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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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 🙂

 

Ode to my sunflower

Somebody new is in your room. It feels wrong. It is like somebody moved the furniture and I hit my head against a closet that wasn’t where it used to be. Will I like her? Will she like me? Shall we get along?
Let’s face it. There will never be another you.
Oh my sunflower! I found a piece I wrote about you two years ago here. Still, it feel like it was only yesterday!
On Thursday you told me you would leave on Sunday. You promised to call and visit despite the distance. I asked if you were happy. You replied. “Ye, Essie. Leka ngende mpumulemu.” (Yes Essie, let me go and rest)
I walked away with a choking feeling in my throat. Was this really goodbye?
I would love for your new business to succeed, for you to fall in love, have some mini yous running around. I wish for you only happiness and bountiful love.

Of course I did not think you would stay forever, but the reality hits that much harder you know.
Thank you for listening when I needed someone to rant to. Sometimes you asked why ‘Liz stopped visiting’ and I would tell you she did something nasty. Then you would tell me all the mannerisms you had noticed, such great discernment.
We used to agree on which stories would break mom’s heart and why we should not tell her. Surely, there’s no denying that you grew into a lovely sister.
The gifts and your sneaky ways. The ‘wise men’ who wanted to surprise me needed to speak to you nicely. We would be together and you would get a phone call and walk away. Some minutes later, you would arrive with a bouquet of flowers or a gift. Ever so devious!

Last year on the eve of my birthday, I was duped into a dinner..only for two friends to leave early for ‘other commitments.’ It was on the morning of my birthday that I realised what had happened. I found a breakfast table full of gifts and cake. Of course! It all made sense. I felt like a little girl on Christmas morning (of bulaya definitely) as I opened each gift. I don’t remember eating. In fact I turned down evening plans that day so I could just sit in my room and thank the Lord for my amazing family and friends. You were part of a beautiful memory, you often were.
When I didn’t pick my phone up and my friends suspected I was home. They immediately called you. They didn’t want to hear about my ‘phone is always in silent mode’ nonsense. Goodness, what shall we all do without you?
Just a few weeks ago I was extremely sick and just as weak but still trying to play superwoman. You ordered me into the bathroom, warmed some water and gave me a thorough scrub. Surely, you understand how difficult this is?
Every morning for as long as I can remember, you have been the first face as I see. The first ‘wasuze outya?’and ever since I started dealing with insomnia, after asking how I slept, you quickly asked if I actually slept.

At night, you sometimes sat with me and dozed off as I had a late supper. I’d tell you to go to bed and you would assure me how you are awake. Seriously, there’s a drug in that television that puts people to sleep. These little things meant the world.
You always cooked a hearty breakfast when you knew I hadn’t eaten the night before..gave me options when my stomach played tricks. You understood my love for tea, like no other. Some days you asked if I wanted another cup <at an odd hour> and I always responded the same way. “When have I ever said no to tea?” You made mandazi for us and by us, I mean family, 4040 meetings, the kids breakfasts. Name it. Surely you are already a mother simply waiting for a child.
Speaking of 4040. Gosh the errands you have had to carry out! You were a member of the team in every sense of the word. Helping me pack and unpack a host of items before and after or events, helping me sneak out mum’s flasks full of tea and dishes for our strategy meetings, (even if we were often caught) listening to our grand plans, hearing about most of the issues that I could explain and advising, buying some of the items we sold to raise money. I really could go on. This meant a lot.
The way you spoilt my siblings, folks and I shall definitely stay with us for a long time if not forever. To be honest I only vaguely remember my childhood nannies, if at all. Perhaps it’s because I met you when I was already a teen, heavily enhanced by your beautiful heart. You are my favourite and that is putting it mildly.
Did I mention your constant faith and prayer that held me steadfast in the belief that everything would work out? I constantly shared my testimonies with you because I knew you would get it.
On Saturday night, mom and I handed you our gifts and said our goodbyes amidst sobs. When you noticed the awkward silence that followed, you go down on your knees and said a beautiful prayer in Runyoro..oh it was like music!
On Sunday I escorted you to your brother’s home and we chatted some more. It was like I was giving my sister away to another family..but then again, you are our family, his, bound by blood and us by love.
I know mum and I (mostly) will miss you greatly, as will everyone else who encountered your soul through us. I mean it’s been almost a decade! I know that somehow, we shall be okay.
I am going to do a few things in your honour that I will tell you about when the time comes.
For now though, may my beautiful sunflower, Monica only continue to blossom.

sunflower
XX

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!