ON THE POWER OF UGANDAN STORIES AND THE PROBLEMS THAT CLEVER CHILDREN FACE

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.

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Lights, Camera, Action

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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 Ddala😛* 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 rolex😭
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  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 us😒
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 womb😞

 

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.😳

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!😮

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 ready💪💃and if they fail to be, their loss😈
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.

Wealth, Survival and everything in between

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Wealth: “An abundance of valuable possessions or money.”

This journey has neither brought me money nor ‘valuable possesions’ in the sense of precious stones, assets or sports car to show off😉 but it has opened my heart to different kinds of wealth.

When I decided to leave formal employment, I will admit I didn’t really have a plan when it came to finances and how to survive. I didn’t take time to think about the next few years; about investments and anything of the sort..I just left.

I am fast approaching the 3-decade mark. I live at home with my parents. I do not have vast acres of land that my great grand parents left me and my collective wealth lies in a ridiculous number of notebooks (which Suzan already booked)

Do I think about the fact that my peers drive to the cafe when we meet up for tea and all I have are ‘boda tales?’ Yes. Have I watched them move house and gradually stock up their dream homes? Yup.
Do I celebrate them when they get a raise or purchase a piece of land? Definitely!
Am I present when they exchange their vows and bring life into this world? Me, my emotions and yet-to-be-perfected ululations represent in full swing!😊
So, what is the plan?

Am I waiting for that fine day when I will win the lottery or am I convinced that I will marry into wealth?😮

 

 

I did two interviews last week and both journalists were keen to hear how I ‘survive.’ I smiled knowingly.
I do talks and when it is ‘Q&A’ time, as sure as we are of meeting a pothole along our daily paths..that question does come up. Sometimes, I try to slip the response in before it is asked.
My favourite concern comes from my supposed loved ones; who have never so much as shown interest in the work that I do or how I got there; who neither applaud not offer positive words but when they get a chance, they pull me aside to ask “When will you get a job?
“Didn’t your parents do enough by taking you to school, why are you still burdening them by staying at home?” For some, their solution is marriage. Of course, take my burdens elsewhere, why don’t I? While we are on this, which ‘free’ forest is open for me to come and pick the poor victim of this union?😒

Is it easy to live a life in which you don’t expect a monthly pay cheque,rent from your tenants, *insert other sources of income* ? Nope
Am I blind to how fast paced the world is and all the things made easier by the presence of money and his friends? Negative
Now let me ask you?
Do people who have a stable income and the ability to provide for themselves and their families still have problems?
Back to the definition of wealth, shall any of us take our ‘money and valuable possessions’ on our trip six-feet under?

The truth is that there is probably nothing anyone with great intentions (or not) will tell me about my survival needs that I haven’t thought of; not to mention I am my biggest critic.
After their annual check up on my status, they go back to their lives and I keep living mine.
Most importantly, the person I am most answerable to here on earth is…ME.
This means I get to decide what is comfortable and enough for ME. Isn’t it just great?!

Some people receive satisfaction from seeing the number of zeroes on their bank statements, others derive it from looking at all their assets; for some, joy is in the form of their family or loved ones; the list is endless.

You find someone giving their all because they believe in a cause;it gives them purpose, fills their hearts,brings them closer to their dream and literally gets them up in the morning daily and it is legal/not affecting you in anyway but your first instinct is to poo all over because your life’s mission is to play ‘devil’s advocate.’

Quick one: Kikulumira wa? (Loosely translated; “how does it affect you?”) I am speaking to the ones who ask, not with the purpose of offering to help but so that they can ridicule or confirm that you’re better than person X. Why?
Seriously though. WHY?!

I would like to say this from my brief experience;
Take comfort in your big dream even if it is unevenly matched by small savings; sit tight in that taxi or on that boda boda knowing well that it will not always be like that; and so what if it is? You do get from point A to B, no?
Desist from comparing yourself to people even if you were raised in the same household, heck even if you’re twins! ; our paths are different and THERE IS A TIME FOR EVERYTHING. Now, this is difficult to put into practice, I can tell you that I battle with it often; especially if you feel you deserve better, you have invested too much time, your blessing is taking too long or your hard work has come to naught. I urge you, Keep at it. Talk to someone whom you know is on your team; keep learing and improving yourself as an individual; find solace in the higher power you believe in. So everything it takes!
If it helps you get up in the morning then clearly you need/want it.
AND;
If for whatever reason, you find yourself doing something which doesn’t bring you any pleasure and/or satisfaction but simply because society ‘approves.’ Stop. Re-evaluate. Look around you. Ask yourself if ‘they’ really deserve you and what you have to give.

