My kind of Christmas

At last year’s children’s Christmas party, I was a little grenade. Bandaged cannula on one hand and dancing like I was being paid on the other. There is a video of us showing you how to ‘go down low’ (Hi Sheeba) hidden somewhere. After the party, I went to the hospital for a ‘routine drip’ and ended up spending the night. By my side were 5 of my closest friends who took turns watching me. I thought about it, and if God forbid anything had happened that night, I would still be happy. I would know I gave 120% to something I loved and had people with me who loved me too.

I honestly believe some of these incidents occur so that I can never forget where it is I have come from.

This year, my anticipation was twice as much. I barely slept the night before the party. We were opening a dormitory too! Yaay!

Fundraising for this second dormitory was not a walk in the park. How could we explain to ourselves that we managed to raise funds for a bigger, more expensive building but were failing at this one? It was not easy to deal with the pressure, internal and external.

.After several events and campaigns, we had meetings in which we would just whine or discuss every other matter but the elephant in the room. We were afraid to admit that we had not raised enough money and time was running out

. At the same time, the rain was destroying our building materials back in Bombo. Each time a phone call or text came in asking if any money would be sent ‘soon,’ the day became instantly miserable. I can relate it to a parent who fails to provide for their children and is unable to explain the circumstances.

Despite all this, we did it…yes WE, collectively, with friends and supporters from all over the place 🙂 *jumps*

On Saturday 12th December 2015, we unveiled this new home for 30 girls. Excitement filled the coaster as we headed to Bombo and upon arrival, we truly felt the reason for this season.

dorm view

 

dorm main

dance

 

I could not contain my heart when these little ones performed and threw a few thank yous into their performance

 

little ones,thank you

As if that was not enough, the older children had prepared a short play. It depicted the story of orphans and street children who were sworn to a life of suffering. After a while, one of them suggests that they get up and ‘cross the bridge’ to find a better life. Their first attempts are futile. That is until they get help from good Samaritans. Do you want to guess who those are? There was a happy ending as they chanted “We crossed the bridge!!!” <Where is the water from my keyboard coming from?>

play sad

 

play 4040

play smiles

From the food, to the performances; gift opening and cake, I could not have asked for a better Christmas gift.

One of the girls, Laila shared her joy with me. “ I am happy I shall sleep on a new pair of bed sheets, a new mattress, in a new dormitory.” I could feel the delight in every syllable.

santa helper

All some of these children asked for was undergarments. Things we found waiting for us in this world and can hardly relate to that kind of deprivation.

dorm christmas gifts

We ended the day with a serious dance party in which some people I shall not name and I were floored beyond recognition. It is safe to say that dance moves have evolved and our bones have aged kubanga the hustle was very real! It took some people two seconds to ‘get down’ and others almost a minute.

dorm cake

 

dorm

 

 

baloon burst

Builder

smiley face

joy

 

25th December is 8 days away and I am lucky enough to have a family to spend it with. While God blessed me with a beautiful family that I was born into, I am mighty glad he gave me a bigger one through the 4040 dream. I am much more because of all the experiences.

 

with team

 

group smiles

Every day, every month, every year, I am thankful for each one of you who has given their time, money, prayers, and other resources to ensure that we are still here.

I celebrate you.

photo selfie

Photo Credit: Phame

A very Merry Christmas to you and yours..and for 2016, tukikole neera…neera neera.

 

XX

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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.

jump

“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.

 

The Reason….

Christmas!  Yes, Christmas is here! I had a Christmas related whatsapp status by 1st November and some people who shall not be named had a few not-so-kind-words for me. I have been on the low since then but it is time to go all out. I’m back! 😀

While this season’s real message is often lost in translation, I am still an ‘old skool’ believer. As if the universe wanted to test my zeal, it surrounded me with mostly indifferent people.

From solo purchasing of gifts to forcing a Christmas tree upon unsuspecting folks, it is safe to say, *breaks into song* We shall overcome some day…….

Growing up, no one really asked what you wanted for Christmas. (Depending on where you grew up) If the financial situation was good, you got a dress, suit or shoes. Luckily, you were almost always guaranteed a special meal. That is more than many children, worldwide can expect on Christmas or any other day for that matter.

