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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Of legends and fans

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In 2014,We were looking for a way to re-invent our music+poetry event, “Croak and rhyme.” It had been an unexpected success the year before and we needed to be more innovative.

One night, during a 4040 meeting at (now defunct😳) Cee cees restaurant,we made a list of possible artists, mostly the ones who seemed unreachable because that’s the only way we would have an edge.

Then we came up with the name “Maddox Sematimba” and suddenly there was no need for further debate. He was ‘the one’ and we needed to get him.

Some context; At the time, Maddox was living a quiet life and had not performed in ages. In fact, it was not easy to track him down because it did not seem like he wanted to be found.

For some reason, we love a challenge and the search began during that very meeting as people called people, who called other people that could lead us to the main man.

Our very own ‘Nalumansi’ took the lead on this. After several days of searching,connecting dots and a road trip to Busabala, he was tracked down. The next task was to convince him to get onto the big stage. He accepted😊

We had the headline act we were looking for and nothing could possibly go wrong, right? Wrong.
While he had many fans and 4040 was slowly growing its numbers, the cost of putting on the show was quite high. Not to mention the background drama that comes with venues and difficult people who are always looking to give a problem for every solution😥

Nonetheless, we persevered. Many other amazing musicians got on board and all agreed to perform at no cost. In fact, after making our ‘dream list,’ the only factor that would get someone off the list was their inability to accept our (zero) rates.
We didn’t hold it against them, we just couldn’t afford them and were open about it.

D-day arrived and we prayed for a successful show despite the anxiety.
That event was arguably the best organised we have had in recent times Incidentally, other people in the entertainment industry also noticed this.
A small dedicated team had put it together, under the outstanding stewardship of Nalumansi. The results showed.
Just before Maddox got on stage, Collin stood beside me assuring me that Maddox would never come for this event. We argued although I knew very well that Maddox was already in the building (technically in the gardens, at the museum)
While we were having this argument, the man himself got on stage. Walalala! Collin disappeared without a word. I, too ran to the front, to get a better view. It was the first and last performance I watched that night. The performers did a commendable job and then there was Maddox.

 


His laid back attitude as he belted those lyrics, that moment when he gave Nalumansi a shout out and the 4040 team burst into laughter wherever they were; the pause when the DJ played a beat and Maddox told him to please move on swiftly to another song; when Frank got onto the stage and sang with Maddox word for word, a if he had been part of rehearsals; it was all beautiful!
We were in the presence of a legend and he got everyone together, effortlessly.

We didn’t raise much from that event. In fact it the surplus was nominal but we did a lot more, things can’t be priced even if we tried.

Since then, Maddox has performed at several events and even released a music video after a long hiatus.
In 2015, a few friends and I tracked him down at a random bar in Munyonyo, to pay homage. By 1a.m, the stage was still rife with ‘curtain raisers.’ We sang along to songs we had never heard, got to know new artists and yawned from time to time as we awaited the presence of “our man.” We later went backstage to introduce ourselves and ask why he wasn’t coming on stage. “Mani promoter y’atutegeka..” he explained.
I really dislike starting things and not accomplishing them so I could not imagine going back home without watching at least one song.
Meanwhile, all of us stayed in different parts of Kampala and only one of us had a car that we were planning to squeeze into. This was before omulembe gwa uber😦
I remember my neighbour’s reaction vividly as we got up to leave. “Sweetie naawe togenda b’ano abalala babowa.” (Please don’t leave, these other attendees are boring)
I smiled.

I can’t say that we re-awakened his career but I would like to believe that our genuine hope, belief and interest in him sparked something within his heart, to remind him how special he is.

I hope he can release an album or two before retiring. I look forward to purchasing the copies and getting as many people to do the same. He has an upcoming show meanwhile. Everyone needs to watch him in action at least once.

Wealth, Survival and everything in between

18

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.😊😍

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

Falling in love

6

It was love at first sight that hot afternoon when I used my lunch break to visit the children’s home in Kyebando for the first time.