I am not an authority at all, but as I type this. I am living my dream with the most minimal resources you can think of.
I am not wealthy by dictionary definition but I have found a way to get work done using other people’s resources. Along the way, I have learnt countless lessons and God knows I have amassed wealth in form of people and bountiful love
The mention of my surname doesn’t cause earthquakes or get work done and every other day is a new battle.
There are still so many people, including those I love who think this is a phase, a pastime that I will snap out of and my goodness there is so much I haven’t figured out!😨😥😢
Nonetheless, still I rise and I am glad to share that in all its imperfection, I would still choose this life.😊😍

Celebrating Super Women

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Women’s day is here and I thought I would give a number of related stories about some of the women who have been on this journey from the beginning, from the middle and everywhere in between.

I got to know *Belinda in 2012 though I knew of her earlier because we shared a mutual friend. I was amazed by her energy, a woman of steel. She never shied away from tasks and always went the extra mile. Belinda doesn’t wait for praise or acclaim, she does what she can when she can. She became my right hand woman by default especially during the tough times at the beginning. I couldn’t have chosen a better partner. She is also a great ‘rant partner.’ Many times when things weren’t going well..we would sit and rant then leave refreshed..like it was a therapy session.

Rachel* is a darling to children and I am not saying it has anything to do with her bossom😝
There is no one I have encountered who has overcome their terrible past experiences by spreading love over bitterness or vengeance like she has. Sadly, she didn’t have the priveledge of having her parents on this earth for long enough (bless their souls) but fish has she kept their love alive through her huge heart.

Vivian* was in my life at a distance long before she joined the team and when she came, the rest was history. She took on responsibilities even when she had several other commitments and delivered with zeal. She has a creative mind and it helps that she believes even in the impossible. Whenever I am away, she fills in for more in every way possible.
Her energy is infectious but don’t mess with her or those she loves, she WILL bite.

Christine* also came into my life through mutual friends. She quickly warmed up to our activities and put in the work. She is such an awesome 4040 ambassador to the extent that if ever she was fired, it would be because of the time and energy she puts into our work behind the scenes. The company she works for has sponsored us before thanks to her connection, many would shy away from mixing their work with uhm..other work.

Vivian and Christine were both extremely handy during my time as an M.A student. This is a story I will properly tell another day..but they saved me so much money in printing fees. They have often crossed the line sacrificing for 4040 visa vis their jobs which scares me and I don’t take it for granted.

Faith* has been a friend since we were pre-teen girls and I can only say she gets finer with age, just like wine.
Her heart is in the right place at all times. She is quite reserved and you can tell her your life story without even knowing her middle name but her generosity knows no bounds. She has involved her family and (former) work place in our work. She has volunteered at events and when she can’t give time, she sacrifices financially over and beyond.

Tina* is bowl of fun and a free spirit. She also is the kind of girl whom you tell ‘let’s go’ and she asks when..as opposed to where. She will later remember to pack her bags. She worked upcountry for a while and still made the time to attend events, work and even catch a bus back the same day. Even when isn’t around, I meet her friends who attend our outreaches and let me know they are representing her.

Janice* is just the same. She has literally been posted from one district to a further district. Still, she will show up whenever she is expected. Her family has gotten involved and I mean beyond the ‘nuclear’ family. They helped consume most of our remaining beer at an event last year after their team lost😊

Linda* was there from the beginning and her family got looped in in stages, including one of her elder sisters who was among the first people to contribute, and generously too back during those 40 days in 2012. She also involved her (former) colleagues in a drive to #BuyABrick and goodness did they give generously!
Linda has a sound mind and often pulled me up when my legs began to shake back in the day. She has been a great cheerleader and sounding board. She initiated a program that Nina now runs, whose potential is limitless.

Nina* is a radiant fireball. You can be fooled by her silence but when she speaks, it is with purpose. She is hilarious too, you just need to stick around to know her. She broke her leg and went out of work for a while. It was a tough time. She decided to use that time to work for 4040. I couldn’t afford her even if I tried. When she later joined a firm with a somewhat flexible schedule, she still have plenty of time to develop a program that had stalled because of the absence of a full time coordinator. It is currently out flagship program.

