Adult education (1)

28

The year was 2012. I was the only one at the company who didn’t have any post-grad qualifications. I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to study but since it was a marketing firm, I thought perhaps I could do that. I spoke to the boss about the company contributing to the cost and he was supportive.
I enrolled for the Chartered Institute of Marketing(CIM) I remember being so busy that Gilbert helped me bank the tuition. Bless him
Shortly after the first class, I became extremely ill. I was hospitalised for a while and came out almost a different person. I had enough time to acknowledge the possibility of death and ponder how fleeting life was.
I asked myself if I wanted to do marketing for the rest of my life. The answer was no. That’s how I became a ‘drop out’ without looking back.

I went back to balancing office work and 4040. I promised myself the only courses I would do, would tie into my bigger purpose and would have to be at my own terms. My own terms included paying for whatever it was that I wanted to study. I had savings but they weren’t that grand; not grand enough for the UK universties I later applied to anyway. Whereas I got admitted into the universities, I was always late for the scholarship grants which needed to be almost concurrent(Requirement was to apply for the scholarship after admission)
I decided to let it go since I secretly did not want to leave my baby (4040) for an entire year.

Several months went by. One day, as I was looking through the papers, I saw an advertisement. Commonwealth scholarships for a distance learning program. The MA was two years long, with 3 months of face to face classes in London. The MA options were perfect for me and the development work I was doing with 4040.
“Hello, is it me you’re looking for?!”
I stashed the cut out in my bag, decided to keep it to myself for a while and prayed about it. I looked at it from time to time.
I pretended not to care about it to protect my heart from hurting if I didn’t get in.

Finally, just before the deadline, I decided to apply. It was so haphazard that I didn’t even first write out my information offline,edit, share with a confidant then send. No, I just filled in the essays on the spot and clicked ‘send’ then forgot about it.

End of part 1.

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Celebrating Super Women

8

Women’s day is here and I thought I would give a number of related stories about some of the women who have been on this journey from the beginning, from the middle and everywhere in between.

I got to know *Belinda in 2012 though I knew of her earlier because we shared a mutual friend. I was amazed by her energy, a woman of steel. She never shied away from tasks and always went the extra mile. Belinda doesn’t wait for praise or acclaim, she does what she can when she can. She became my right hand woman by default especially during the tough times at the beginning. I couldn’t have chosen a better partner. She is also a great ‘rant partner.’ Many times when things weren’t going well..we would sit and rant then leave refreshed..like it was a therapy session.

Rachel* is a darling to children and I am not saying it has anything to do with her bossom😝
There is no one I have encountered who has overcome their terrible past experiences by spreading love over bitterness or vengeance like she has. Sadly, she didn’t have the priveledge of having her parents on this earth for long enough (bless their souls) but fish has she kept their love alive through her huge heart.

Vivian* was in my life at a distance long before she joined the team and when she came, the rest was history. She took on responsibilities even when she had several other commitments and delivered with zeal. She has a creative mind and it helps that she believes even in the impossible. Whenever I am away, she fills in for more in every way possible.
Her energy is infectious but don’t mess with her or those she loves, she WILL bite.

Christine* also came into my life through mutual friends. She quickly warmed up to our activities and put in the work. She is such an awesome 4040 ambassador to the extent that if ever she was fired, it would be because of the time and energy she puts into our work behind the scenes. The company she works for has sponsored us before thanks to her connection, many would shy away from mixing their work with uhm..other work.

Vivian and Christine were both extremely handy during my time as an M.A student. This is a story I will properly tell another day..but they saved me so much money in printing fees. They have often crossed the line sacrificing for 4040 visa vis their jobs which scares me and I don’t take it for granted.

Faith* has been a friend since we were pre-teen girls and I can only say she gets finer with age, just like wine.
Her heart is in the right place at all times. She is quite reserved and you can tell her your life story without even knowing her middle name but her generosity knows no bounds. She has involved her family and (former) work place in our work. She has volunteered at events and when she can’t give time, she sacrifices financially over and beyond.

Tina* is bowl of fun and a free spirit. She also is the kind of girl whom you tell ‘let’s go’ and she asks when..as opposed to where. She will later remember to pack her bags. She worked upcountry for a while and still made the time to attend events, work and even catch a bus back the same day. Even when isn’t around, I meet her friends who attend our outreaches and let me know they are representing her.

