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!

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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

We came. We fell. We got up.

By this time last week, my situation was ‘a calm state of panic.’ We were at the Uganda Museum for our third edition of croak and rhyme. While many things were going right, an almost equal number of irregularities seemed to come up every now and then.
The funny thing about being a leader is that you have to strike a fine balance between optimism, realism, patience and unwavering determination during the most demanding situations. I do not think I am even half way there. Therein lies the beauty of time, experience and the lessons that come along the way!
The concept of croak and rhyme, like many of 4040’s ideas was random and uncomplicated, during one of our many meetings over two years ago. As one of the group members suggested the name, we laughed and then fell in love. Just like that, it was adopted and here we are. When I saw the bold words ‘croak and rhyme’ in one of our dailies this week, I grinned as I reminisced. Humble beginnings can surprise you!
This year’s edition was quite taxing. We came up with a theme and then needed to figure out how to work around it. Our wish list was loooooonnng (yes for emphasis) In fact, last year we toyed with the idea of bringing Sauti Sol for the event. *mental note to review my sent items folder for good laughs years from today* The irony that this blog post is coming out when they are in Uganda already for tomorrow’s show! Eh! Perhaps I could get a word with them. No? I digress.
We contacted tonnes of artistes. Some said no, others yes, a few said maybe and some simply led us on because they did not know how to articulate their negative response. I can look back and chuckle now but when it was happening, it was far from funny. We had legends with us though :D. This madam made my waist do things, good times!

These were 'our days'

These were ‘our days’

This event comes with a lot of pressure because of the expenses involved in putting it together. It is nothing short of a gamble and I must admit some of the lessons have been learnt the hard way.

Our first edition brought in a full house at a small venue. The management expected a small crowd and gave us few chairs that they did not expect to fill. Before long, we were trying to create space for the overwhelming crowd. At the end of the event, after realising the profit from their sales that night-they were asking when our next event was and more than willing to provide the venue.
The second one was taken to a bigger venue to accommodate the growing numbers. While we paid attention to that detail, other factors came into play. The World cup quarter final fell on the same date. Additionally, both traditional and social media were awash with announcements from the police about a terror threat to the city. I cannot count the whatsapp forwards I received on D-day warning me and basically asking that we discontinue our plans. These factors worked against us but we still had a sizeable crowd. The event was well organised and raised the bar for us. Armed with these lessons we set out to do even better this year.
The rain during the day got us on our knees, some of us even started yelling at the skies (yelling at God really) and thankfully the weather behaved. The drizzles during Maddox’s performance were hardly felt as the crowd sang along. Blessings just 🙂

maddox 1

crowd 2

 

 

I realised the ‘power of alcohol’ when I was confronted by a reveller who said he could not stand to look at me, knowing beer had run out at an event I organised. Eh, I took cover immediately. We must admit the crowd overwhelmed us and found us under prepared. We take full responsibility. There were other faults that we have certainly taken note of. Be sure to see changes next time 🙂
Despite the massive turn out at the event, the figures were not as exciting as we anticipated. We found out that an unscrupulous individual stole ‘tags’ from our entrance and started selling them to attendees before they reached our team. As a result, payment was made to him and sadly, it will never reach our dormitory.
That Sunday night as we tried to count, recount and then count the proceeds some more, we silently hoped that some of the coins would morph into notes and the ‘1K’ notes would transform into ‘50K’ notes in the process. This was not to happen. BUT. It could be a lot worse! We could have made an investment and then failed to break even. We could have planned this event for months only to have 50 people attend. That did not happen. Yaay!
The artistes gave energetic performances, moreover at no cost. One of the artists’ managers on our wish list insisted that we were making stuff up. There was no way any Ugandan artists could perform completely for charity. Oh ye of little faith! I hope one day they’ll understand that- *It’s not only about the money*
So, as I type this I am over the ‘we could have done better’ and now onto the ‘we shall do better’ state of mind. Everyone who attended and supported us even when we erred, the artistes who resisted the urge to become ‘divas,’ simply offering their talent and the service providers who have stuck with us, you made it possible.
Special thanks to those individuals who could not make it buts still sent entrance fee or directly contributed to the dormitory.

To the team that was behind the scenes, having pre-event nightmares and fighting then making up, then fighting again because you believe in 40-40 and what it stands for- you are invaluable.
We are now Ugx 11 million away from completing the dormitory. It seems like a little. Or a lot, depending on how you view your glass.

