Jambula

I have not been able to write in ages. I know why, but at the same time I don’t.

A few minutes ago, I found this little book in my memories; one of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts I have ever received. I got it one year ago today and I am sure there is a reason I had another look at it today. I have read it over and over again, and it feels like someone is giving me a warm hug, telling me ‘every little thing is going to be alright.’

It is the beautiful sunrise, the middle-of-the-night rain,the cozy couch, that favourite song, all in one.

I am archiving it here because it is just sooooo good 🙂

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Thursday..

36

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.

Limitless blessings

34

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🙏

Starting Over

12
The year was 2013. I quit my job without a plan and needed to convince myself that it was the right decision before I could convince my loved ones…and then the ‘world.’
I was constantly looking for signs and any positive feedback or bright light shinning on 4040 qualified. Similarly, when too many humps came my way, I would re-evaluate my decision and contemplate going ‘back.’
Around that time, I got nominated for the ‘Heroine of the year award’ by the Young Achiever’s awards.
I was excited but also extremely anxious😢

To begin with, I didn’t feel worthy. That award had previously been won by Dr.Matthew Lukwiya (rest his soul) whose heroism saved several lives when Ebola hit Uganda hard. He literally sacrificed his own life. I, on the other hand, was a rookie at most.
Awel, who put the awards together, mentioned that I was the only one who really needed to pitch what I do since all the other winners were in a competition of sorts, and were established themselves. Way to go increasing the ‘puresha!’ (Pressure)

I decided to use my fear and anxiety to fuel my preparations to speak at the event.
D-day arrived and Victoria Hall, Serena was filled to capacity (it isn’t small by any standards) Luckily, I had managed to ‘smuggle’ extra invitations for my team and knowing that they were in the room, along with some members of the family, helped. Sadly, I couldn’t make eye contact with any of them as nominees sat separately.
I kept hearing the names of the dignitaries present,titles like Queen, C.E.O, MD flew over the room as little ol’ me sat, shaking.
That entire week I had had trouble sleeping..I had dreams, scratch that-nightmares.
Once I was tripping in high heels, then in another, I was stuttering as I spoke.
I always woke up in cold sweats.

Well, when I was finally called to the podium I realised why I had been afraid. It was intimidating!😥

The lights, the people..did I mention THE PEOPLE? I didn’t imagine them naked (which is advice on how to handle speaking to large crowds, apparently)
I was shaking from my waist downwards..for the entire duration.Thank God no one could see that..
I received the award and then I spoke..and spoke and then spoke some more. I just couldn’t stop. I pitched with all my heart, or so I would like to believe.
I even called out the NSSF MD in my speech. *where those guts came from, only God knows*
<He would later re-appear when we won an award in 2015, story for another day>
I don’t know if I made any blunders in the speech, nor do I remember much of what I said.

 


I do remember the aftermath though.
Speaker after speaker commended our work, many pledged support.
It was the biggest crowd I had ever addressed and one of the most important too.
At the end of the event, I collected a ridiculous number of business cards and mentally noted everyone who said ‘ get in touch, let’s work together.’
Since it was December, I waited for the festive season to end.
After the new year began, I started knocking doors and sending emails.
Between those who ignored me, asked me to come back ‘next week’ for several months and played hide and seek, there was a grand total of about 3 individuals who honoured their pledges or came through months later.

It didn’t matter, okay it did..it kinda hurt too but more than anything it toughened me and prepared me for a lot worse;Not to mention I have had countless speaking engagements since..and although I am always anxious, I like to remind myself of some of the lion’s dens I have been to and survived.