Janice* is just the same. She has literally been posted from one district to a further district. Still, she will show up whenever she is expected. Her family has gotten involved and I mean beyond the ‘nuclear’ family. They helped consume most of our remaining beer at an event last year after their team lost😊

Linda* was there from the beginning and her family got looped in in stages, including one of her elder sisters who was among the first people to contribute, and generously too back during those 40 days in 2012. She also involved her (former) colleagues in a drive to #BuyABrick and goodness did they give generously!
Linda has a sound mind and often pulled me up when my legs began to shake back in the day. She has been a great cheerleader and sounding board. She initiated a program that Nina now runs, whose potential is limitless.

Nina* is a radiant fireball. You can be fooled by her silence but when she speaks, it is with purpose. She is hilarious too, you just need to stick around to know her. She broke her leg and went out of work for a while. It was a tough time. She decided to use that time to work for 4040. I couldn’t afford her even if I tried. When she later joined a firm with a somewhat flexible schedule, she still have plenty of time to develop a program that had stalled because of the absence of a full time coordinator. It is currently out flagship program.

Peace* is a calm spirit whose kindness and compassion is enviable. She also got on board from the beginning and was especially close to the children at the orphanage we first worked with. She is constantly hounding ‘her people’s when we have campaigns and many have supported no matter where they are. She is one of our ‘drink-selling-gurus.’ If you have been to our events, you know this is no easy feat. May Golola one day come and save us.

Matilda* ‘tomunyigila mu tooke’ (aka no-nonsense woman) She is unafraid to speak her mind and is as loyal as they come. While she works and lives way out of town, she is a regular at our weekly meetings. She is also always linking people up with 4040 and giving of her time. She works weekends but whenever we have weekend events, she heads to the venue right after work.
She is also another guru when it comes to selling drinks

Nadine* has been in my life and part of the team for less than 3 years but no one would be able to tell. From her hard work and dedication, it feels like she has been there since inception. This hot mama of 4 is a doer. She doesn’t like excuses and walks her talk. She has shown me a good example of how possible it is to be a great wife,mother,career woman and still have time for your passions and party like a rock star while at it. ‘Unfortunately,’ this also means I find myself sub-consciously comparing most people to her when they slack. I have to remind myself that we are all different.
One of her mantras “You don’t have to like someone to work with them” often came in handy when little disagreements threatened to affect the quality of our work.

Prudence* and I come from way back, primary school to be exact. She was in a lower class. High school brought us together again and 4040 made us closer.
When we asked for time, she gave it, resources, she offered, a car to run errands, she availed. Generally, whatever is in her power, she will do. Her family supports us even when they’re in the diaspora. Her brother even became an expert ‘shirt folder’ under our watch though university has borrowed him for a bit. You can hear Prudence’s laugh all the way in Madagascar and her love runs just as deep.

Irene* always says her first reaction to of the 4040 group was “Why is this chic (that would be me) adding me?” The rest, as they say, is history. She has given of her time for the communication bits, for events and being a ‘middle man’ when we need favour from her bosses.
I vividly remember one Christmas season when we were struggling to raise money for the children’s Christmas gifts. She suggested restaurant that we could use as a drop off point, went ahead to speak to the owner and even find a piggie bank (box) all on her own. That is the colour of initiative.

Allen* is a silent volcano waiting to erupt.
She is also the one you run to when you need someone to help you hate on person X who is frustrating you.😂 One of her standard responses is “I always knew that bigger was shady.” Smh.
Did I mention she got into a fight with David Obua when he refused pay entrance at 5 aside and forcefully got in? “Good times!”
All her jobs have pretty much consumed her but she is there when she can. She was our afande link for a long time, often doing the rounds at Police stations, getting us permission before events.

Lisa* is a classic case of a friend of my friend who is now my friend. Confused yet? She is happy to lucky and was quite active before she took on some parenting roles. Nonetheless, she still gets her tropps together to support our campaigns and has involved the company she works for, in our work.

Angel our (now) summer/winter rep was ‘borrowed’ from us but we can’t wait till she returns to pothole central with all the knowledge and skills she has acquired as part of her M.A. Angel worked with us for a short time but her presence was felt. I will tell you a story of how she rode with one of Uganda’s most popular musicians out of town so they could discuss how to get us Maddox and when her phone for off..we were sure she has been kidnapped. Smh.
Angel is always looking for ways in which we can do better and best of all, we pray together.