Peace* is a calm spirit whose kindness and compassion is enviable. She also got on board from the beginning and was especially close to the children at the orphanage we first worked with. She is constantly hounding ‘her people’s when we have campaigns and many have supported no matter where they are. She is one of our ‘drink-selling-gurus.’ If you have been to our events, you know this is no easy feat. May Golola one day come and save us.

Matilda* ‘tomunyigila mu tooke’ (aka no-nonsense woman) She is unafraid to speak her mind and is as loyal as they come. While she works and lives way out of town, she is a regular at our weekly meetings. She is also always linking people up with 4040 and giving of her time. She works weekends but whenever we have weekend events, she heads to the venue right after work.
She is also another guru when it comes to selling drinks

Nadine* has been in my life and part of the team for less than 3 years but no one would be able to tell. From her hard work and dedication, it feels like she has been there since inception. This hot mama of 4 is a doer. She doesn’t like excuses and walks her talk. She has shown me a good example of how possible it is to be a great wife,mother,career woman and still have time for your passions and party like a rock star while at it. ‘Unfortunately,’ this also means I find myself sub-consciously comparing most people to her when they slack. I have to remind myself that we are all different.
One of her mantras “You don’t have to like someone to work with them” often came in handy when little disagreements threatened to affect the quality of our work.

Prudence* and I come from way back, primary school to be exact. She was in a lower class. High school brought us together again and 4040 made us closer.
When we asked for time, she gave it, resources, she offered, a car to run errands, she availed. Generally, whatever is in her power, she will do. Her family supports us even when they’re in the diaspora. Her brother even became an expert ‘shirt folder’ under our watch though university has borrowed him for a bit. You can hear Prudence’s laugh all the way in Madagascar and her love runs just as deep.

Irene* always says her first reaction to of the 4040 group was “Why is this chic (that would be me) adding me?” The rest, as they say, is history. She has given of her time for the communication bits, for events and being a ‘middle man’ when we need favour from her bosses.
I vividly remember one Christmas season when we were struggling to raise money for the children’s Christmas gifts. She suggested restaurant that we could use as a drop off point, went ahead to speak to the owner and even find a piggie bank (box) all on her own. That is the colour of initiative.

Allen* is a silent volcano waiting to erupt.
She is also the one you run to when you need someone to help you hate on person X who is frustrating you.😂 One of her standard responses is “I always knew that bigger was shady.” Smh.
Did I mention she got into a fight with David Obua when he refused pay entrance at 5 aside and forcefully got in? “Good times!”
All her jobs have pretty much consumed her but she is there when she can. She was our afande link for a long time, often doing the rounds at Police stations, getting us permission before events.

Lisa* is a classic case of a friend of my friend who is now my friend. Confused yet? She is happy to lucky and was quite active before she took on some parenting roles. Nonetheless, she still gets her tropps together to support our campaigns and has involved the company she works for, in our work.

Angel our (now) summer/winter rep was ‘borrowed’ from us but we can’t wait till she returns to pothole central with all the knowledge and skills she has acquired as part of her M.A. Angel worked with us for a short time but her presence was felt. I will tell you a story of how she rode with one of Uganda’s most popular musicians out of town so they could discuss how to get us Maddox and when her phone for off..we were sure she has been kidnapped. Smh.
Angel is always looking for ways in which we can do better and best of all, we pray together.

Hope has been in my life for a while through mutual friends. She was always sharing info about our events and showing up to participate. 4040 has a subscription platform where you can make a monthly contribution. When Vivian sent her a message to remind her about her contribution last year, Hope was abroad. She said she would send it. She eventually did. She sent Ugx 1 million! We had had a series of events that consumed our savings and had been clueless. I cried for most of that night and failed to share half of what I wanted to say when we spoke.
Recently she returned home and told me she had some time to spare for 4040. Naturally I welcome this news with enthusiasm. She has already handled her first duty excellently and we can only hope (get it, hope? Not working? Okay..moving on)
What was I saying? We can only hope it gets better.

This is longer than I thought (as usual) The list could also be much longer but let me stop here.

To you beautiful women I say, thank you.
You have been my rocks, my prayer warriors, my supporters, my shields, my sources of comfort, laughter, light and love.
I can barely articulate everything that I wish I could say to you. I hope to give you all that you have given me and then some.
I love you so

 

 

 

I celebrate you today and always.

Letter to my little one

Dear baby,

I don’t know if I’ll ever stop calling you that. I know you just moved past toddler stage but it will be a long time before I get over all the transitions.