My fondest memories are of Christmas holidays when we left town as a family and enjoyed the great outdoors. No smart phones or satellite television, just good old fashioned bonding. I recommend it for everyone, especially those with young families. No matter how much (or little) you save up, there are options. You can always start with a simple trip to Uganda wildlife Education Centre (formerly known as the zoo) and gradually save for more exciting trips in Uganda and beyond.

Lucky for me, for the past three years, Christmas has had even more meaning thanks to the birth of 40-40. I don’t have to wait for ‘Santa’ to raise my spirits because there are so many worthy people to give and lots to be thankful for!

Over that period, we have had presents for children who truly deserve them.

I still squeal when I receive a gift so I can imagine how much more it means for a child especially one without a family to go home to.

The first time we did this circa 2012, we wrapped over 100 gifts. That was one long night! Imagine the shock when we arrived and suddenly ‘new children’ who hadn’t been planned for showed up? Panic! We had to figure out something and I will just say, it was no easy feat. *hands on head*

We ask the children to give us their dream presents and then we make their dreams come true. So far, none has asked for a car, bicycle or IPhone so you are in luck!

This year, we have so many ways in which you can be part of our #BeSanta Bonanza

  1. Participate in Kampala Cocktail Week. Have fun with friends over a cocktail or mocktail and our children will get to receive the gift their heart truly desires.

 

 

4040 CW Web

  1. Visit our website to purchase any of the items on sale. Alternatively, call us up if you have any new or gently used items that someone else would buy. We shall sell everything and use the proceeds to buy the children’s gifts

 

  1. Contribute to a gift or two by sending mobile money to 0702717689 or 0782993311. You can even buy the actual gift, but you have to let us know in advance so that we avoid double purchases (We could just give that one several gifts but some will have more than others, we don’t want that)be santa

 

These children want basic things that many or us do not even think twice about. It’s pretty heart-breaking. From 18 year old Laila who wants bed sheets, possibly the first pair that shall be ‘her own,’ to 10 year old Bizmark who wants a belt. *Just a belt!*

 

Other gifts include, scientific calculators (this is more academic than anything but they probably figured why not use the opportunity) shoes, dresses, dolls for the little ones, metallic cases and school bags. Little Nelson wants a watch with an alarm! I imagine he means the digital ones.

All I ask, is that you help us make these children smile.

 

The Christmas party shall be held on Saturday,12th December in Bombo. On the same day, we shall officially open the girl’s dormitory . *shriek*Please book your seat. Transport and lunch will be on us. Honestly, the more the merrier because we simply want to celebrate with everyone.

Elohim artistic impression

 

 

P.S: This is how 4040 is spending their Christmas but I am certain there are people even in your own lives who have nowhere to go or food to eat. Even an act as ‘simple’ as forgiveness might be all you/they need this Christmas.

Whether it is decorating the cancer/maternity/children’s ward of a hospital, visiting prisoners or the elderly…just do something.

 

I have heard it said many times “But how can I do something so small, for just one person when so many are suffering?” <or something to that effect>
I believe one smile that you are responsible for is ‘enough.’ Imagine how much would be accomplished if everyone did something for just one person?

 

Okay, I am done ‘preaching,’ I just needed to infect some more people with all the happy thoughts,feelings and melodies floating about in my little.

 

All I want for Christmas is a little more love we all have the power to make it happen. Whatever your reason is this year, no matter what you believe, let this December be different.

Have a glorious December and Happy Holidays 🙂

 

All I want for Christmas..

Monica tells me she no longer ‘feels’ Christmas the way she did when she was little.
“Back then, all our step mothers would come with their children. There was so many people and the house was filled with joy,” she recollects.
She was too young to think about which ‘wife’ was treated better or investigate why, she of all children rarely got the ‘Christmas dress’ she desired. She simply enjoyed the holiday.
As she grew older, she soon realised that the absence of her mother, who passed away when she was little, meant there was no one to stand up for her. Nonetheless, Christmas was Christmas and she would enjoy it at all costs.
I promised her we would put up the Christmas tree together. I don’t know if it is going to help but I certainly won’t let her to lose the spirit of Christmas on my watch!
Like her, having the family together is one of my favourite things about this season.
Musical interlude >>>

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give a king, pa rum pum pum
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

Don’t let them tell you you’re not good enough
Don’t let them tell you you’re not strong enough
Me and my drum we’re gonna change the world