Hope has been in my life for a while through mutual friends. She was always sharing info about our events and showing up to participate. 4040 has a subscription platform where you can make a monthly contribution. When Vivian sent her a message to remind her about her contribution last year, Hope was abroad. She said she would send it. She eventually did. She sent Ugx 1 million! We had had a series of events that consumed our savings and had been clueless. I cried for most of that night and failed to share half of what I wanted to say when we spoke.
Recently she returned home and told me she had some time to spare for 4040. Naturally I welcome this news with enthusiasm. She has already handled her first duty excellently and we can only hope (get it, hope? Not working? Okay..moving on)
What was I saying? We can only hope it gets better.

This is longer than I thought (as usual) The list could also be much longer but let me stop here.

To you beautiful women I say, thank you.
You have been my rocks, my prayer warriors, my supporters, my shields, my sources of comfort, laughter, light and love.
I can barely articulate everything that I wish I could say to you. I hope to give you all that you have given me and then some.
I love you so

 

 

 

I celebrate you today and always.

Do unto others

Part one (story number 2)
Some months before the 4040 journey, my friend started a company.
Let us call him Frank.
He invited 5 other friends, including myself, in different positions. We all had other ‘hustles’ and met once a week.
During these weekly meetings we discussed the vision for the company. We also contributed financially to a ‘fund’ during each meeting.
One of the issues to tackle was climate change and we were planning a symposium. That was 6 years ago so you can imagine how ‘current’ the themes were. We would probably have accomplished quite a bit by now.
I speak of it in past tense because one day we were up and running and next day…we just weren’t.
Frank is quite ambitious, a go better who had a clear vision of what he wanted. Some of his friends were either less interested in this particular venture or just weren’t in the place Frank needed them to be. They missed meetings without apology and generally had a laid back approach to work.
I do not like to start things if I have no intention of seeing them to the every end and generally frown upon unprofessionalism so I was bothered by their laxity. I mentioned this to Frank a few times but I could also see they were friends first, even closer to him than I was, so it remained one of those things I couldn’t do much about.
I decided I would do my part. Another friend, Sophie who was in charge of accounts also took her work seriously. We would balance it out. I hoped
We started setting up meetings to rope in partners. We weren’t going to fight global warming on our own, now were we?These 20 something’s were ready to take on the world.
I even got shares in this company..Whaattaabout?!
Along the way, without so much as a goodbye, the company went into oblivion. I can’t quite say how or when..but it did.
Maybe the time wasn’t right or the team wasn’t ready; perhaps other life commitments took over. I will never really know.
This week two things happened to remind me of Frank’s company. I got a notification about a Facebook like (as I am an admin on the page) and I took a boda boda that rode past one of the organisations I had approached to partner with us.
I smiled.
Fast forward, 4040 begins and I give it my best. I have a team made up of friends so there is a line that should or shouldn’t be drawn. It’s a conundrum.
I look back at my work with Frank, there may not be much to show but I do not regret giving my time and resources.
I was supporting a friend, when he needed it and I would like to think I accomplished that.
do-unto-others
Part two (Story number 3) *You will notice that this is like 5 stories in one so please allow me to combine , and count them as two-yes? Yes. Thanks
Later on,Frank gets a good job as the right hand man of a prominent C.E.O. Circa early 2014, we are in the process of building a dormitory and we are Ugx 5 million (approximately $1,500) away from meeting our target. We have run campaigns, organised events and used up all the ‘public’ avenues to raise funds. I pray for a miracle and make a plan to ensure anyone who dares to ask “how are you?” gets the real truth.
Stuck is where I was. This dormitory needed to be completed and short of a miracle, there was no other way.
Around that time, *Ruth and Frank* get in touch. Ruth was coming into the country for a short while and wanted to have tea..Frank was just casually checking in on me.
I told both of them about my struggle.
Ruth immediately offered to contribute Ugx 1 million. I wept!
By the time Frank checked in, my problem was less by a million shillings. I told him we needed Ugx 4 million.
He also immediately suggested his current workplace and asked me to draft a letter.
In our conversation he told me to consider it done. Given how close he worked with the CEO. I believed him, without a doubt.
The next day, I trekked to town armed with a soft copy of the letter, an empty purse and a grateful heart.
I went by Frank’s office after printing the letter. He suggested changes. I went back to the printery, edited and brought the ‘final’ copy complete with attachments.
I walked to Ruth’s with a spring in my step and told her about my miracle. She was excited. We had our tea and she handed me the 1 million at the end. This was the work of God and I was honoured to be a servant.
A week went by and I contacted Frank.
He said I would have feedback the next week. After one week I got in touch. He mentioned his boss was away.
Next time, the boss was ill.
Then, no reply.
Suddenly,all  my messages and calls were being ignored..
I was confused because all he needed to tell me was that the request was rejected..or even come up with some story about the organisation only taking part in a certain kind of CSR which we didn’t qualify for, blame it on global warming. Anything.
Instead.
Radio silence.
Finally I got a clue and decided to look for the balance from scratch. It was H.A.R.D!
I blamed myself for counting my chickens before they hatched. I was the only fool in this equation.
The thing that confused me the most was I did not see why Frank had to treat me this way. It made no sense. We were friends. I had spent two years hustling to build 4040 and he knew it. I mean, I could see why someone else would do this and have experienced it from several people especially on this 40-40 journey but him.why?
I was perplexed but I had to let it go, grudgingly.
For a long time I thought I would not be able to look at Frank or speak to him. I felt he had treated me like awfully and I didn’t think I deserved it. When I confronted him, I left feeling patronised and had to accept an apology than I never did receive. He literally acted like nothing had happened while I nursed my still-very-fresh-wounds.
In case you were wondering, we managed to raise the Ugx 4 million balance. It was not easy but we somehow did.
The story wasn’t over.Yet
About a year later, 4040 starts another campaign to raise funds for a second dormitory, for girls. Lo and behold! Frank asks me to draft a letter so he can talk to his boss about funding.
I read the message and all my frustration and anger returned. I felt sick to my stomach.
It felt like deja vu except I knew for sure it was real and not the brain playing tricks.
I decided to take a few deep breaths and then I called Sophie.
Now in case you don’t remember, Sophie had served with me at Frank’s company..and was now volunteering with 4040.
The conversation went something like this
“Frank has contacted me about contributing for the girl’s dormitory. If he is serious, I don’t want my pride or feelings to get in the way of our girls getting a home. I don’t trust myself not to have an outburst or say things I will regret so do me a favour and take it on from here.”
She understood. I later drafted the letter and send it to her. She did the follow up while I remained present only remotely.
In a couple of weeks, the payment was approved and an EFT made to our account.
I generally like closure and would have wanted to know what changed this time round. It would be nice to understand why my calls and pleas were avoided like the plague. Was this second attempt penance?
However, none of these is as important as the girl’s dormitory that finally became a reality because hundreds of people contributed, including the company Frank works for.
dorm-main

