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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Our first 4040 baby

21

Dear Penda,
When your mama first told me she was expecting you, I laughed. She always has a joke up her sleeves so I didn’t think she was serious.
The drive home from Bugolobi got a little quiet and I started to wonder if she’d actually meant what she said.

Before long, she started to glow. Pregnancy certainly looked good on her. I am sure by now you have figured out where you got your good looks, and free spirit..and and…
The journey was exciting and it was also a learning experience for me. Being a last born myself, I didn’t really get to watch all these beautiful steps to motherhood.
Your mama was incredibly active, even when we begged her to slow down.
You attended meetings, ‘worked’ at events, paka-chinied, eh, your womb experience must have been an adventure! No wonder you can play for hours on and and it is incredibly difficult to put to bed.

Your mama also loved bread! When they say bun in the oven, they don’t mean her because she had a bakery in there😁
I like to tell the story of how she would carry her loaf of bread to 4040 meetings and some members of the team would tease her. That is before they would punch a slice or 3😒 (Names withheld)
I anticipated your arrival like my life depended on it.

March 22nd
I had been under the weather that week and feared that you’d make an appearance in my absence. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. As fate would have it, your mama was admitted to a hospital next door to home. *You can see why we are neighbours😉*
That was one loooonnngg day.
Your mama paced, paced and paced some more.
Then they took her to the theatre and it was my turn😧
Pace. Sit. Stand. Pace. Repeat. Text a friend. Call mum. Stalk the medical personnel.Pace. Sit. Stand.
Finally, the nurse came out and handed you to me. My heart, oh my heart!
It burst like that ribena berry (I will need to show you video evidence of what I mean)
When your mommy saw you, everything fell in place. You are her life.

You have grown at a scary rate.This morning, I was looking at your baby pictures in awe. I now kind of understand what parents go through watching their children grow too fast.
You’re such a joy to be around,the only therapy that I need.
Your smile, infectious laughter, killer dance moves, ever-growing vocabulary, crazy energy and everything in between.

For many of us, your aunties, the 4040 team, you’re our baby too. When we dot over you, relish it, it’s from the deepest corners of our loving hearts. We promise to be here, for you, for mummy, for always.

It’s an absolute pleasure to watch you grow. As you find yourself, I pray that you continue to know. I hope that your bright light will continue to shine because it allows others to shine too😊

We thank your mama for giving us the opportunity to raise you, to spoil you, to be there every step of the way. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store!

As you watch frozen for the 4,519th time, we celebrate you. Because of you, we have an extra reason to be happy today.
Happy 3rd birthday our Penda, you’re a blessing to us.

 

With so much love,
Your lovestruck God mommy.
Xoxo

Note: Originally posted on 22nd March.

Lights, Camera, Action

19

As a child, I was anything but timid.
I found my true-self when I hit the stage.
MDD (Music Dance and Drama *Musilu Ddala Ddala😛* was my calling. At the time it didn’t matter that your voice didn’t sound even remotely like Adele’s. I know this because I got away with solo performances and I can’t even sing to get free rolex😭
I played local instruments in the instrumentals, I participated in pretty much every traditional dance, the folk songs and even performed poetry.
I loved acting the most.
All this was at school during class competitions and later when I joined the School choir.

Over the weekends, my brother  and I provided some back up dancing services to live bands. You didn’t need to call our manager or book in advance. We just showed up with our folks and got in formation shortly after. We were reliable like that.
We also got paid handsomely by revellers. That was until mum kept the money for us😒
I am sure you know how that story ends.
When we asked for our $$, we were given a list of all the things we had not paid for since leaving the womb😞

 

Fast forward to adulthood.
I dislike crowds. Along the way I lost the childhood innocence and became self conscious. I become shy even when everything in me tells me there is no reason to be and getting on stage is not fun for me anymore. It is scary.
Younger me would definitely scoff at this boring version.😳

All my dreams of Actor-Model-Writer-Airhostess-Lawyer-Journalist-Writer again (in that order, I think) have not quite materialised.

Nonetheless, I would like to believe every stage along the way prepared me for something else. Many of my public speaking sessions are probably fueled by that past acting spark to be honest. I get up intimidated by the crowd, anxious,nauseous, stomach rumbling and somehow manage to speak sense (or so I hope) and leave without fainting. Little miracles those ones.