Aluta continua

Do unto others

Part one (story number 2)
Some months before the 4040 journey, my friend started a company.
Let us call him Frank.
He invited 5 other friends, including myself, in different positions. We all had other ‘hustles’ and met once a week.
During these weekly meetings we discussed the vision for the company. We also contributed financially to a ‘fund’ during each meeting.
One of the issues to tackle was climate change and we were planning a symposium. That was 6 years ago so you can imagine how ‘current’ the themes were. We would probably have accomplished quite a bit by now.
I speak of it in past tense because one day we were up and running and next day…we just weren’t.
Frank is quite ambitious, a go better who had a clear vision of what he wanted. Some of his friends were either less interested in this particular venture or just weren’t in the place Frank needed them to be. They missed meetings without apology and generally had a laid back approach to work.
I do not like to start things if I have no intention of seeing them to the every end and generally frown upon unprofessionalism so I was bothered by their laxity. I mentioned this to Frank a few times but I could also see they were friends first, even closer to him than I was, so it remained one of those things I couldn’t do much about.
I decided I would do my part. Another friend, Sophie who was in charge of accounts also took her work seriously. We would balance it out. I hoped
We started setting up meetings to rope in partners. We weren’t going to fight global warming on our own, now were we?These 20 something’s were ready to take on the world.
I even got shares in this company..Whaattaabout?!
Along the way, without so much as a goodbye, the company went into oblivion. I can’t quite say how or when..but it did.
Maybe the time wasn’t right or the team wasn’t ready; perhaps other life commitments took over. I will never really know.
This week two things happened to remind me of Frank’s company. I got a notification about a Facebook like (as I am an admin on the page) and I took a boda boda that rode past one of the organisations I had approached to partner with us.
I smiled.
Fast forward, 4040 begins and I give it my best. I have a team made up of friends so there is a line that should or shouldn’t be drawn. It’s a conundrum.
I look back at my work with Frank, there may not be much to show but I do not regret giving my time and resources.
I was supporting a friend, when he needed it and I would like to think I accomplished that.
do-unto-others
Part two (Story number 3) *You will notice that this is like 5 stories in one so please allow me to combine , and count them as two-yes? Yes. Thanks
Later on,Frank gets a good job as the right hand man of a prominent C.E.O. Circa early 2014, we are in the process of building a dormitory and we are Ugx 5 million (approximately $1,500) away from meeting our target. We have run campaigns, organised events and used up all the ‘public’ avenues to raise funds. I pray for a miracle and make a plan to ensure anyone who dares to ask “how are you?” gets the real truth.
Stuck is where I was. This dormitory needed to be completed and short of a miracle, there was no other way.
Around that time, *Ruth and Frank* get in touch. Ruth was coming into the country for a short while and wanted to have tea..Frank was just casually checking in on me.
I told both of them about my struggle.
Ruth immediately offered to contribute Ugx 1 million. I wept!
By the time Frank checked in, my problem was less by a million shillings. I told him we needed Ugx 4 million.
He also immediately suggested his current workplace and asked me to draft a letter.
In our conversation he told me to consider it done. Given how close he worked with the CEO. I believed him, without a doubt.
The next day, I trekked to town armed with a soft copy of the letter, an empty purse and a grateful heart.
I went by Frank’s office after printing the letter. He suggested changes. I went back to the printery, edited and brought the ‘final’ copy complete with attachments.
I walked to Ruth’s with a spring in my step and told her about my miracle. She was excited. We had our tea and she handed me the 1 million at the end. This was the work of God and I was honoured to be a servant.
A week went by and I contacted Frank.
He said I would have feedback the next week. After one week I got in touch. He mentioned his boss was away.
Next time, the boss was ill.
Then, no reply.
Suddenly,all  my messages and calls were being ignored..
I was confused because all he needed to tell me was that the request was rejected..or even come up with some story about the organisation only taking part in a certain kind of CSR which we didn’t qualify for, blame it on global warming. Anything.
Instead.
Radio silence.
Finally I got a clue and decided to look for the balance from scratch. It was H.A.R.D!
I blamed myself for counting my chickens before they hatched. I was the only fool in this equation.
The thing that confused me the most was I did not see why Frank had to treat me this way. It made no sense. We were friends. I had spent two years hustling to build 4040 and he knew it. I mean, I could see why someone else would do this and have experienced it from several people especially on this 40-40 journey but him.why?
I was perplexed but I had to let it go, grudgingly.
For a long time I thought I would not be able to look at Frank or speak to him. I felt he had treated me like awfully and I didn’t think I deserved it. When I confronted him, I left feeling patronised and had to accept an apology than I never did receive. He literally acted like nothing had happened while I nursed my still-very-fresh-wounds.
In case you were wondering, we managed to raise the Ugx 4 million balance. It was not easy but we somehow did.
The story wasn’t over.Yet
About a year later, 4040 starts another campaign to raise funds for a second dormitory, for girls. Lo and behold! Frank asks me to draft a letter so he can talk to his boss about funding.
I read the message and all my frustration and anger returned. I felt sick to my stomach.
It felt like deja vu except I knew for sure it was real and not the brain playing tricks.
I decided to take a few deep breaths and then I called Sophie.
Now in case you don’t remember, Sophie had served with me at Frank’s company..and was now volunteering with 4040.
The conversation went something like this
“Frank has contacted me about contributing for the girl’s dormitory. If he is serious, I don’t want my pride or feelings to get in the way of our girls getting a home. I don’t trust myself not to have an outburst or say things I will regret so do me a favour and take it on from here.”
She understood. I later drafted the letter and send it to her. She did the follow up while I remained present only remotely.
In a couple of weeks, the payment was approved and an EFT made to our account.
I generally like closure and would have wanted to know what changed this time round. It would be nice to understand why my calls and pleas were avoided like the plague. Was this second attempt penance?
However, none of these is as important as the girl’s dormitory that finally became a reality because hundreds of people contributed, including the company Frank works for.
dorm-main

The complete dormitory for girls in Bombo, Uganda

What would you do?