The complete dormitory for girls in Bombo, Uganda

What would you do?

Note:
This is my second and third installment in what I hope will be 40 stories about the 40-40 journey spread out during these 40 days of lent.

40 days. 40 stories

Happy March! Yes, we made it to the third month, possibly with a few scares but STILL STANDING. <<That is what counts.

40 days 40 stories

I thought I would share bits of this incredible journey as we commemorate 5 years of 40-40. What better, more divine way than to begin on Ash Wednesday which is today, 1 March?!

I may not have a story published on each day but I will write 40 stories, so help me God. Maybe they will make you smile, laugh or shake your head. It would be great if they can inspire someone or just take you on a trip that hopefully you will enjoy. It will come as a LONG post on Facebook and as a blog entry. Choose your poison.

Here goes!

One

What is in a name?

When I left home that morning 5 years ago, I had no idea that I would call the Facebook group I opened ’40 days over 40 Smiles.’ I just knew I was going to do it.

Fast forward and it has been a great conversation starter, ice breaker and even an identity. I have a friend who increases and decreases the quantities as he pleases Today it is ‘30-30,’ tomorrow ‘60-60’ and even 2040. *shakes head*

I remember an employee of Bank X telling us ’40 days over 40 Smiles’ sounded like a forged name when we went to open and account. By definition, to forge is to ‘produce a copy or imitation of (a document, signature, banknote, or work or art) for the purpose of deception.’ Alas, how far from the truth she was. Needless to say, that bank would not have to suffer the plight of having an account holder with this forged name.