Don’t get me started on this 5 year journey of ‘begging.’ It is difficult for me to even ask a friend (not stranger or acquaintance) to lend me a small sum of money let alone give me something I can’t return. And what do I have here? A 5-year ‘career’ in hounding friends, acquaintances, strangers and the internet world at large to give,give,give-time,resources, skills, everything!😮

I recently met someone (with whom I am acquainted) on the street and they asked “What are you collecting money for this time?” I chocked a little, afterwhich I responded, “Good afternoon, how are you?”
Basically,his mind told him that the greeting I now deserve is “How much do you want?”

Most of this journey has been filled with ironies, in different shades.
We are complex, ever-changing and if we embrace change, it opens our eyes,minds and hearts to the multiple things that we can be, that we can become. We need to allow ourselves to change, to grow, to learn.

Human beings are not one-dimensional;we are multi-faceted; not even what you see on the surface is a representation of who someone truly is.
We can be weak and strong; we can be bullies and still be emotional, confident yet anxious and so much more.
There’s so much beauty in being unapologetically authentic.

There’s no use watering down who you are or toning down your awesome because the world isn’t ready. Make them ready💪💃and if they fail to be, their loss😈
On that note;
Perhaps at 68,someone will write a script that will touch my heart and I will hit the stage one more time. Maybe I’ll act the role of a granny in denial, asking her grandchildren to call her “Aunt Essie”
Till then;
Go forth and explore the multiple versions of the amazing soul that is YOU.

31

Can you sniff 2017? I know I can. Once I begin inhaling the fragrance of Christmas, the year’s end is often the next thought.

Last night I was at a vigil when the mother called in tears. I could barely make out what she was saying but I quickly figured it was news of another death. I went silent.

It feels like this year, I have attended more funerals than celebrations. When it isn’t a beautiful young soul who was just starting out, it is a parent leaving behind innocent little ones or even ‘unfinished business,’ which I feel like we all have. On top of all the salty seas that have constantly had to dissolve, this anguish has greatly affected how I think, how I feel and how I live. Fortunately, some of the outcomes have been positive.

While I have for the past few years been a great advocate for ‘leave whatever job, relationship or other situation which brings you more sadness than joy,’ my conviction has developed by leaps with each sudden farewell. The fleetingness of life increasingly affects my decisions and I find myself imposing these ideals even on poor unsuspecting victims.

A couple of months ago, I found myself ‘lecturing’ Carol about her choices, giving 150% to a job that only milked her, stole her sense of self-worth and lowered her self- esteem. It was only on my way home that I realised I had only met her once and should probably have found a more neutral topic of discussion, climate change? I shrugged it off as ‘motherly instinct’ and consoled myself in the knowledge that I did it in good faith. Last week she sent me a Facebook message explaining that she had suffered a breakdown and her doctor attributed it to her working environment. Carol has since tendered her resignation.

Unfortunately, many young people I interact with have convinced themselves that they should settle for less. On the surface they seem confident, ambitious, happy, and vivacious even. However, they are in bad relationships because “all women/men are the same.” They work crazy hours for little pay and no potential for growth because “it is the same everywhere.” Sadly for the latter, even I have to advise cautiously because I understand that the unemployment burden is very REAL. I also know that we can’t have passion and dreams for breakfast and dinner.

While it is unlikely that you will love people into changing their world view, it is also important that we support our loved ones. We need to take it upon ourselves to reignite their flame when we realise it is burning out, to have the courage to speak out even when we know the truth will sting.

I know there is a thin line between meddling and some of us might prefer to keep silent and ‘keep the peace’ but in my opinion, that is stealing a portion of what we need to give our loved ones.

 

What would you have loved to see/hear when you were younger? Did you (not) have someone holding your hand and showing you direction? Did their presence, or lack thereof affect the person you are today?

What happens when our would-be mentors in the work place are the biggest source of negative energy? What is the expected outcome when our parents tell us we are worthless and/or compare us to siblings/other families without giving us a chance to shine in whichever path we have chosen? Where do we turn when our partners, our friends who were meant to be our biggest cheerleaders become the greatest source of darkness?

Hurt people, hurt people. Can we think about this the next time we inflict pain on others or feel like we too have been wounded?