On this day, 4 years ago, I had you.I want you to know, and always remember that it was one of the best decisions of my life. I didn’t think I was ready and many times I still feel the same, but over time, I have realised there is almost no such thing as ‘ready.’ You were not an ordinary baby, in fact, you were anything but ordinary. Your star began to shine very early and I constantly marvel at the phenomenon that you are. One day you were crawling, the next you were running and then went back to walking; I have never been quite able to keep up.

I love it when you giggle, even better when you laugh. I am sad when I see your tears, I never knew that love could sometimes hurt so bad or make you so happy you feel like you’re going to explode. Anything that can harm you, I want to protect you from, but I am learning that somethings you just need to feel on your own, and I shall not always be able to shield you. You challenge me in ways I can’t explain and keep me on my toes like no one else ever has. By now you know I love you with all that I am, but I will say it again anyway, I love you.

Our journey has been blessed, as I am sure you know, by God and the people around us. Everyone has come around to help me raise you, friends, family and strangers alike. You found favour and because of that, I can sleep soundly knowing you will always have someone. It wasn’t always like that, many people asked me to abandon you, some still do. I don’t get mad at them so much anymore.They don’t see what I see in you, they don’t understand what we have been through. I hope to teach you many things my love, but one of them is that you should not always listen to the crowd just because it’s loud. Most of your grandest joys will come from decisions you made because you felt right, not because everyone was happy with them.

Do you remember those long months,almost two years ago, when we couldn’t sleep, when we felt like the world was coming to an end? My heart ached physically, I could have sworn it was going to jump out of my body. I didn’t want to blame you for my pain and I certainly couldn’t bear to give up on you. I did not want you to see what having you had done to me but the piercing pain often blinded me to all the joy that you brought me. We made it somehow; that is one of the reasons I am certain that God ordained you for me. We have stumbled and fallen so many times since but because of that gut wrenching experience, we were able to learn to celebrate our scars and all the battles they represent. I want you to know, how sorry I am, from the bottom of my heart, for the times that I have looked the other way, for the moments when I was too weak to fight back. I am a work in progress but I am glad that we have experienced all of it together. In future, I know you will remind me that we are more than conquerors, whenever I forget.

I am now just a few years shy of the big 30 and it is as scary as it is exciting. We started out young, I could never have imagined the responsibility that came with the decision I made but time has flown by so fast and I must admit, you continue to surprise me. Do you know how many times I have been asked when I will get you a little sister or brother? Some people are subtle but most (especially elders) are blunt with no remorse. I often have a comeback, but sometimes I just let them be, you know? I am sure by now you know that your mommy can be stubborn and you have taken after her in some ways. You also know that we serve a faithful God and his timing is always perfect. As the years go by, I think about it, more; our family and what it shall look like, how far you will be when the next angel comes into our lives and whether or not the many helping hands that raised you will groom you into adulthood. These thoughts do keep me up at night once in a while, but thankfully, when my human self has over analysed that which it has no control over,it finally gives in to HE who is omniscient who’ll certainly take care of things.

Today marks the continuation of a journey we began 4 years ago during this beautiful season of lent. You have taught me so much! I am stronger and wiser,happier and more fulfilled than I ever imagined. Who knows where I would be without you?

Thank you for your patience and resilience, for your vulnerability and strength, for the chances you took and the dreams you allowed us to chase; Thank you for bringing people together from far and wide, and giving them a chance to give whatever they could offer.Thank you for being flexible, for surviving even when you had nothing and somehow managing to blossom against all odds. You are truly a miracle!

I hope that I have been as kind to you, as you have to me. I pray that I will not let you down and that our fire will continue to burn bright through every storm that comes our way. Years from now when all that we have gone through is a memory, may you look back with a smile, knowing everything I did, every experience, was a reflection of love and all the emotions it comes with.

I haven’t figured out how to commemorate today and I may not even do anything significant to the untrained eye, but in my heart and soul, I celebrate you everyday and look forward to the rest of our lives together.May God continue to be at the centre of your life, and may you always look to him.

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With love from the one whom you knew first, the one who will choose you every time,

me.

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.

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“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.

 

Happy tears :)

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?
There was 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.

 

gloria hug

first lady
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.

This was the exact moment actually. No lie! She is gesturing towards us on the left. Nope. I t wasn't a dream.

This was the exact moment actually. No lie! She is gesturing towards us on the left. Nope. I t wasn’t a dream.

 

After a few photographs, she left the function (before we could exchange phone numbers, sigh)

group
A three course meal was served but you can’t pay me to tell you what that tasted like. I also have no idea what I said in the acceptance speech.

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!