Funny enough, I met *Charles who told me that as he was looking for a company name for his art, one of the Ugandan names that intrigued him the most was ‘40 days over 40 smiles’ and he had always wanted to tell me.

A few years after inception, Vanessa* told me it was time we changed the name. I asked why and she explained that it was a mouthful and we needed something more relatable. I thought about it and realised I didn’t want to just pick a name because it sounded relatable or was short and easy to say, it needed to be authentic over everything else. As I write this, I am reminded of actress, Uzo Aduba’s story in which she went home one day complaining how no one at school could pronounce her name and asked if she could be called Zoe. Her mum’s response is/ was legendary. “If they can learn to say Tchaikovsky and Michelangelo and Dostoyevsky, they can learn to say Uzoamaka.”

Now I smile as I explain why the name 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation. Yesterday at restaurant where I had lunch, a waitress greeted me with a smile “Hi 40-40.” I smiled back and responded. Owaye, if Esther is too mainstream, why not use figures?

rose

 

Xx

Humps ahead

Temperatures are now as low as -2 degrees in London. A normal person would probably succumb to flu or cough at most, but no, Linda had to go and attract some other bugs.

After an almost ‘too good to be true’ fortnight, the universe decided that this lady needed to calm down a bit, thereby sending some ailments her way. Unfortunately, she had sped past the sign so all of it came as an unwelcome surprise.

humps

Google image

Monday was deadline day for an important assignment. 5,000 words can seem like a small novel, especially when it is on topics that don’t exactly include one’s interests.She started to feel sick but could not let herself accept that this was happening at such a crucial hour. Denial it would have to be, until further notice.

All the pain and discomfort was put on hold until she clicked ‘submit.’ “It is just fatigue,” she thought, and went to bed with the hope that everything would be okay the next morning. Unbeknownst to her, she would not be able to leave bed the following day.

It was finally clear that Linda would have to seek medical attention but possibly the next day. She freshened up and went on to fix herself the first meal of the day at 6p.m. In the kitchen (that also serves as a common room), sat the excitable , Jack. “Would you like to sit down and have a beer?” he offered. She declined, trying to seem as ‘normal’ as possible. Upon reaching her room, she realised that more people had been streaming in and music was starting to get louder. She had lost count of the parties these undergraduates held every other day. At first, it seemed like a weekend thing but gradually grew into a ‘when we feel like’ tradition. She tried to watch a movie to pass time until she received a message from her classmate. The list for people who handed in the assignment was out and Linda’s name was not on it. Talk about bad luck! She checked the email and indeed her name was not mentioned. Too disturbed to comprehend the situation, she decided to shut out the noise and find some sleep.

She thought of the people around that she could confide in about her illness but did not want any of them to have to leave work for her sake. She decided to send one message to one of the scholars, her new Kenyan friend, Grace. She hoped Grace would offer to accompany her to the clinic. Plan B, would be to ask her out rightly and if she was busy or unable, plan C would be to find it on her own. After sending this text, she closed her eyes.

Morning came as early as 4a.m,Linda  tossed and turned as she awaited daylight. The plan was to stay in bed till enough strength was amassed. At about 9 a.m, she heard a knock at her door. Still groggy and clad in pyjamas, she opened to find a concerned Grace. “I took a shower and came as soon as I read your message,” she said. Phew! Linda felt a huge sigh of relief. Grace consequently left to make them breakfast as Linda got ready.

They both didn’t know the location of the clinic but it was that much better getting lost as a pair. Linda was dizzy by the time they arrived. It turned out seeing doctors was only on appointment except for walk ins that began at 2p.m. They had over two hours to kill but at least there was comfort in knowing they were in the right place.

Time moved slowly until Linda started to notice the students who were coming in. Those registered needed to only mention their date of birth and the receptionists would find them in the system. One by one they walked in “July 2nd 1995, November 30th 1998…”
“Whhaat?!” The ladies began to muse at all those ‘babies.’ Linda played a game where she guessed the years as soon as they walked in. Some looked pretty young but others could fool anyone as being closer to 30 years than the 20 they really were. Time moved faster with this exercise.

Finally the hour came and she saw a nice doctor who understood her condition. Armed with a prescription, they found a nearby pharmacy. She thanked God she had carried emergency money because the bill brought semi-squints. She made a mental note for the 1000th time not to convert to prices to shillings.