Many a time we go through life like we are immortal, other times, like we are untouchable. Once in a while, we acknowledge that we might be gone tomorrow but quickly forget and go back to our old ways. I know how guilty I am of this. While we don’t know the day or hour when we shall say goodbye, we do know what makes our hearts smile. We know what it feels like to be broken, betrayed, unloved, alone, forgotten, alienated..ashamed. It is because we know and have felt all this that we should not inflict such pain on others, and yet we still do.

dessert

The year seems like it is already over but in reality we have plenty of time. 31 days.

31 days to

love yourself

pamper yourself

remember yourself

teach yourself

31 days to love others, unashamedly-

31 days to say

I am sorry

I was wrong

I forgive you

I will change <and mean it>

31 days to let go,

Of that which steals your light and shine

31 days to chase

That which brings you joy, even if you don’t catch it <now>

31 days to be that person whom you wish you had in your life.

 

I can’t promise what the outcome will be, but I hope it will help you with a fresh start, or better still, a happier journey that will flow into the new year.

Xx

 

fear

 

 

 

This one is for YOU

I wrote this 4 years ago and recently discovered it when Gloria asked if I ever shared it on my blog.

I decided to post it here. May it remind someone, today that they are never alone.

 

This one is for the girl who can’t sleep at night because her father is coming late yet again with woman number five, six oops she lost count

It is for the single mother who raised her daughter but has only gotten insults and lies in return, tales she can’t recount-

This isn’t for the ‘perfect family’ that goes to Sunday brunch or spends their weekend in Zanzibar

It is for the ones who don’t know where their next meal will come from because daddy is always in the bar, mummy’s pennies hard to come by-

For the girl who lost her youth to chores and fending for her younger siblings when she would really like a day off, okay maybe that’s too much. How about an hour or two just for her?

 

Here is one for the man whose father abandoned him as a child and still wants nothing to do with him many years later –

The daughter who did not get to meet her parents, unsure if they are proud of her wherever they are

The son whose dad and mom left just before he achieved his dreams

 

Today isn’t about the curvy confident girl who walks with an aura of splendour

It is for the one who is uncomfortable with her sexuality

Lesbian, asexual, transexual-

 

That girl who often hears words like fat, plus size, overweight, weight loss, exercise, gym bla bla bla gosh, when does it all end? So, I love juicy chicken, sue me.

But ooh, that isn’t all; the ‘small’ girl isn’t safe either. She is skinny, she is dieting, and she must be anorexic. Do you ever get clothes that actually fit? they ask. You must be spending all your time on fashion magazines, they add. Have they ever heard of genes? I guess not-

 

This one is for that boy who was bullied throughout school and thought the world would be more sympathetic

But all he has got is cruelty and thoughts of suicide. Surely everyone would be happier without him

It is for that girl who lost her self-esteem as a child and is still waiting for it to somehow grow back. Mummy can you hear her? No, wrong selection, it is she that took it away in the first place.

It is for the boy who doesn’t belong

Who stands in the middle of a crowd and feels all alone

It is for the girl who wants to know God

But can’t take the first step

The one who tried to walk the path with Jesus

But had no one to hold her hand through it all

 

This one is for the wrongfully accused that still serve sentences

The individuals whose existence is questioned because of their resemblance- to this tribe, that terrorist group, no matter how unrelated-

It is for the virgin who was shunned by her partner

The repentant thief that was judged by an angry mob

The girl who was abandoned after her last abortion

Even if she did it to please the man she so dearly loved-

The mother who held her baby for the first time and smiled

Blocking thoughts of the father that fled-

The girl whose little angel didn’t make it to her first birthday

The boy who only hears stories of birthday cake

 

It is for the broken hearted man who swears to stay alone forever

Because the love of his life said she would never leave but sort of meant;

I will never leave you, Mark, James, Earl and pretty much every guy that comes my way

It is for all the smiles you put on another’s face

Even as you weep profusely thinking about your life-

 

This one is for the hidden truths

The silent cries

The secret lives

The unspoken pain

The broken families

The poker faces

This one is for you…not the ‘you’ that the world sees but the ‘you’ who battles every day;

The real Y.O.U

 

lonely

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Definitely. Maybe

I am typing this from the 40-40 office seated on a couch that isn’t even ours. Uhm, no we did not steal it 🙂 These chairs belong to the landlord and although we need the, he set a price that is quite high. Since we can’t afford them yet, we have decided we’ll custom-make our own set of chairs when the shillings trickle in. In the meantime, we are storing the chairs safely. Win-win! Side note: They are really comfy! My legs are stretched out and if my sleep wasn’t for beckoning by reciting petitions, calling an intervention, taking spiritual baths and chanting spells- I’d probably be dosing off by now.