Nonetheless, I will be back here with pictures after we complete that building. Until then, please do not tire of answering our call. We are doing all of this, together for Uganda’s future, for a generation that will outlive us and learn from our dedication.
Till then, keep being the change, even when it hurts!
X

Passion. Pleasure. Pain

It is one year since I made the decision to walk out of what is commonly referred to as  ‘gainful employment.’ When I asked google what it meant, this was the response I got. ‘Employment situation where the employee receives consistent work and payment from the employer’

Never mind that I thought gaining can be in other ways, you know, knowledge, dream chasing, etc? Well, I was wrong-“serving to increase wealth or resources”

wealth, wealth and more wealth. I could argue though that wealth is more than just assets, right? Perhaps,another day.

One Monday two years ago, I opened something that would change my life-forever. At that point, I did not know this, only the author of life did.

Before I knew it, I was in love with these children who fit perfectly in my heart. It seems like their spot had been there all along.

I found myself spending lunch money on a boda boda ride to visit them, work hours to plan for them and weekends to do all the above with anyone who was willing.

40-40 was quickly becoming my life and although I recognised this, I needed to work, survive and be ‘normal.’

It wasn’t very long before I realised that I was biting more than I could chew. By day, I was keeping the social media pages active, running to hospital to visit a sick child, meeting potential partners and countless things in between. By night, I was writing business plans, editing marketing strategies and looking over proposals for the job that paid my dues.

I always told my boss “I will have it sent to you by end of day and by this I mean midnight.” As a result, my emails to him usually had the 11.58pm time stamp. I felt like superwoman. I was chasing my passion and doing my job, surely it couldn’t be that complex, right? Wrong!

My system began to crash physically and emotionally, relationships quietly crumbled and at any one time, I was under pressure from not one but both ‘entities.’ It was a nightmare!

Crossroads

Most of the people who cared about me expected me to ‘snap out’ of this ‘charity thing.’ Explaining my predicament only proved them right. “Focus on your job,” was the easy response.

Here I was-a journalism graduate writing business plans after failing to find work in ‘my industry,’ a ‘mobile mind’ that jumped at any opportunity to work out of office and ‘multi tasker’ who could not even realise when to ‘give up.’ Something needed to change-fast.

Decisions…decisions

I decided that I would not think about how to survive or what the future held, not too much at least.

I had not consulted anyone before starting the 40-40 journey. I took it then invited people to take it with me. It somehow worked.

I made up my mind to leave the job on my own and hoped that those who mattered would understand my decision and support me.

When I sent that resignation letter, I felt a strong sense of peace and a similarly powerful sense of panic. I am all about the optimism so I had to make sure the positive outweighed all other depressing thoughts. *breathe*

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

What next?

I needed some time to think, take a journey of self discovery and come back ready to do the job I was made for.

That was not to happen, not quite at least.

I no longer had ‘work’ as an excuse so structures had to be set up, plans made and as much as possible and we needed some evidence of progress, right? Okay. *breathe*

The Marathon

The events that followed were mostly miracles and if you believe in signs-these were the ‘loudest’ signs you could find.

I do not take credit for these. Many nights I went to bed and had this to say to God. “Really?”

When I quit, I barely sat for a week, ‘scattered brains,’ as we like to call them were at their best(worst?)

We planned a team building at one of the team member’s homes. While there, we had a speaker who among many things said, “ Why do you keep acting like a small organisation? You have grown, by now you should even have an office.” The irony! When I leave work is when you bring up such things? Thanks!

That night I went home and told mom. She knew someone who was leaving an office just next to theirs and gave me the contact.

Within three weeks, together with my friends and family, I had the ‘millions’ required to pay for 6 months rent. The rate would be ‘good’ because the former tenant put in a good word for us.

That was just the beginning.

Most of our events brought in about 5 million shillings (total) by then, Hoops for Grace that September brought in 5 million UGX as the surplus..

We would then have our most successful online campaign the following month, dubbed #BuyABrick- for a dormitory we were building. It raised 8 million shillings (cash) in 10 days on facebook and twitter. Period.