They decided to take a bus back and look out for sites on the way to their residence.

bus

Google image

Grace heated up some food for Linda upon arrival as she dashed to her room to make a call to her husband and son.
All Linda could do was thank her endlessly for sacrificing most of her day to take care of her.

This morning the other two Ugandan scholars showed up at Linda’s doorstep. “We have heard the News,” they yelled. She could only laugh as she questioned their sources. “Bad news travels fast, they replied.” C’est vrai.

Grace later joined with a cup of hot chocolate for Linda in tow. The ladies shared tales of their experiences on this journey so far.

Linda found out Racheal had spent Sunday night crying because she missed her son terribly and kept promising him goodies each time they spoke. The son’s father walked out on them last year. Jane’s bosses were not paying her salary for the period she’d spend in London but she was still grateful for the opportunity.

When they left, Linda was immersed in deep thought about everyone’s journey and how nothing is guaranteed. She was reminded for the umpteenth time, how blessed she was.

Although this sickness had come at a bad time and slowed down the pace of her progress, she knew deep down that a testimony was unfolding before her very eyes. All she needed to do was be patient.

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore, I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Still on that journey…

It is about two years since I told my not so surprised boss I was leaving my job to chase a dream. He was very supportive, and to date, I think he is one of the most incredible people I have worked with.
This month is always one of great self-reflection for me. At first it was because it was my birth month, but now, it is also a reminder of the fact that I am really an adult. Really!

2 years
Here are a few bits and pieces of this experience.
Mixing business with pleasure
I never had a choice really. I did not know where 4040 was going and as such, I started with the low handing fruits, my friends. Along the way, others joined and also became family. It is fun. It is difficult. It is exasperating. It is love. I would actually not advise anyone to go into business with their friends. It is not for the faint hearted. In my case, however, I am not sure ‘robots’ looking forward to their next pay cheque would have driven the organisation to where it is today. Ours is a unique blend. We have won some and lost some. Along the way, there is a glue that has kept us (mostly) together. I can hardly find the words to describe that glue. We are often our own greatest strength and weakness. It is an oxymoron really but we own it.
Of uniqueness
I try to learn from as many organisations and people about different things. Management, organisational structures, charity, business and the like. I am yet to find anyone doing ‘exactly’ what we do. This means we are often inventing a wheel. It can be quite challenging but perhaps a decade or two from now, there will be mini organisations learning from our struggle. Wouldn’t that be awesome?
Bagala alina, gende okole (Loosely translated to mean, people like those who have, go and work)
I met Linda last year through a mutual friend who thought it would be great if we worked together. She was disinterested and it showed on her face. Nonetheless, I later sent her a message about future correspondence and possible partnerships. She did not respond. Last month Linda called me for an ‘urgent meeting.’ I was a bit shocked but my gut told me she wanted something. I agreed to meet her. She started by asking several questions about the organisation and I kept thinking “When will she tell me why she actually called me here.” Though shielded, it finally came out. She had seen a picture of us receiving an award from the first lady. I was finally worth something! It turned out she needed help with an upcoming project and thought I’s be the right person to consult. Yes, this is the point where you become the bigger person, even if it kills you.
Disguised lessons
About a year before I started 4040, a friend from school came up with a business plan. It was a great idea but from the onset, it showed that it would take a while to pick up. When it did, however, it would soar. I honestly supported him simply because he was my friend. He had a graphics person, a numbers person, I would be part of the PR. It was pretty solid. We met every week and contributed an amount to the company’s fund. His closest friends often missed these meetings and had a general aura of laxity but I believed in him, along with a mutual friend. I believe he and I did one pitch before the company dissolved without so much as an explanation. I guess it wasn’t its time. He is doing quite well for himself now. Sometimes, I sit and wonder if I would be this dedicated to something someone else began. I remember that experience and realise that I gave it my all even when I had no idea where it was going. How dare I give up on this baby then? It came with its own lessons.
Letting go
I am a hopeless optimist, often to a fault. This means that I give several chances to people and situations because I envision a happy ending. Needless to say, life does not always operate like that.
As a result, I have had to learn to let go, even if it may not come naturally. I have watched the people closest to me betray my trust and the most distant of strangers hold my hand when it counted. If like me, you have let some people stay in your life longer than you should only for them to steal your happiness, don’t beat yourself up about it. I shall tell you from experience that it takes time to ‘change’ but once you do, it comes with great benefits. In the meantime, treat every loss as an experience worth learning from. It really is.
A promise is just that, a promise.
Have you ever lent someone money? They tell you they shall pay on Wednesday so you mentally plan for all the things you have to do on that day. In fact, you probably also promise another person you will pay their hospital bill on D-day because you are sure. Wednesday reaches and the debtor is nowhere to be seen. If you are lucky, they shall pick up the phone and feed you with a story. You are disappointed but you have to disappoint someone else. It is a mess.
In our line of work, people will make pledges, often out of pity, guilt, pretentiousness and a host of other sentiments I fail to explain. Back in the day, (adult speak yo) thee pledges counted as a reality for me. I’d start making plans based on those numbers. Shock! Horror! Coming to the realisation that most of them were simply promise that may never be fulfilled. I was ‘bitten’ enough. I try to treat everything as a miracle and leave a nice, spacious red margin for disappointment. This does not mean you become 100% numb of course….but it helps.
Speaking of  differences..
My friends and I attended an event recently. We were excited to support this group of youths since we are all in the ‘struggle’ together. We arrived early and got ourselves a nice corner to make noise in comfort. Imagine our shock when one of the organisers came to ask us to move. Turns out the nice corner was for sponsors. The problem was there was no ‘reserved’ sign or anything so we couldn’t have known. We grudgingly carried our drinks to another table. Just as the ranting began, something occurred to me. Simply because we do not have VIP seats at our events, we had forgotten that it is the norm for most events. We made the best of the night anyway.
Humility
I am constantly praying that we remain humble in our ways. Several experiences remind me ever so powerfully, how easy it is to forget.