These ‘borrowed’ chairs are a significant change from the mats we used to sit on during meetings. If you arrived early, you could snug yourself a cushion to comfort your behind. If you didn’t, you’d suddenly know the number of bones in areas you did not usually give much thought.

I vividly remember wondering where we’d get the money for 6 months rent before we set up shop. We needed an address. We’d registered the organisation and opened a bank account. Can you imagine before that, our budget depended on how much Banura and I had on our mobile money accounts? We’ve certainly come from far. An office seemed like the biggest step in the world. It was at the time. Thankfully, dad gave me half the amount, and I got soft loans from other friends who were willing to take the ‘risk’. Bless them.

It has been three years since I took a leap of faith, quit my job and staked all I had (and didn’t have) on 40-40; and here we are. My feelings are all over the place. I am happy. I am sad. I am confused. I am emotional.

This period coincides with my date of birth. I am fast approaching the big 30. In a couple of weeks, I will be one step closer. As you can imagine, all this comes with deep retrospect and quite often, regret follows. Thankfully for me, I am too busy musing at how things turned out to even feel remorseful.

See, I have accomplished NONE of the things I thought I would have by now. None. This means professionally, spiritually, relationship-wise and everything in between. Do I sometimes look over the fence, with envy watching my peers’ green grass? Certainly. Do I let that deter me? No. Everyone is entitled some moments of weakness from time to time. No? Now, when Fred purchases yet another piece of land and Joan starts construction of her new house; when Rachel is promoted and Melanie brings her third angel into world, I celebrate them fiercely. We all have different journeys and oh what joy to watch how the stories unfold. My friend Suzan says when I die, the one thing I should leave her in my will is my 7,213 notebooks. I have come to accept that these are, in fact, my only ‘assets’… for now.

I’ll just zero down on two themes from this past year and the two before.

Who are you?

Do you know who you are when you are in different environments? Do you take the time to understand what makes you tick, what annoys, how negative/positive vibes affect you? In my opinion, the best way to figure this out is by being alone for a while and critically thinking about it. *If you haven’t already, please create this time, as a gift to yourself*

This year, I was away from home for 3 months. During that time, I learnt quite a bit about myself. I’ll highlight only one lesson for the post’s sake. The best gift I gave myself was a gift in the art of letting go. Until this period, I’d shunned all opportunities that required me to be away from my people and my work for long periods of time. Even when I applied, I secretly prayed I didn’t get in. Guess what? I didn’t! This time I allowed things to happen naturally. I kept my distance. I was content with receiving updates about 40-40. Many times I was tempted to suggest that things be done a certain way. However, I controlled myself. My way definitely isn’t always the right way. I accepted that even if what I am saying is ‘right,’ sometimes people need to make mistakes themselves so they can learn better. If you can afford to, let them.  I got to watch from the side-lines (something every leader needs) and was very proud of what I saw.

Once you learn exactly who you are and how you flourish(or not) around certain things and people, you are more in control of what you do, whom you let in, what you give your attention/avoid and it can be very liberating.

grow up

What are you doing?

Very close to who you are is what you are doing..or for some, what you should be doing. While I was thinking about this piece, my friend John shared this letter which I agreed with entirely. Do you find yourself wondering what you want to do with your life? Do you feel inadequate or worry that you are ‘running out of time?’ I know many of us do and this fear is often heightened around our birthdays or the end of the year. At least it does for me.

In that letter, Hunter. S Thompson explains that we should pay more attention to who we are and not our goals, because essentially our experiences change us and our perspectives also change. <Look to the man, not the goal> So here we are, counting 4 months to the year’s end and thinking how unaccomplished we are when we should looking at ourselves, our changes, our experiences.

When people tell me they want to leave their jobs or start a non-profit/start-up and thus need my advice; the first thing I do is to assure them that no two stories are the same, might be a bit similar but the variables are diverse. Some people excel as leaders, others are better off following. We need producers as much as we need consumers and the list goes on. That is how we achieve balance.