The following month (November) came with the inaugural social media Awards. 40-40 scooped the award for “Best Campaign” in a category we were certain we would not see light of day in. Why? The household names we were up against-Coca Cola, MTN and Airtel. How??!

As the year came to an end in December, I would be recognised as the “Heroine of the Year 2013” by the Young Achiever’s awards.

In three months,40-40 had had more ‘action,’ than I could contain. If the universe was sending a message, I had received it loud and clear. Wouldn’t you agree?

What lessons can I share? What do I wish I knew? What does this experience mean?

If at least one person can believe with you and go the extra mile, you are onto something

The 40-40 greater family is in thousands and that looks good-on paper.

The naysayers are lurking around, perhaps even one in three. To keep the main thing, the main thing amidst life’s hurdles is extremely difficult but NOT impossible.

Two years ago I met Joseph* In fact, he was one of the only people on the team whom I did not know from ‘my past life’ (Everyone else was a friend or at least an acquaintance)

He was dedicated,you could see that. Him and I were (are) also very different.  It took a while for me to get used to him, one of the reasons being >> ‘tasemba na kyo’ (loosely translated to mean, he always has the last word) even when it is obvious he is wrong. (in his defence, I also drive other people mad so…)

Let me even give a ‘real’ example. This one time he knocked a policeman (poor boy was on his way to a 40-40 meeting) and as he narrated the story to us, he seemed to suggest that the policeman (who was on foot) is the one who knocked Joseph’s car 😀 <<< see?

Well, he happens to be one of the most loyal members of my team

For almost two years, he braved Entebbe road traffic and a demanding bank job-to attend our weekly meetings(in Kampala) that often end at 9.00p.m as well as having a key role at all our events.

A couple of months ago when African Hope Network offered to support me and 40-40, my opening request was that they facilitate me to hire an accountant.

The first time I mentioned it in a meeting, a few people nodded, some weren’t sure. Joseph*  on the other hand sent me a message that night saying he would quit his job and join me- full time.

What? how? why? when?

I spent the next fortnight giving him all the reasons why he should not make this drastic decision.

I needed him to be sure. I was living a precarious life and did not want to carry any ‘casualties’ with me.

He did not budge.

Well, as I speak, he is my first real ‘employee’ and we haven’t killed each other…yet.

So you can say I am a boss-ish.

Speaking of bosses…

I do not consider myself a boss, it will take some time before I get the hang of it. When I was younger, I knew I would support a cause like ours, not be at the helm of it. See the universe playing tricks again?

Even with the titles Afande, CEO/ED/KCCA/UPE etc that we joke about, I see my team as equals. Some older, some younger but nonetheless, we are all 40/40.

My friend Gloria introduces me to everyone as ‘My boss Esther.’ The most awkward one was recently when I was at her ‘actual office’ and her ‘actual boss’ walked in. “Meet my other boss, Esther,” she calmly said. The expression on his face-priceless!

It’s all about the money, money, money…NOT

For the past nine or so months I have had interviews on t.v, radio, print and several occasions where I have been invited as a speaker.

This is what always happens when the opportunity avails itself, in this order.
Me: Oh what an honour!
Me: On gosh! What am I going to say?
Me: In front of all those people? I can’t.

Me: I do not have anything to wear.

You would think I would be used by now. I shock myself too. Same nerves, same panic, same fear of falling and stuttering etc.

At the end of all this, I will look at my closet, grab something, head out (almost always on my trusted boba boda) and then present myself and my dream.

I do not like audiences or speaking to them but I do enjoy telling people about 40-40 and hoping for at least one convert.

There is always that person in the audience who asks malicious questions so the poker face must be intact (I struggle)

After one talk, this gentleman asked “So how do you keep your hair looking like that if you are saying you are still growing and thus can’t afford salaries?” Before I could respond he insinuated I had a rich man taking care of me *yawn*

I do not know why  people are so myopic. They barely ask what drives you or how you have come this far. When they do, it is after a snide remark about charity and giving too much of oneself to others. Frankly, it is exhausting, but when you want something badly- you begin to gnore even the greatest humps.

Let us think of a business. You borrow money from friends to start it. You ask your family to let you use the garage because you can’t afford rent. You let your employees know you will pay them when things are good but they may go without salaries sometimes. You also assure them that you will understand if they need to go after ‘greener pastures’ because they have to survive. One day, you catch your lucky break, and the rest is history. Does this make sense?