crying Janet
I look at this photograph from time to time. It reminds me of everything I felt from the very core of my soul. It represents several feelings engulfed into one moment. I wept with reckless abandon, oblivious of the cameras. This journey is not about the photo ops or the perfect make up, it is not about how many people recognise you on the street or which media house covers the story. It is about the work and the people it impacts. Everything else is a plus. Unfortunately, the side shows can get to one’s head, so much they forget what it is really about.
On Leadership
I do not consider myself a natural leader, more like an accidental one. There are people who have it engrained in their DNA, you know?  I am not one of them. People have these ambitions all their lives, I didn’t. Here I am though. I don’t always do it right. Half the time, I am thinking with my heart instead of my brain. The other half finds me clueless trying to figure things out. I am surrounded by amazing people though. We are learning and sailing. As long as we continue, it can only get better.
You are only human
If you are in a position of leadership, planned or accidental, remind yourself that you are not God. You can make mistakes. You are allowed to cry. You will inadvertently yell at a colleague. It happens. Forgive yourself then do that which you were called to do.
Protecting your brand

Do your best to protect your brand, but understand that somethings are not in your control.
Early this year a tabloid picked up a story on social media that involved 4040. They called me for a comment on a Sunday. I declined. The next day, it was on their front page and I had a paragraph on page 2. Knowing the story was going to run kept me at night. I stressed my poor mother to the extent she bought the paper by 7a.m the next day. The reporter had not even attended the event. I know people say that any sort of publicity is good but tabloids irk me. They make sales out of people’s misery and sadly, the readers continue to ensure they are profitable. I would love for our work to speak for itself. No publicity is actually better than those media houses that make it their life’s purpose to peddle lies. Argh. Moving on…
Rome was not built in a day
Four years ago, 4040 was not anywhere in my 5 year plan. According to my version of dreams, I am supposed to have started a family. If you think about it, I already did, just not the kind I had in mind 🙂 When you meet people, they have several questions, numbers, sustainability, the future. Gosh, it is all there! They are valid questions too. I don’t think there is anyone who contemplates all these issues more than I do, almost daily. There are moments when I am worried about all this and more but I remind myself that this is not about me. It is a grander picture and sometimes you need to be still. Nothing I have accomplished has been on my own accord, none of our milestones were a result of an extraordinary mind in a single day. It has been a process and will continue to be. Always allow yourself to breathe, to grow, to just be.
Criticism
I keep thinking I have heard it all, and then something new comes up. I convince myself words can’t bring me down but the truth is, some will. You just need to decide who or what is worth your pain.  Some of this criticism is helpful. A good chunk is simply disgraceful.A clear conscience is incomparable, listen to it.