This brings to mind the story of Irene. Irene believed NGOs are a lucrative ‘business’ and decided starting one would fill a void in her life and also give her a quick buck. When I spoke to her, I explained that her image of Executive Directors driving 4×4’s visiting projects once a month and living the good life wasn’t the full story. Unfortunately, like most people, she had translated 40-40’s media attention to mean great wealth on my part. The first thing she asked when I arrived for our meeting was “Why are you using a boda, don’t you have a driver or something?” I laughed so hard! She was genuinely ‘concerned’ when she found out I don’t earn a 6 figure salary. Dear reader, I know the look of pity all too well and of all the ones I’ve seen, Irene’s is etched in my memory for life. I decided to give her a short class since I have met too many ‘Irenes’ over the past few years. I started unbundling the myth for her bit by bit. In fact, I made a strong case for her to keep her day job. The last thing this country needs is another person deluded by wealth, willing to disguise their greed in a nicely coloured coat. By the way, do not get me wrong, we all need to make a living and indeed good intentions don’t put food on the table; but wouldn’t it be much more meaningful if that which you chose corresponded with who you are?

Once you know who you are and what brings out the best in you, you can easily choose a path that best utilises your personality, skill and true being. I am fortunate enough to have stumbled upon my path, almost accidentally. When I think about it, everything that I am doing espouses who I truly am. My love for people and affinity for children; my attraction to stories and storytelling, planning events and seeing things grow out of nothing. I derive so much pleasure from seeing other people happy and I couldn’t think of a better way to attain it than through what I do.

The truth is that this kind of life can be really challenging, probably even more than the ‘let’s see how this goes’ lifestyle. The satisfaction it brings though, I cannot relate that to any sensation yet.

This month I celebrate another year on the planet, and another year of not having a boss, a regular salary and of course pretending I don’t like shopping 😉 My broad and eclectic experiences have made me who I am and I’m even more ecstatic about the future <also quite scared but the glass is half full>

I started by admitting that I haven’t achieved any of the goals I set for myself way back when, what I didn’t tell you is I am glad I haven’t. I would not trade what I have now for anything.

 “A man who procrastinates in choosing a path will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.”

Enjoy September and may the last quarter of the year be kind 🙂

Making memories

“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”

Two months ago, on this day, Linda was all nerves and bags; the former because of the anxiety of living in a new environment, the latter carried all 30 or so kilogrammes of the possessions for the next few months. If feels like just the other day she was waving goodbye to her friends and feeling quite proud of herself for not getting emotional. The more she thought about this lone trip, the more she realised that ‘adulting’ was going to happen whether she liked it or not; the best she could do was embrace the situation and hopefully, even enjoy it.

First forward to two months later and she has actually acquired a rhythm. There is no real routine because each day comes with an almost unique schedule but Linda can now comfortably say she is ‘okay,’ many times, even better than okay.

The routes that she could not take without a chaperone in the first few weeks, are now a walk in the park, she can actually get to the school in several different ways. She knows whom to talk to when in need of a good laugh and whom to avoid when stressed because they will only aggravate the situation. She still smiles and says hello even when the grumpy ‘robots’ ignore her, but she’s often pleasantly surprised when the humans approach her instead, with lit up faces.

Linda has a favourite bookstore that she wishes had a discount on their discount and the other day she discovered a shop aptly named “Peace, love and tea.” Isn’t that all this world needs? Much as she had a class that day, it will probably be one of her go to places for whenever she needs to smile. Their tea varieties and packages got her jaw to drop. Their tea cups and sets are also to die for.
tea 1

ea 2

Linda has learnt to appreciate solitude and discovered things about herself she probably wouldn’t have without this experience. For one of her modules, she had the entire “UN” in her class. During the introductions, the diversity was a tad surreal; Taiwan, China, Japan, Venezuela, Peru, Chile, Argentina,U.S.A,Scotland,Namibia, Kenya and of course Uganda. Look at all the options for holiday destinations where she’ll know at least one person! As a matter of fact, it is not uncommon for her to use a train or bus and not even hear one person speaking English, it’s like music listening to the different languages. Indeed, her solo bus rides will be one of the things she misses the most when she leaves.

What started as a daily countdown to get back home has gradually grown into a bittersweet predicament where she finds herself appreciating the experience and relationships she has formed more than she expected.  It is indeed true, that most things simply need time.

Her current mantra is to seize every little moment and savour what will make for great memories throughout her life.

travel

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