Okay, now replace business with 40-40 but envision it as non-profit but with possibilities for it to employ the brightest and the best and one day actually pay those salaries. To be honest, my team is already all these things, only difference is they are not doing it for the pay cheque- which makes it that much more awesome. Plus of course, they will be repaid ten fold.

So whereas one might recycle outfits and forego vacations or seemingly incredible employment opportunities, there are few ‘real’ things money can buy, if any..happiness and peace of mind do NOT make that list.

Now that I mentioned opportunities, I have remembered my ‘excruciating conundrum.’ After reaching the two year mark at my old job, I figured it was time to move on. I decided to apply for this one job. I actually did fit the part to a large extent.

During the interview the interviewer seemed impressed by the fact that I had managed to balance work and 40-40, until she turned it around. Wouldn’t I give her organisation less time because of my dream? I decided that would be the last job interview I would initiate.

 

After I started to do 40-40 full time, the calls started to come in. The weird bit was that most of them were management positions. I leave my ‘baby’ which is what made you think of hiring me in the first place, come and (hopefully) ensure yours succeeds and then what happens to mine? Best believe their response came with more 000,000’s than words. It was then that I would say thanks, but no thanks.

I did actually try to take part in gigs that could be done part time and at my convenience…Hmm, let’s just say it is not them, it’s me.

From my S.6 vacation when I volunteered as a teacher at an international school where most of the children were snobbish and it rubbed off on the teachers too ,(or is it the other way round?) to the internships I did for four months, every year during my holidays at University, to the office where I watched our pay being swindled and realised I can’t keep silent in the face of corruption to the jobs I have done for pay and the life that I live now- I can safely say that I have never before been as comfortable in my skin as I am now. In the past year, I have felt more ‘useful’ than I have my entire life and that is something that has no price tag.

 

 “I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.”

Your script is different

I have friends whose lives have escalated quite ‘differently’ from my own. We are the same age, perhaps even come from a similar background. Our stories might be somewhat intertwined but often take different turns. Angella* is married with kids, Emily* is steadily rising up the corporate ladder and drives a car that costs the equivalent of what I spend in three years, Jane is in a new city each month and Brian* just got an international job that promises practically everything we dreamt of when growing up. Is this their story? Yes. Is it exciting? Yes. Is it mine? No

If society decides to judge you, their examples shall be simple and yet close to home. “Why can’t you be like your friend who……?”They will go on to tell you things about this friend whose story you probably shared in the first place. It is now ‘their’ story.

The truth is that everyone has their own story and there are no stories that can be identical, similar-yes, identical not a chance! For every ‘achievement’ {because this is subjective} you ‘should have’ attained by now, you are aware and possibly beating yourself up enough without any room for ‘concerned parties’ to add their voice.

The trouble is, though, that we often pay too much attention to the voices. These voices tell us everything we are NOT instead of reassuring us about everything we ARE.

In the end, we do not even remember our dreams or what we loved to do. We are stuck portraying everyone’s definition of success but our own. This is a cancer that can eat at you for the rest of your life if you let it.

Let your story be yours. No matter how dull, dramatic or painful it is-as long as it is yours, all else is secondary

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.”

lonely

Before I go

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at our accounts and realised they could be better. You know how when you are broke and you remember all your debtors? It was a bit like that. I remembered that this organisation had made a 1,000,000 ugx pledge that wasn’t fulfilled. When I contacted them they said their boss had been out of the country (never mind that he was in the papers and on t.v (United States of Kololo perhaps?)

24 hours later, the money was miraculously ‘ready.’ All I had to do was pick it up, and give the 3 people who ‘helped process’ it their cut, take the 40-40 share and go. What is 1,000,000 divide by 4? Yeah. Exactly.

I told them to give us all of it or keep all of it because we would rather close shop than lose integrity. After all, dividing it amongst themselves without us, would mean more for them.Their response? “We’ll call you back.” That call has not come through since.

The truth is that so many organisations and people operate like this in this country and many others- from the lowest level to the top. That does not mean that we should condone this nonsense because it is the ‘done thing.’

On the other hand, we can’t use blanket statements like “That is why I will never help people, they are all crooks.” There is always an exception to the rule.

Change does not have to happen at once. No amount of change is insignificant.

We need to support each other and help those around us grow.