I had started a Facebook group, shared a plan and invited friends to spend their 40 days giving but I didn’t even know the recipients.
That afternoon, within seconds of arrival. I knew.
I received more hugs than I could count. I was surrounded by smiles. I felt love.
I encountered God.

Before long, I was back to visit and graduated from a stranger to aunt, to mummy. I was in love.
Imagine my utter joy when I got to share this love with my friends and realising that many felt it too.
These children soon became family.
I can just see them as I type this; Bashir, the most beautiful boy you ever did see, who needed surgery at some point and the Doctor agreed to do it an no cost except for anesthesia and paying the nurses-this 200,000 was collected in one ‘facebook group chat’ session long before we had whatsapp ;Daisy the diva who knew how to use her adorable face to get what she wanted, oh Esther who became my BFF when she found out we were namesakes. Once I found her wearing a tee and realised it was one that I owned before it found a new home. When I told her it used to be mine, she registered this fact in her little brain. Four out of five times we visited, she was wearing it. I asked her to change into other clothes but she would not budge.
And how can I forget Ronald who loved to drum. When it was dance time, his heart smiled. He gave the caretakers some trouble, as he sought to be understood, like we all do. Eventually he found a loving home and I couldn’t be happier.
We met so many more beautiful souls and slowly they found family within the team and vice versa.
This relationship had its tough times, like any other and while many were out of my control, I feel eternally blessed because of the miracles that came alive from these bonds.
I received some practice for motherhood too😉
There is so much that I cannot put to words (and believe me, I have often tried) and yet everything learnt, what I felt, what I feel, it will always stay with me.

Moving On

My first real encounter with young passionate Ugandans chasing a big dream came in form of the Lantern meet of Poets. Man they breathe(d) passion! I vividly remember the day Lillian told me about the group and her subsequent excitement as they planned their first recital. It was a mix of eagerness and fear. Last year she reminded me that I sat with her backstage until it was her turn. Frankly all I remember from that recital was sitting proudly in the audience and resisting the urge to whisper to all my neighbours, ‘that’s my girl.’ I marvelled at her effortless ability to command the stage, her eloquence and confidence. I watched the other poets in awe, some visibly anxious and others whose performances said to us “I was born for this!”

lantern

Lillian and I had tested our rhymes as naughty teenagers in High school. She would pass a note that read “What do you think of the colour red?” and I would reply “Let us start by looking under the bed” or something silly along those lines. Before we knew it, we would have a complete poem, mostly full of stupidity, I might add. This would go on for most of the lesson, particularly the Political Education class which was most relaxed. I caught Mr. Miwa noticing me, noticing him, noticing us a few times but he never did penalise us.  I guess he decided our grades would speak for themselves or he just let ‘children’ be children. I don’t remember us failing though, it was quite an interesting class. One of the few for me, actually. Ask me about Physics though, I’ll come at you with a pendulum clock.

Fast forward to several years later and the Lantern meet partnered with my alma mater. It brought a certain joy to my heart. I thought if they had existed in my time, I would probably have joined in. At that point in my life, words were surely my escape. Perhaps I wouldn’t have gathered the courage to hit the stage but I would have liked to be in the presence of those realities, admiring the string of words and stories woven.

Speaking of words, I have never really found myself worthy to critique writing, any art really. I feel almost as if I would be dictating how the artist should feel, how they need to express their emotions; how they should interpret their thoughts and package them for the audience. I find that a tad unjust. While the audience certainly matters, I feel like sometimes we lose ourselves, our original message, trying so hard to fit into their expectations…but that’s just me.

I can still hear the echoes of “This revolution will not be televised” and how I left that evening thinking “Woah! What a time to be alive!”

