Thursday..

36

Originally posted on Thursday 6 April

It is Thursday, my most ‘predictable’ day of the week because I am sure how it will end- with a 4040 meeting.
I often schedule appointments around it..If anyone wants to have wedding meetings with me involved, I ask that Thursday isn’t an option; if there is an invitation on a Thursday, I make an exception only if it is really important or if I know my presence will make a difference.
Everyone who knows me, knows this bit of my schedule. *If I owe you money, this is all a joke👆*
This bond has lasted longer than some relationships. We stick together. Before the meetings we are catching up, during the meeting we’re being a menace to the chairman and after the meeting we are saying goodbye but really staying. <cue song- Everytime I try to leave, something keeps pulling me back…🎼🎶🎵>
Even when I am unwell, I force myself there. I know that a night fight or disagree, but we all want the same thing-to create change and that is priceless.
Today it rained in the evening and there were some cancellations as expected but still 14 friends were there to discuss over tea and snacks, sharing ideas that we hope will change lives.
We used to meet on Tuesdays, then two members enrolled in a Master’s class that required them to study on Tuesday. We moved days and never looked back.
We have had ‘5 homes’ where we have met for 5 years.
Some members have settled down and stopped coming, others have settled down and still come; some are single and searching..others are single and being searched..and some..we don’t even know..and it doesn’t really matter. What we know is a have each other.

I don’t know what this picture will look 5 years from now and to be honest, that doesn’t make me lose sleep at night (as much as it used to) I am basking in the now..and the now is beautiful!

It speaks of dreams and rainbows, pain and lessons, love and loss, hard work and loyalty. It provides so many things I never even knew I wanted, that fit right into this life of mine.

 

I probably didn’t do much in my own power, to deserve this blessing that keeps on giving..but one thing is for sure; I will do everything in my power to keep it, to keep them.

Stand out

“In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”

Dorothy is unapologetically ambitious. She walks into a room and you know for sure, she has not come to play games. Her aura reeks of confidence and when she speaks, it is simply confirmed. Dorothy will stop at nothing to get what she wants, professionally. If it means stepping on a few toes, so be it. While she may not be the friendliest or most loyal person, you can count on her hard work and willingness to go the extra mile for a project to prosper. Can you think of any ‘Dorothy’ in your life?

I have worked with my fair share of Dorothy’s and if I had not spent so much time concentrating on what they were doing ‘wrong,’ perhaps I would have learnt a thing or two about what they were doing right. I know better now. There is a reason why Dorothy will get another raise while you gossip about her Jimmy choos or try to hate on her four wheel drive, find that reason. While we are not all capable of being ‘ruthless,’ I believe we can all leverage certain qualities that we already have. If you notice that those are lacking, find something that makes you more valuable than the next guy.

Dorothy is constantly finding ways to save the company money. Tell me which boss wouldn’t love that? If you leave the tap running, make all your personal calls using the company line and download the biggest files that ever existed because “these people make so much money, let me punish them,” then perhaps you need to rethink waking up every morning to go this job.

Dorothy initiated end of month dinners where the bosses get to mingle with their employees at the ‘same level.’ Originally, she was given a small budget to work with. She accepted and went ahead anyway. Today, the budget is three times what she started with and teamwork has visibly improved. While her female co-workers are hating on her, (because some women absolutely love to see another woman succeed) she is steadily rising in the ranks and has convinced her boss to sponsor her MBA. Can you get a caterer who charges less than your current provider, with better quality food? Are your workmates complaining about being unable to afford the gym? Can you pitch the idea of bringing a trainer to the workplace instead on Fridays, perhaps? Maybe you can even get the afternoon hours slashed on Friday. Do you know a gifted financial analyst who can break down issues for the average person to comprehend? Can you get him to train your colleagues? These ideas might be generic and a tad simplistic but you know better what your company needs. What can you do to help them get it? If you do only what you are told to do, your salary shall come and every month will look like the next. However, if you stand out, there are chances you will become indispensable. Alternatively, if you choose to move, you will be guaranteed a good recommendation and open doors if you ‘change your mind.’