There are some bits of African culture that do not sit well with me.  I will illustrate.

A woman is beaten by her husband for years and never lets the children know, she is the best mother but most depressed human being. Very soon her daughter is 25 and engaged to be married. It is a huge celebration. After the ‘honeymoon phase,’ daughter returns home. She explains that her husband is a monster. He beats her up like he is trying to kill her. Mommy raises her dress and shows her scars. “My child, guma” (hang in there). She goes on to share the stories of what she went through.

We need to speak up..!! NOW not tomorrow.
This year has been an incredible experience for me mostly because it has opened my eyes. It has not been easy and I acknowledge that. That does not take the beauty from it, in fact, it makes it that much more worthwhile.

If I am blessed with children or people to mentor, I would like to tell them things as they are, no sugar coating- only facts!

I would like to illustrate that it is not always black or white, it can be grey.

I hope that I will teach them to understand that passion is a beautiful thing and whether you find it at 13, 24 or 60- the best gift you can give yourself is to harness every last inch of it.

discover you

God has been good. I have no doubt he put me here and gave me amazing people to ensure his work gets done. I will serve him for as long as I live.

Thank you for reading up to this point! I know just typing all this out has exhausted me.

Just remember;

winner

To dreams and more, xoxo

passion

The time to complain was yesterday; The time to act is NOW

Yesterday we visited some children’s homes, as part of our ground work to establish which ones have the most needs or are best suited to the kind of support that we offer. There were lessons to learn from several and it was especially pleasing to note that we have now learnt which questions to ask, how to be objective and carry out due diligence among other things.

I remember our first project two years ago was driven by 1% by a whim and 99% by emotions. We surely have grown.

Our main focus as we did this tour was the need for sustainability. This means that even though we know one of the homes we visited has children who survive on one a meal a day; we shall not rush to a retail shop, fill a truck with maize flour and carry it to the house. Instead, we shall give the caretakers capacity to purchase these supplies and allow them the pride that comes with knowing that their hard work paid off.

It was amazing to see some children already actively involved in economic activities. For one of the homes, the crafts are actually sold by the children to raise school fees directly. If their school fees is 150,000, they know that they have to make that much if they are to see a blackboard the next term, which makes them that much more determined. Is it fair for a 12 year old boy to trek under the scotching sun to get an education? No. Will you back that ‘No’ with a better solution? (….) Are we going to find ways to make the situation better while promoting his skill and nurturing his work ethic? Heck yes!!

I was particularly astonished to see that despite the limited space at one of these homes, they had  make shift reading tables for the children, especially those sitting for finals this year.

One of the boys, David has a profile that reads “I want to become a lawyer, so that I can become a politician then a president and change my country.” Enough said.

An elderly woman who looks after several women said she would love to cook a few snacks for sell to earn an extra income. Little things like samosas, fried cassava, mandazi etc. A moment later she changed her mind. She explained how complex it would be. “How do I continue frying when one of my children is staring at me with hunger written all over his face? Of course I will give him one and that won’t be enough so he will want another. The cycle continues.” She said as we shared a light moment laden with words unspoken. She looks after vulnerable children n her own house.

How heartbreaking it was as we left when she asked us to keep checking in. “I lost my son five months ago just before he graduated from Makerere, she said as she motioned towards a photograph of him.

“When I see young people like you I am reminded of him and I don’t feel lonely anymore,” she added with a sad smile.

Some moments stay with you forever.

Policy is important but how do you explain to an individual who has raised so many children at hear home that it is illegal to have that many under that roof? While we are still responding to that, let us put into consideration the fact that there would probably not be any place to take them if they were moved because only a handful of state-run children’s homes exist and not without their own shortcomings.

This isn’t one of those posts where I will suddenly request that the president intervenes. But then again,even if I did, he is quite busy opening taps and all.

The truth is that we (40-40) are not experts but I would rather passionate amateurs than lazy specialists.

About a year ago a pre-teenage boy thanked me for convincing him to stay off the street. I have no psychology major. Are you still going to blame your lack of action on absence of skill? I dare you.

I may not have 20,000 in my purse but as a team, we at 40-40 have raised over 100 million shillings to support vulnerable children.

I know that a Government official can steal this in a day and a corporate company signs such cheques in minutes but this is no competition.