I realise that Christmas has been overly  commercialised and I have encountered several people who simply do not see the fuss.
I say, if Christmas will give us reason to visit our folks in the village, spend more time together, give more than usual, shop for the family and have our city light up, then I can deal with people who have lost the sense of what it is truly about.
Perhaps your calendar does not agree that Jesus was born on 25th December, heck maybe you do not even believe in his existence. That is okay. The one language that should rise above religion, sex, race or beliefs is love. It should not take the festive season to remind us to love, but here I am asking you to be engaged in full gear.
See, I am in the ‘business’ of love and spreading it is my trade. At 40-40, we try to make it ‘Christmas every day.’ Even when it is not, we are spending time planning to make this ‘spirit’ manifest in the lives of the children we support and you, the giver.
Whereas this is not the easiest trade, with most transactions being felt and seen, it is also pretty fulfilling. We get paid in hugs and smiles! 😀
I have a wish list of my own, I am sure we all do somewhere. Some things I may never acquire, others I could even find tomorrow. Working towards this list is not easy but at least I have faith and I have the mind to accept what can’t be.
There is a group of special people I know though, they need to be reminded to believe, to be shown that hope is very much alive.
This year we are asking you to join us and make Christmas memorable for these beautiful children we support. Some are orphans, others were abandoned and a number of them are battling cancer.
When asked what he wanted for Christmas, Daniel did not hesitate to let us know he needed new clothes for church. Sunday is the day he actually gets to go out to the ‘real world’ without wearing a uniform or struggling for space. The blue shirt he often wears is a bit worn out. Also, it is not really his because on some Sundays, Moses wears it. This is his chance to own something that truly belongs to him.
At 15 years old, what is it you desperately wanted?
We want to give Daniel his outfit and make the wishes of 50 other children come true.
Their desires are modest, a pair of shoes here, a football there, some toys and watches in between.
Thanks to the support from our friends and networks, we shall be wrapping these gifts this evening.
christmas morn
To be honest, if 40-40 did nothing else all year round and simply gave these, often forgotten children one beautiful day and that gift they had their eyes on, I would be content. As a plus for me, we are involved in a lot more.
Do join us this Saturday at Akiba for a day of giving, laughter, food, games and pure unadulterated fun.
This Christmas party may lift the spirits of the kids but I daresay, your own life could be changed forever.
santa es+baby
In case I don’t ‘see’ you soon, have a very Merry Christmas and fulfilling 2015!

The fault in our stars

That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.

When Raymond gave me the movie “The fault in our Stars.” He warned me that there would be lots of tears involved.
It is for that reason that I put it very far from me, waiting for the ‘right moment.’
They say ‘misery loves company’ but I find that when I am at my lowest, the last thing I need is to find out that someone else is in pain.
I had been having one bad day after another and as a result, I did not need any pain inducing movies or activities.
What I needed was a few happy endings and perhaps a chance to be invisible for a while. *Didn’t happen*

When I realised things were not changing, I decided to give the movie a chance and it is from it that I heard the phrase “That’s the thing about pain, it demands to be felt.”
Not that this was an epiphany or anything but it perfectly summarised what was going on inside.
Ever been in a place; where you did not want to hear phrases like “It gets better,’ or ‘Hang in there?’ Have you had to pretend that everything is okay when in fact it is the exact opposite.
Are there times when it was your ‘duty’ to be strong and so you did precisely that even if you dealt with fear after fear?
Did you ever need to turn to someone only to find they were not there?
It happens to all of us, at some point.
It is in these moments that self pity might creep up and you seek every ‘portion’ you can find that will bring even a speck of positive vibes, if only for a minute.
Although the movie mainly centred on victims of cancer, it was beautiful in so many other ways. Yes, it had me unashamedly wailing like a little child.
The tears might have been induced by the characters, but deep within so many emotions were aroused.
Aches from the thought of death, the real victims I have encountered who have lost the battle to cancer or are still struggling with it. The families, friends and care takers who are learning to adapt albeit sorrowfully. It was pretty devastating.
It ended. I meditated. It stayed with me.
Fast forward, to a few days later.
We were all set for Akiba, ready to pain the house, put up playing places and material for the kids who are struggling with cancer and make merry.
I was excited and restless.
The skies seemed to have other plans and I began to anticipate the “It’s raining, I can’t make it’ messages. A few of them came in but I was overwhelmed by the number of people who turned up despite the terrible weather. The kind of loyalty you do not find everyday.
We played indoor games during the downpour and it was so much fun 😀
When the tea arrived, it was just what the doctor had ordered. A huge ‘tumpeco’ (mug) all to myself 🙂
The cleaning, painting, building and at time demolishing (ssshhhh) finally began. People were like worker bees. I have not seen that amount of dedication and team work in a long time.
They did not even want to have lunch before the work was done.
My heart was just all kinds of warm and fuzzy watching all this.