Each time I got a chance to watch the Lantern meet at the National theatre, it brought back fond memories of my relationship with the place. As a Primary school pupil in the school choir, making it to the theatre was the equivalent of the Olympics. We participated in competitions that were held in schools all over the country but only the crème de la crème made it to the finals at National theatre. I suppose it would have been even more exhilarating if we had to travel miles to get there but unfortunately, I studied only a few metres away. Nonetheless, it was a thrilling experience for my young excitable mind. We weren’t half bad either. I remember crying inconsolably when I was about 10 years old, after we emerged second, nationwide! Ha! If only I knew then what I know now, I would tell little Esther to celebrate that ‘win’ and savour it. I would assure her that life would present so many more reasons to cry and this was one of the better days. Thankfully, ‘we’ never lost the passion and we did lose that competitive gene. Now, doing our best is good enough and I wish mini- me had known that.

After almost a decade, the Lantern meet of poets has decided to bow out. I have not had the chance to get the scoop on this scoop. I know for a fact that I would have loved to have them around forever but then again I am sure they have their reasons.

I would like to salute you for dreaming, for growing, for reminding us to appreciate the power of poetry, of words of rhythm and rhymes.

You were just but University students armed with a dream and a canvass when you began, look how much beauty you left us!  You created a movement, a force to reckon with and we are indebted to you for that.

 

I started this hoping to write a short piece celebrating the Lantern meet of poets and inviting you all to the last recital but 800 words later here we are. *smh*

If you are in Kampala this Saturday, come and say goodbye to them in style. The show will begin at 7pm. Tickets go for Ugx 20,000 and are already on sale at National Theatre.

lantern-meet

 

Your stories gave us light. Thanks for the memories!

 

 

40

“Reflect upon your present blessings, of which every man has many; not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.”

“40/40, why not 50/50 or 70/30?” These are some of the questions that I have had to answer overtime. First,I laugh, and then begin to share our story. This season is the reason for 40, and not any other number. When you think of it, the Bible did love the number 40 🙂

Four years ago, I sat, as I am now, typing away on a keyboard just a few days after Ash Wednesday. A thought had crept up in my mind the night before and thankfully, I had written it down (write your dreams and ideas people) I would then open a facebook group that would change my life and that of others.

Every February since, I have been reminded of that little dream that found its little feet and started to walk without any knowledge of what lay ahead. I don’t know what you plan on giving up this lent (if anything) but I urge you to go a step further and give something on top of denying yourself certain pleasures. I could sit here and tell you that 40-40 is the place to go and donate but I won’t. Instead, I hope that you can find a cause that is dear to your heart, something you have thought of but never done or simply procrastinated upon. It could be a member of your family who is struggling with a mental illness, a lady in the neighbourhood who has no one, that child you’ve thought of adopting, heck it could even be you that needs saving. Whatever you choose to do, whoever you choose to give, I pray that you’ll find peace and fulfillment.

Google image

Google image

 

“Whether one believes in a religion or not and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn’t anyone who doesn’t appreciate kindness and compassion.”

I have also learnt not to hide under the umbrella of charity. Just because it is what I do, doesn’t mean there isn’t much more good I can do, more of me that I can give.It is something I constantly remind myself. Don’t cross your hands and say, “But I already pay school fees for Mary.” I wonder what would happen if God responded to our prayer with “But I already blessed you last year.” <Forgive the guilt trip> There is so much to share, so many people to forgive (including yourself) and deep cleansing that can be done in different ways. Use this period as an ‘excuse’ to dust those cobwebs. We have an opportunity for transformation within ourselves and our surroundings.

giveI pray that this season is one of great reflection for you. I hope that you can block out all the noise (literal and figurative) and focus on that which makes your heart dance. Jesus’ death and resurrection tells of a great love that is still difficult to fathom all these years later. We continue to learn, to be reborn. We can be ambassadors of that love, everyday in many different ways.

I don’t know if there is such a thing as this but “Happy Ash Wednesday.” May HIS love abide in your hearts for all eternity.