I am not the most confident person out there but I have taught myself to take small steps towards ‘faking it right.’ I can’t say I have mastered the art but I do notice progress every now and then. Pastor Njoro had this habit of mentioning 40-40 out of the blue during a sermon. That was okay but occasionally he would look around and ask “Esther, are you around, can you stand up?” At that point my legs would fail me. I vividly remember the 4 year celebrations when he asked me to stand up to be celebrated and I got up for two seconds and sat back down. “Who told you I have finished? You need to learn to own this. Stand up while I continue” Goodness! I needed the ground to just swallow me, not me and my belongings, just me, forever. I never did get used to it. He would meet someone and ask “Have you heard of 4040?” Person X: No Him: What? Esther, come and tell your story. It is at that point that my mind would go blank and my lips magically inherit invisible super glue. I had to keep reminding myself to own my trade because no one would buy into it if I was not confident enough to speak up. I still cringe when I am put on the spot and I can’t say I have nailed every aspect of the process but I am trying, so can you.

“It’s your difference that sets you apart not your similarity, stand out!”

These days I am in a room full of mostly strangers and they ask for volunteers, suddenly, I notice my hand going up and I am like ‘What is this?’ ‘Who are you?’ Progress 🙂

For the past couple of weeks, I have had to write recommendations for members of my team (may they get these positions, Amen) and I had to edit and re-edit to stop making them sound too perfect. I was almost that student who wants extra paper in an exam where others can’t fill up one foolscap! Give me the same assignment to write a personal statement or so and I shall be running to one of my confidants to advise on what I should write. I know I am not the only one (Hi you) but I also know it gets better with time.

It is time for us to get out of our comfort zone and reach out to get what we want. Go hard! No matter how honest, intelligent and generally awesome you are, nobody is going to find you in your sleep and whisper ‘Hey, this opportunity is just for you, we await your presence oh mighty one.’

Always a reference point for me this one! Google image.

Always a reference point for me this one!
Google image.

However, if you do challenge yourself to lean in, get noticed for all the right reasons, ask a follow up question, network, network and network, some people may just search for you amidst your beauty sleep.

Go get ‘em!

Slow start

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

Don’t you just find that quote so relatable? If you are a worrier then you can relate to it even more than the average person.

Linda officially marked her one month stay in London. Given all the anxiety that filled her soul before the trip, that she continued to press on daily is an achievement in itself. What made it even more worthwhile were the lovely memories she managed to make amidst all the clutter that is her schedule. Sadly, life’s pace has been so fast, she couldn’t even treat herself to a cupcake like she’d promised herself.

Ordinarily, one would take a while to settle into a new place, sort their routine and then begin to make it work for them. Unfortunately, the settling in took longer than Linda anticipated and the workload simply continued to increase without ‘warning.’ She was shocked when a lecturer walked over to her during a class recently. “Are you okay, had a long day?,” the fifty-something lady asked. ‘Was it that obvious?’ She thought. It was at that moment that it sunk in how fatigue had consumed her. With several assignments piling up, Linda had found trouble sleeping and getting up. It had probably started to show on her face. After that class, she knew there was no way she would be able to make dinner. She grabbed a bite on her way home and figured she’d rest soon after, for the soul to regenerate.

While school is difficult, the weather dreary and the to do lists longer there is still much more for her to be grateful for.

A few weeks ago, she found a colleague at a coffee shop. Irene had ordered coffee and was in the process of paying with a card when the barista informed her that purchases less than £5 were charged highly if one used a card. Linda offered to pay cash instead and cleared the bill.

It seems that Irene has already immersed herself in the ‘new culture’ because a few days later, she was still surprised by the gesture. “I owe you, tell me when I can return the favour, please,” she kept insisting. Linda advised that the best way was for Irene to pay it forward. “Simply make someone else smile and it will be enough.” Irene was seemingly more disturbed by this. She still felt indebted.

Today Irene sent Linda a message that read ” The weather is not good today. Please wear your smile, the world will need it.” She immediately smiled, walked to her window and looked outside. It was raining.

Although life had become a little more complicated, it was not ‘impossible’ to persevere and there were more reasons to smile.

smile

 

Wishing you a week full of smiles. If you have one, give one. If you need one, still, give one 🙂

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

And then there was 5 Aside UG…

If you have organised an event before then you know that while everyone is chatting and having a good time, chances are you are battling a few ‘demons’ behind the scenes. The bride isn’t talking to the maid of honour; truck carrying the drinks gets involved in an accident minutes before the function begins, the guy with the public address system is a no-show and all his numbers are off. Does any of this sound familiar? If it doesn’t, you are one lucky lad!

You can plan an event for months and even fix provisions for the worst case scenario, only to be shocked by scenarios worse than the ones you envisioned. The universe has jokes I tell you.

On March 8th , 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation organised an event dubbed “5 Aside UG,” we had planned it for quite some time and were pretty anxious to see the outcome. Meetings, whatsapp threads, late night discussions, stalking service providers- we did all that.