I have learnt plenty over this period and something tells me, it isn’t even 20%. I am ever so grateful for the wonderful people who have made this journey worthwhile. More importantly, I am awed by the fact that God chose me to be his vessel and then blessed this dream in unimaginable ways.
P.S: Join us for our inaugural event, Hoops for grace this Saturday from 9 a.m. Entrance is only 5,000 and there is fun for kids and adults alike. Let’s complete this dormitory! See you 🙂

 

Hoops 2015 poster

3: Still here

It is said the two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.

I ‘accidentally’ found out my purpose at 24, as a passionate, curious, naive and mostly unstoppable woman.

On February 27 2012 when I opened that 40-40 page, I could not have imagined that three years later, we would still be here. Yes, I became we and to me, that is the biggest achievement thus far!

This year a friend even bought me a gift on this special day. It was heart-warming knowing that my baby was being celebrated. Best of all, it was by somebody other than myself.

This weekend also holds special meaning. It was during the Easter weekend that a group of friends whom I had collected over the years came together for what we mostly believed was a ‘one time thing.’ For two days I had people I had been with years ago in Primary school up till my ‘working life’ all gathered together-celebrating these amazing children that barely had family but had a whole lot of love.

Over the past three years, I have changed. We all have.

I will be the first to admit that it was easier then. There was no pressure of an organisation and all its structures, being young(er) helped because there was less to worry about and people were mostly gracious because it was a ‘casual’ arrangement. No one had signed up for forever. Wait a minute. No one had signed up, at all.

According to an article I read on one of those days when I was fretting about the future, it takes about 18-24 months to determine if a start-up shall succeed/fail. We are past 36 months (yaay!) but I am quite certain my definition of success is different from that of the business books. Thankfully, I am not running a business 🙂

Which brings me to my next thought; I do not know another Organisation doing what we do, exactly the way we do it. If you have any leads, do point me in the right direction. In the meantime, this ‘virgin land’ means that many mistakes are bound to be made out of ignorance but also because of sheer lack of a manual.  Needless to say, it has been a whirlwind that is difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t been part of it. Heck, it is even challenging to explain to people who have been there since the days when we were merely attempting to crawl.

This week I was privileged to be featured on NTV’s women and power.  The first thing 50 year old Mr.M asked me was “Who paid the other, you or NTV? That is what it shall always come down to for many people, now and in the future. It is sad. Nonetheless, I doubt any leader ever performs their roles expecting to convert ‘everyone.’ That would be dooming oneself to failure before even beginning. What do we do? We continue no matter what.

The past year has turned emotional pain into a physical reality and vice versa, brought out the worst in people and also challenged almost everything we know and believe-but that is just the grim part.

It has also allowed us to grow as individuals and as an organisation, given us the opportunity to fall over and over again and get up.

For the past couple of years, I have given a recap of the journey in my anniversary blog post as seen here and here but this time, I am compelled to simply celebrate. To celebrate the fact that we are still here.

I still pinch myself when a stranger strikes up a conversation because of our story. Seeing a 4040 tee or wristband, especially on someone I don’t know makes me smile. I am inspired by everyday people who simply believe and go on to act. I am especially excited by children and teens who take part in our activities-they give me hope in abundance. I am overjoyed by the fact that we have to change lives, and work towards it everyday.

Yesterday someone asked me if I am living my dream. The short answer is/was yes.

However, none of it would have happened if I simply stood tall. Alone.

As I reminisce over this three year journey, I would like to give special thanks to the amazing people whom God has placed in my life; Those who joined at the start and never looked back, those who came by along the way and made 4040 home and those individuals who show constant support even across the miles, watching and waiting for an opportunity to help; I celebrate the believers and dreamers whose ‘invisible’ hands picked us up and continue to.

Although love is patient, kind and is not jealous or self-seeking, the world is not complete, it is not without its adversaries. I am glad we had those along the way and hope that we shall always have the wisdom and courage to understand their purpose and fight them off respectively.

To God be the glory for starting all of this and continuing it. I am confident he will carry it on to completion.

May the Easter holiday be glorious and fulfilling for you-no matter what your beliefs are.

Love is universal. No?

Happy 3rd my baby. You scare me. In a good way; mostly.

penda 4040