Note:
This is my second and third installment in what I hope will be 40 stories about the 40-40 journey spread out during these 40 days of lent.

5. Thankful

Mark Twain said  the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.
This may not be the exact date when I found out why but it is when I began the journey that led me there.
Allow me to introduce the birth-date of the 40-40 story.
I recently took off time from most social commitments and social media platforms so that I could re-evaulate this dream and dedicate it further to the author of all things.
I critically assessed the past and present from my eyes, my mind, my soul.
I dreamt of a wonderful future that is not in my hands and thought of the legacy that I hope we will leave.
Along the way I met a stranger and as we spoke, his eyes widened. They glistened with hope as I unconsciously went on and on about this life that chose me and I in turn, chose.
At the end he said “So, in essence you are planting trees whose full benefit you will not experience in this lifetime.”
I smiled. I swallowed hard. I nodded.
He understood.
I have been a planner ever since I discovered ideas and lists, and here is the irony- the single most life changing decision I ever made came without a plan..at all. Even more transformational for me, was my decision to stay.
Note:Yes, planning is important but sometimes you just need to LEAP.
In many ways bits of the goal  remain changing even after pre-pre-pre-planning; But I think I like that. Most days.
I thought of all  the things I could say on this day which fills me with a truckload of emotions and the resounding message that came to me is/was THANK YOU..and that is what I will do.
Dear you who is reading and has been part of 40-40 in one way or another,
Did I add you to that first group without your consent? Did your timeline fill with campaign after campaign until you wanted to hit the mute/block buttons long before they existed?
Did you wonder what the fuss was about and even doubt the nobility of our intentions?
Did you come for porridge and kabalagala (pancakes) at the monthly breakfasts or was it that mystery dude with the dark humour whom you met at Hoops for Grace? Speaking of Grace, did you ever wonder who Grace was and why we were ‘hooping for her?’
Did you know that each hashtag, name and basically every creative title we came up with was mostly spur of the moment? Simplicity always beat overthinking.
Were you coerced into your first interaction with our programs? Did spending time with the children move you closer or push you further away after listening to stories of what their little hearts have had to endure?
Did you feel warmth in your heart each time we completed a project you contributed to? Did you do a happy dance each time we received recognition? Did anyone ever tell you those wins were because of you and that your input meant everything to us?
What if I told you today that many times I almost gave up but when I thought about how far you helped us come, I stiffened my upper lip and ‘womanned up?’
You may not remember that day when you said “I am proud of you” or “You inspire me.” Perhaps not even the time I thanked you and you responded “Anything for 40-40.” It may have slipped your mind how we were struggling to get work done and you volunteered your time or those moments when we weren’t hitting our targets and you made a generous contribution. Gosh, you even brought your tithe to 4040 and we weren’t sure whether to feel guilty or humbled.
Remember how I didn’t have a plan? Yes. I called you and you stayed. And then I suddenly started throwing the word ‘team’ around and you didn’t object. Just like that. A team was formed. It has changed over the years and also remained the same.
You joined at the start and left along the way.
You joined mid-way, had your doubts but still you remained.
You came to ‘check it out’ and never left
You called your sister, your brother, your friend and asked them to join
Your family became my family
You felt out of place because it seemed like everyone knew everybody else. Nonetheless, you took it like a champ. Now you’re one of us.
You attended meetings when you were broke and walked home after
You volunteered with us when you were between jobs
You took time off work when we had an event
You travelled from a nearby district, country to show support
You send in contributions from several continents away. I forget that you aren’t physically here with us.
You got into trouble when your boss noticed you were spending a lot of time on 4040 work
You spent your weekends and public holidays in office as we strategised
You used your own resources to run the organisation’s errands
You told the 4040 story to anyone and everyone who cared to listen
You wore your 4040 tee till it faded and asked for Heelllpp..and then you quickly replaced it
You trekked Kikubo looking for the most affordable price for children’s items
You called in favours until they were all used up
You prayed with and for us. Most importantly, you showed up when it counted.
There are days when three people behind the scenes made the outsiders think there was a looming earthquake.
The passion
The dedication
The sacrifices.
Unmatched.
For all this and more,
I would like to salute you, to commend you but mostly to celebrate you.
This day if for you and only you.

I can’t mention each of you by name even if I tried.
I may never be able to convey this message in person.

Today I ask that you share this thank you note with someone, who introduced you to 4040; or gave you company when you invited them, to a loyal supporter who reminds you about a campaign or an event, to the wonderful team behind the scenes that is truly a gift that keeps on giving; to anyone and everyone who supports us discreetly, regularly or with the utmost PDA you ever did see.

I would appreciate it if they got the message. You, yes you are loved and I am extremely thankful for you.
I do not feel like my vocabulary (or any for that matter) will ever do justice to that which I want to convey to you.
Nonetheless, accept this note laced with my sincere gratitude,love and admiration.