We began approaching ‘potential teams’ six weeks before the event from within our networks. The response was overwhelming. Our target was 32 teams but even before we launched the campaign, about 35 had committed to getting players. When things seem too good to be true, they usually are.

A few weeks later when we contacted the team captains, the number dropped by more than half, some even denied ever hearing about this tournament or even 40-40 for that matter. It was hilarious. Not.

We went back to the drawing board and decided to accept our fate. We were going to close registration with or without the teams we had earlier planned for. In the background, we tried to make registration as convenient as possible but the day before the deadline, we had 15 teams. We agreed to close at 16 and make fixtures based on that number.

Closing day :The ladies in charge of registration had been called all sorts of names and had their patience tested for the past weeks. We didn’t think it could get any worse. However out of nowhere-literally, we had an avalanche of teams. In fact, the number exceeded 32 and we had to call people to ask them to withdraw.

I will give you a few examples of the drama that surrounded this.

-‘John,’ whom I actually know had no idea I was the one who picked up the phone because my colleague whom he had called was driving. The conversation went something like this. “You have to register my team. I got held up and delayed but money is not my problem. If you don’t register I will call *insert name of 40-40 member whom he was sure had a ‘higher rank.’ (The organisational structure of the foundation is unlike that of most bodies and thus you will not find titles like C.E.O, C.F.O, U.P.D.F etc) In fact, I was more agitated that he thought he could talk down to someone he had never even met!

-This next guy we shall call Bosco. He didn’t speak to me but here is an excerpt of the conversation. “You need to register my team; do you know how many influential people and potential sponsors I can bring to your event?” (Please! All the guests we had already invited are ‘influential,’ enough if they are supporting a cause that is bigger than them) I will save you from other such tales and move on to us eventually settling for 40 teams. Did I mention the teams that came back to claim their money because they thought ‘5 aside soccer’ was actually basketball? Hihi. Bambi we returned it in good faith 🙂

The day finally came and if you were at Bush Court, I need not go into details. As if the 40 team shocker wasn’t enough, people came from all over to attend this event. From the parking lot alone, you would think it was ‘Enkuka y’omwaka’ (I have no English translation for this)

Yes, we had a few hitches and the team at 40-40 apologises for those. If it is any consolation, we were attacked by the more vocal ‘victims.’

As I made my rounds, this lady walked up to me and asked if I was Esther. As soon as I gave a positive response, I realised that a lie might have made more sense. She had a stick that wasn’t so much for beating as it was for gouging my not-so-small eyes. She explained how her team had not been called, deserved to win, the team which ‘cheated,’ etc- all the while moving the stick an inch from my eyes. I remember constantly repeating ‘I will see what I can do’ while taking short backward steps. Competition is real. The dramatic encounters were not few but I will share just one more.

I met another gentleman who told me he had only played three games and thus needed ‘compensation’ before he left. I was trying to comprehend this. Was each game worth 2,000 shillings so that he gets 4,000/= in change? Just before I could respond, a tipsy girl tapped me.

Her: Happy Women’s day

Me: Thanks, Happy Women’s day to you too

Her: Do you know that you are a woman of substance? (sips Guiness)

Me: *crimson face*

Her: You got me to get into a taxi all the way from Kansanga to come and contribute the little I have to change a child’s life. (sips beer) I don’t even go to church and yet here I am supporting charity. Thank you.

She walked away and when I turned around, Mr. compensation was gone too. Overall, it was a very humbling day. I am actually not over it, a whole week later.

We learnt several lessons and are very grateful to everyone who took the time to participate and was patient with us throughout.

.I wish my team could get a month off or more, for all the hard work and sleepless nights. You guys rock!

Unfortunately now that we have raised the money, the work has to begin. Just to reiterate, we managed to raise 11,376,700 on that day, after an initial investment of 4,712,600. That means we have 6,664,100 surplus that we shall inject into our programs starting next month. Literacy and numeracy as well as food and nutrition shall be our focus as we continue to better the lives of those less fortunate than we are.

How do you like our custom made boots and medals? I just love my team’s creativity and how they are constantly re-inventing things that would otherwise seem so ordinary!

boot 1

boot 2

medals

Congratulations Team Wesonga (Winner) and Team Benezeri (Runner up). The finals took place using ‘DIY flood lights’ and it worked!

This was our biggest event yet, with over 1,000 people present and we don’t take it for granted. Keep spreading the word and being the change! The numbers are great but having you as part of our movement and programs is even better.

To our partners, friends and well wishers, the team at 40 days over 40 smiles says thank you! It is because of you that we have made 2 years and can’t wait for the decades to come.