I have seen the sweat, tears and sleepless nights that have led to this moment when I can talk about such a sum.

I have seen sacrifice redefined by individuals who have nothing to their name.

This post is not about what could have been, it is about what is and will be.

It s about what you can do in your own capacity visa vis what you can promise to do all your life.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

If a 40-40 volunteer who doesn’t even have a first degree can sit through a meeting and come up with brilliant ideas but more so implementation strategies, what excuse do our Members of Parliament have?

You have an i pad that you use mainly for solitaire, a chauffeur for your 4 wheel drive that has seen more lodge parking lots than it has your garage at home but pupils in your constituency still walk barefooted for several kilometres on dirt roads to get some sorry excuse of an education they may never utilise.

Toddlers in your community still die from diseases that can be immunised  and midwives use torches during child delivery, but this is normal,right?

So we sit and say “I will never vote, nothing ever changes.” Or “I voted and elections were rigged so my candidate lost.” Nothing is ever your fault and you are okay with that.

We all have our rights, we can choose to or not to exercise them but your greatest right should be your right to do right.

No education, Government or self help book can teach you do this.

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”  Ghandi

Amidst all this bent up frustration lies a message about a group of people that knows they can’t solve every problem but decided to start small and work their way up. I am proud to be part of this group.

We work with children, perhaps you are most disturbed by the environment and the fact that we barely recycle. How about you do something about that?

But when it comes to us;

Here  I am saying that if you had a rough childhood, you can still be part of making a better one for someone who deserves a second chance.

If you had  good one, allow another child to get a glimpse of what you had.

The supporters and well wishers of 40-40 have trusted us and I am asking them to trust us again because we are in this for the long haul.

If you still have your doubts, we understand you, join us to visit these children and see what we mean.

When we promise, demand delivery, if we slack, ask why.

The only person responsible for making a difference in your life, your community is you. The sooner we acknowledge this, the faster we can create the Uganda and eventually the world we want to see.

kids

 

The lovely empty office :)

So, here I am at our office, yes, our!! It is so surreal, I am not quite comfortable saying it yet but yes, the little baby 40 days over 40 smiles has grown! We are crawling now 🙂

What? How?

Well, I don’t know!! We had a thanksgiving on 28th July at my friend, Diana’s home.  We simply wanted to thank God for having been with us throughout the journey. After a beautiful sermon and lunch that included meat balls. Side note: Harris had prayed for meat balls for minutes on end and thank the Lord I had ordered for them as part of the menu. I think we all gave him ours. I am not sure what the situation was in his tummy that evening but, I will leave it to your imagination.

Yes, after the lunch we had a talk from a social walker. She gave us pointers on how to run a charity and then said we had grown and needed an office. Office? Ha! As in, we don’t even have any employees let alone rent. Well, she said we needed to employ someone to coordinate the activities and they would need an address. Up till then, I had carried out meetings at the ‘Chillies’ restaurant below my office and was happy telling people our offices were on facebook and twitter. Yikes! Growing up!

That night I went home and told mum about it. “Oh, I know someone who is moving out of an office near ours, you might want to speak to him,” she responded casually. Wait, what? She had no questions on how we could afford it,why now etc? Okay.

A few days later, she travelled to Nairobi for treatment. I went on about my job and my life. One day, as we spoke over the phone she asked if I had contacted the tenants. Hmm, procrastination 411. I promised to. I think I did a week later. The gentleman passed on the landlord’s number and I also kept that for a while not sure what the plan was.

Why?

As soon as August began, I made up my mind to quit my job and it actually had nothing to do with the prospect of a 40-40 office. My time had come. Mid-August arrived and I was unemployed. Suddenly I had time on my hands to ‘chillax,’ except not quite.

Instead of balancing work and 40-40, I could do the latter full time but now I had zero resources and no end of month salary to look forward to. How about we eat,sleep, read a few novels and watch lots of movies, shall we? Yes, sounds like a good plan.

As time went on, this office space thing started to seem like a good idea, perhaps I could talk to the landlord and just see the place, for ‘just.’ I consulted members of my team. It was split, some thought the timing was right, others believed we had important things to sort out and I was, well, somewhere in between. I prayed about it, worried, procrastinated and then decided to let HIS will be done.

