discern then how their branches rapidly spread

How the roots reach for further depth

These roots of seeds that refused to be eaten by the birds;

Or scorched by the sun, or choked at the neck

Like a tenacious truth

First whispered in a quiet room

Swelling and gaining strength and attaining shape

Till one day they’ll hold sway over cities and hills and plains

Casting their shade – dropping their leaves in a gentle hail

Healing the turbulent;

And spelling doom to fear and ignorance.


So let us then;

We Guardians of this Light never let it blaze in vain

I too by the power of Angaza have been compelled

Heartbeat, quickening in tune with the way our minds race

Fist pressed close against the chest

Glance lifted like the chin

Hallucinating in retrospect

Writing this vision like a letter and spreading the word




Originally posted on Thursday 6 April

It is Thursday, my most ‘predictable’ day of the week because I am sure how it will end- with a 4040 meeting.
I often schedule appointments around it..If anyone wants to have wedding meetings with me involved, I ask that Thursday isn’t an option; if there is an invitation on a Thursday, I make an exception only if it is really important or if I know my presence will make a difference.
Everyone who knows me, knows this bit of my schedule. *If I owe you money, this is all a joke👆*
This bond has lasted longer than some relationships. We stick together. Before the meetings we are catching up, during the meeting we’re being a menace to the chairman and after the meeting we are saying goodbye but really staying. <cue song- Everytime I try to leave, something keeps pulling me back…🎼🎶🎵>
Even when I am unwell, I force myself there. I know that a night fight or disagree, but we all want the same thing-to create change and that is priceless.
Today it rained in the evening and there were some cancellations as expected but still 14 friends were there to discuss over tea and snacks, sharing ideas that we hope will change lives.
We used to meet on Tuesdays, then two members enrolled in a Master’s class that required them to study on Tuesday. We moved days and never looked back.
We have had ‘5 homes’ where we have met for 5 years.
Some members have settled down and stopped coming, others have settled down and still come; some are single and searching..others are single and being searched..and some..we don’t even know..and it doesn’t really matter. What we know is a have each other.

I don’t know what this picture will look 5 years from now and to be honest, that doesn’t make me lose sleep at night (as much as it used to) I am basking in the now..and the now is beautiful!

It speaks of dreams and rainbows, pain and lessons, love and loss, hard work and loyalty. It provides so many things I never even knew I wanted, that fit right into this life of mine.


I probably didn’t do much in my own power, to deserve this blessing that keeps on giving..but one thing is for sure; I will do everything in my power to keep it, to keep them.

Past joys

Today’s entry has come so easily.

On this day, 3 years ago; I posted this

Originally posted on 5 April.

It is the ordinary days when you get up early, run a few errands and try to make all ends meet that turn out extraordinary.
Yesterday was one of those.
At lunch time a stranger asked if he could pay for our meal (my friends and I) When he noticed my puzzled look, he simply said “Thank you for the good work you do in the community, I am 40-40.” He paid the bill and left.
We were mesmerised, to say the very least!

Later that evening, after jumping from one appointment to another-literally, I honoured an invitation to Sales pitch Night where 40-40 had a slot to speak. I arrived late, made my 5 minute pitch and joined my team at our table.

At the end of the night, it was mentioned that there had been ‘secret judges’ throughout the event and we were handed an award for “Best Pitch.”


The shock and elation, I can’t even people generously donated to 4040 just based on my pitch- at very short notice!
Here I am still wowed..and amazed!
Let everyday be exciting even if it is ordinary-for God, the maker of all will add an extra to your ordinary.

Thank you Jamila for organising this event and successfully pulling it off.
40-40 team, you rock.

Bless you all.

Limitless blessings


Real time update; From an email I received.


Dear Esther

Greetings from *Renewed hope family to the 40/40 team. Hoping you are all doing well. I am happy to inform you that we are doing well, the children are doing well too.
I am glad to inform you that *Renewed hope* has of late gotten a partnership with an American based organisation called *New day international. They purposely registered to work with us and in this they have committed themselves to raising money to help the running of *Renewed hope which is going to include salaries, food etc.

They are also thinking about constructing a medical facility that will as well serve the community, construct a secondary school and also buy land for *Renewed hope for farming. They hope to work with us on this in phases.

We are praying about everything they tell us as we waiting on God.

Keep praying for us. Here is a reminder that it was because of the partnership that we have had with you that the world got to know more about us, reaching this stage is a great success that is attributed to your support and good relationship with us.
Thank you.

P.s: *I edited names of people/organisations to protect their identity*

Do you see God? Always working overtime for those who love and serve him🙏