You are living proof of what a small group of determined people can do for a community, a nation; you are the restoration of faith to humanity,
The truth is, without you, there would be no US, no 40-40. You are the reason that we have 5 years to celebrate and we would love to do it with you.
thank-you
Above all, the glory and honour goes to God, who started this journey, has sustained it and will see it to the very end.
P.s 1: This year’s 40 days (where it all began) start on Wednesday 1 March. To commemorate 5 years, we shall collect stationery, story books and text books for children. Any learning/fun materials that support our literacy dream. This collection will last, you guessed it, 40 days 🙂
P.s 2: We shall host a fundraising and anniversary dinner on Friday May 5, at Victorial Hall, Kampala Serena Hotel. Save the date and save the coins. It will be our utmost pleasure to have you present, celebrating with us.
5-year-sticker
‘Dedike’
We are the world- Michael Jackson
With all the love and appreciation in the world,and then some,
Esther.
Xoxo

31

Can you sniff 2017? I know I can. Once I begin inhaling the fragrance of Christmas, the year’s end is often the next thought.

Last night I was at a vigil when the mother called in tears. I could barely make out what she was saying but I quickly figured it was news of another death. I went silent.

It feels like this year, I have attended more funerals than celebrations. When it isn’t a beautiful young soul who was just starting out, it is a parent leaving behind innocent little ones or even ‘unfinished business,’ which I feel like we all have. On top of all the salty seas that have constantly had to dissolve, this anguish has greatly affected how I think, how I feel and how I live. Fortunately, some of the outcomes have been positive.

While I have for the past few years been a great advocate for ‘leave whatever job, relationship or other situation which brings you more sadness than joy,’ my conviction has developed by leaps with each sudden farewell. The fleetingness of life increasingly affects my decisions and I find myself imposing these ideals even on poor unsuspecting victims.

A couple of months ago, I found myself ‘lecturing’ Carol about her choices, giving 150% to a job that only milked her, stole her sense of self-worth and lowered her self- esteem. It was only on my way home that I realised I had only met her once and should probably have found a more neutral topic of discussion, climate change? I shrugged it off as ‘motherly instinct’ and consoled myself in the knowledge that I did it in good faith. Last week she sent me a Facebook message explaining that she had suffered a breakdown and her doctor attributed it to her working environment. Carol has since tendered her resignation.

Unfortunately, many young people I interact with have convinced themselves that they should settle for less. On the surface they seem confident, ambitious, happy, and vivacious even. However, they are in bad relationships because “all women/men are the same.” They work crazy hours for little pay and no potential for growth because “it is the same everywhere.” Sadly for the latter, even I have to advise cautiously because I understand that the unemployment burden is very REAL. I also know that we can’t have passion and dreams for breakfast and dinner.

While it is unlikely that you will love people into changing their world view, it is also important that we support our loved ones. We need to take it upon ourselves to reignite their flame when we realise it is burning out, to have the courage to speak out even when we know the truth will sting.

I know there is a thin line between meddling and some of us might prefer to keep silent and ‘keep the peace’ but in my opinion, that is stealing a portion of what we need to give our loved ones.

 

What would you have loved to see/hear when you were younger? Did you (not) have someone holding your hand and showing you direction? Did their presence, or lack thereof affect the person you are today?

What happens when our would-be mentors in the work place are the biggest source of negative energy? What is the expected outcome when our parents tell us we are worthless and/or compare us to siblings/other families without giving us a chance to shine in whichever path we have chosen? Where do we turn when our partners, our friends who were meant to be our biggest cheerleaders become the greatest source of darkness?

Hurt people, hurt people. Can we think about this the next time we inflict pain on others or feel like we too have been wounded?

Many a time we go through life like we are immortal, other times, like we are untouchable. Once in a while, we acknowledge that we might be gone tomorrow but quickly forget and go back to our old ways. I know how guilty I am of this. While we don’t know the day or hour when we shall say goodbye, we do know what makes our hearts smile. We know what it feels like to be broken, betrayed, unloved, alone, forgotten, alienated..ashamed. It is because we know and have felt all this that we should not inflict such pain on others, and yet we still do.

dessert

The year seems like it is already over but in reality we have plenty of time. 31 days.

31 days to

love yourself

pamper yourself

remember yourself

teach yourself

31 days to love others, unashamedly-

31 days to say

I am sorry

I was wrong

I forgive you

I will change <and mean it>

31 days to let go,

Of that which steals your light and shine

31 days to chase

That which brings you joy, even if you don’t catch it <now>

31 days to be that person whom you wish you had in your life.

 

I can’t promise what the outcome will be, but I hope it will help you with a fresh start, or better still, a happier journey that will flow into the new year.

Xx

 

fear