akiba paint

akiba washing

paint 2

One pose then back to work

One pose then back to work

I had to run and give a talk at a women’s conference but I felt like missing even a few minutes of the ‘Akiba pimping’ would kill me. I know. I know.

Akiba with kds
You know how a young mother can leave her son with a sister or even her own mother and call to check almost every 10 minutes? Even if she knows the little one is in safe, experienced loving hands? Yep. That is the best way I can explain it.
Immediately after the talk, I rushed back to see what was happening. Not before a young lady, Daphne* asked for my contacts.
I shall share an excerpt of the email she has sent me.
Thank you so much for what you do to bring a smile to children in Uganda. Growing up as an orphan made me go           through various challenges but luckily, I was able to study and graduate.
I have no stable job but believe I don’t need a lot of money to help the less fortunate. I believe I can volunteer with you and bring a smile to some children.
I therefore request to be part of your team and look forward to changing lives.
After reading this email, I was reminded of what 40-40 is all about.
It is not easy or painless but it is certainly worth it. (Also, pain demands to be felt so we shall have to accept these demands, no?)
The feeling of joy in my heart from the experiences this journey has brought me is almost palpable.
It is also quite evident that I have been blessed in more ways that I ever could repay.
Related: Christmas is here 🙂

baby Jesus

BE Santa this Christmas

Every year, 40-40 has both an Easter and Christmas drive to make these days more special for disadvantaged children in the country.

These young people(40-40)  are even cooler because they make other ordinary days special too but you know, these just stand out more 😉

A few months ago we embarked on a project to build a dormitory at Happy Times Junior School, Luweero. It seemed like an impossible task at first but well….See what we had to do;

Ninjas be like

Ninjas be like

After all that,this is what came out of it….Not to say I built alone, but just leave me to have my building moment of fame, thanks 😀

Dorm-

So we were like ‘WOOOOOPPPP!’, Dreams come true!Let’s finish this by end of December and then we can begin on a clean slate next year.

We can’t do it alone. This is where you come in.

#BuyABrick and #BuyABag raised 10 million shillings in 12 days and gave us so much hope. This time after 8 days, we don’t even have 1,000,000 shillings 😦

It is not about the money by the way, it is about the hope, the promise, the joy when we realise this dream and  this building that can be a home to over 200 children.

What do we need? Well, I am glad you asked. 😀

Item Quantity Price Total
Doors 4 300,000 1,200,000
Windows 10 250,000 2,500,000
Concrete Stones 5 Trips 120,000 600,000
Sand 16 Trips 50,000 800,000
Cement 80 bags 26,000 2,080,000
Glasses (Windows) 400,000 400,000
Paint 12 Jerrycans 1,200,000
Labour 2, 000,000
Total     10, 780,000

We have to throw a massive party for the kids this Saturday and plan for logistics so that brings our target to about 13 million shillings.

If you can get the actual materials, we shall be amazed as well. Feel free to contact us on facebook, twitter or numbers 0777499991/0773152701.

Most importantly, we would love it if you joined us. Your time is the most important resource you can ‘donate.’

Meanwhile, this post wasn’t meant to ‘beg,’ its real purpose is to represent the before and after. Today I am ‘weeping’ because the campaign is so slow but at the end of it all, I shall have a testimony! We all shall.

Find us at Kyadondo Rugby Club during Power Fm’s ‘Phatfest’ on Friday and then  join us Saturday for a Christmas party with the kids in Luweero.

It is going to be one big celebration I tell you! Can’t wait!!! 🙂

See you before and after we have our complete dormitory and a generation of change agents!!

This is how to join in

This is how to join in

Merry Christmas 🙂