I met the Landlord after a couple of weeks. In his words “Nga yakuwanye nnyo,” loosely translated to mean the current tenant had  showered me with praises in my absence. Apparently he had been told I was a responsible person doing a lot of great work to change the world, bla bla so he pleaded for us to get the place at the same rate even if the landlord wanted to hike the rent.(Bless his soul) I used all the Luganda vocabulary learnt, inherited and forged to ‘beg’ for this deal. He agreed to keep the rent at the current rate, but with a catch, 6 months rent down payment. Lodamacy!!(Read Lord have mercy)

I told the team what the situation was. The tenants were leaving at the end of September. Now to get these millions by then. Sigh. We needed a miracle.

When?

The team decided that each member would loan 40-40 a certain amount and then we would look for ways to top up. It seemed easy, until the pressure mounted and a few days to D-day, I did not even have half the amount required. When I realised putting pressure on people who had salaries and responsibilities was not going to yield much, I decided to think outside the box. I would just use the money the team contributed to settle the other debts as we sort out our income generating projects for 40-40. The faster, the better.

My dad pledged to contribute to the rent too and much as the Landlord put me on pressure, I did not want to do the same so I waited for him to read my mind. What do you know? On the day of the deadline, he did read my mind. He asked when the rent was due and I might have screamed ‘now!!’ He passed on his donation and along with a major contribution from one friend and a couple of other loans, I was able to carry these millions with me onto a bike and hand them over to the Landlord. Phew! If I was a drinker, some tequila would have been abused that afternoon but well, I think I made up for it with chai(tea) 😉

What next?

The office needed to be painted, an M.O.U was drafted and signed.  Over this weekend, Saturday to be exact, the Landlord called and told me everything was ready. I thanked him but after hanging up I started to panic. What in the world was I thinking? :/

Where will the money to pay back come from? What about the water and electricity bill. Furniture, no? All these things had troubled me before but now it all became even more scary.

As a team, we had decided on the urgent needs and those that we can acquire over time. Do you know what I have from the entire list? A clock. Yes, a clock! I haven’t even bought a battery for it 😀 (Thank you Pesh by the way, it is such a pretty clock:) )

Well, Monday was not a good day and Tuesday was Eid plus I had a houseful of sick people so Wednesday seemed like a good day to ‘move in.’ I woke up determined but then I ran out of data on the modem and had to house-sit at some point in the afternoon so I postponed to Thursday.

At about midnight yesterday, my friend Leah called and said we should have a party for the grand opening. We laughed so hard knowing there was really nothing to ‘show,’ except the newly painted walls perhaps.

P.S: If you want in on this party, you will have to carry your own seats,music, food and drinks. We shall provide the venue 🙂

So today, I got up early, did a few chores and started to decide what to carry to the office. A plastic chair? No, it may attract attention in the parking lot. A mat? My mum works around here, she might be judged for her daughter’s strange antics. How about a nice lesu safely tucked in my handbag? That works! So I carried that 🙂

I would love to share photos of this beautiful, spacious office which has such great ambiance but our office camera, I pad and other such fancy gadgets are yet to be delivered.

Kalango/Announcement: If you believe in us and what we do and have some items that would fill the space we have here plus be of use to us including that table you are tired of but still has four legs, and works fine, give me a call. Okay even if you know nothing about us and have some ‘useful trash,’ one man’s trash is another man’s treasure 😉

That said, all official meetings shall be held at a restaurant of your choice for now but if you are a cool guy/lady, then you will realise that the clean floor can make for very comfortable sitting right here.

Just like that, an ordinary day in October feels like the day I moved out of home,without a bed, couch or money to buy food but at least, there was a toothbrush!

Team 40-40, I think we can whisper ‘started from the bottom now we are here.’ (Whisper because our coffers leave a lot to be desired) but very soon we shall be able to sing out loud.

To say I am proud of you and how far we have come  TOGETHER would probably be an understatement, but I will say it any way.

This year has been difficult but you have stayed close, keeping the fire burning and that’s something I do not take for granted and appreciate each day. You chose to be my friends but I choose you to be my family.

This empty office makes even more sense being empty(for now) because we shall watch it ‘grow.’
Location: Sir Apollo Kaggwa road(Next to Multitech Business School)

Bless you!

Yours,

40/40 Afande/E.D/C.E.O/NRM/UNDP/WFP/GM/M.D/WHO/UPDF etc

smiley