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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Thursday..

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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.

Past joys

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Today’s entry has come so easily.

On this day, 3 years ago; I posted this

Originally posted on 5 April.

It is the ordinary days when you get up early, run a few errands and try to make all ends meet that turn out extraordinary.
Yesterday was one of those.
At lunch time a stranger asked if he could pay for our meal (my friends and I) When he noticed my puzzled look, he simply said “Thank you for the good work you do in the community, I am 40-40.” He paid the bill and left.
We were mesmerised, to say the very least!

Later that evening, after jumping from one appointment to another-literally, I honoured an invitation to Sales pitch Night where 40-40 had a slot to speak. I arrived late, made my 5 minute pitch and joined my team at our table.

At the end of the night, it was mentioned that there had been ‘secret judges’ throughout the event and we were handed an award for “Best Pitch.”

 

The shock and elation, I can’t even explain..plus people generously donated to 4040 just based on my pitch- at very short notice!
Here I am still wowed..and amazed!
Let everyday be exciting even if it is ordinary-for God, the maker of all will add an extra to your ordinary.

Thank you Jamila for organising this event and successfully pulling it off.
40-40 team, you rock.

Bless you all.

Of legends and fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

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

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

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

Falling in love

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

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

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

Belly joy

 

“Laughter is brightest in the place where the food is.”

 

Over a week ago while going through the posts on popular Facebook page “Kampala Food Network” I noticed one of the administrators, Kavitha had asked a question, with a prize attached. It was actually a comment within a post so I am not sure how I stumbled upon it. There was a picture of what seemed like sea food and Kavitha offered a four course meal, prepared by her as a prize for whoever got the answer right. By the time I started reading, a one Petero had given the correct answer, “cockles.” I did not even bother to google. I just commented with a crying emoticon, jealous of the feast Petero would get to encounter. See, I stalk Kavitha and her cooking. Everything from meats to desserts, the sight just makes my stomach somersault. While I have been present at functions she has catered, somehow I never get a chance to really indulge in her food because of the work I am often doing. I digress.

I followed the comments thereafter and imagine my shock and utter glee when I read a comment from the winner saying he was nominating Shamillah (another fan who’d commented) and ‘Esther’ as recipients of this meal. Why? Because he is out of the country and could not make it. What? How? Scratch that *insert not-so-coordinated dance moves* How exciting! Kavitha, Shamillah and I took our conversation aside to agree on dates away from the post. Yaay!

So many things happened before D-day and I was afraid I would have to cancel. The month had been a wild mix of heart-rending events and I decided the meal would very well become a priority to add some much needed colour.

Finally, the long awaited day I arrived. I ensured my breakfast was light and my taste buds fully alive. I arrived at Kavitha’s lovely home well before time. After a brief catch up, I let her get back to work in her spacious kitchen which would probably make my mom green with envy. Her boys kept me company as we waited for Shamillah to arrive.  Had I stayed longer, family secrets would have been spilled: P

Our thoughtful host had set our table on the patio because of the heat and boy was it a treat! When Shamillah arrived, we just went straight into it. Below you will see the pictures, and a description of each meal.

appetizer

Amuse bouche : Guacamole in tostone cups topped with spciy diced chicken

 

soup

Soup Butternut squash soup with toasted French bread

main

Main course: Tandoori lamb chops with mint chutney, matchstick fries and sweet lemon, cherry tomatoes, orange salad

nohito

Watermelon nojito featuring Shamillah’s hand

water

The boys kept asking why we have two drinks. Hehe, why not? Orange water

dessert

Chai masala cake with vanilla ice cream and date sauce

 

Needless to say, everything tasted as good as it looks, probably more! I’m hunnnngggrrryyy! *wails*

Between cooking, checking on her boys and dealing with clients, mixed orders et al over the phone, Kavitha was still engaged and pleasant during the course of our meal. She served us, brought more drinks when the glasses were emptying and even had time to throw in some recipes. Superwoman!

The most difficult part of it all was when she asked which of the 4 our favourite was. How can you punish one with making such a choice? The second most difficult point was having to get up after all of that eating. By dessert, Shamillah and I were struggling to find space. Nonetheless, the aromas and presentation could not keep us away!

The four course meal was prepared with love, and you could taste it. Our taste buds were tantalised and left asking for more. As a slow eater, this is definitely my kind of set up. Conversation, bits of different foods brought at different intervals, no rush just basking in the enjoyment of different flavours. I felt like a Princess and feared that going back into the ‘rea’ world would taint this newfound serenity.

As if ALL of this was not enough, Kavitha had a surprise ‘goodbye package’ for us; a box of cookies each, with red ribbon. Was this m actual birthday and no one told me?!! We were overjoyed! When I looked at my dinner later that evening, I was underwhelmed. How to ‘dilute’ all those mouth-watering dishes with my simple cooking? Suddenly tea with cookies and left over cake seemed like the best option and that was how it went down!

This experience, in its entirety was just what the doctor ordered 🙂

I have encountered several business people in Uganda who have forgotten how to be humans first. Somewhere along the way, they lose their soul and succumb to pressures, leaving only profits as their driving force. I am glad to know a few who are exceptions, and Kavitha is one of them.

When I narrated the tale to the mother, she was stunned. She assured me one of these days I will win something huge, if I can even be gifted prizes that weren’t mine to start with. I tend to agree: P

 

Very special thanks to Petero, whom I have never met or spoken to, for nominating Shamillah and I to partake in this feast. Gratitude to Kavitha for being an awesome chef, host and all round wonderful human being and last but not least, my new friend Shamillah who was my partner in oooohhs and aaahhhsss.

P.s: Kavitha, next time you and the hubby need a romantic getaway, I am happy to babysit your lovely boys 😉

Home is where the heart is

Do you really know what your brother/sister/uncle/aunt (insert other relatives) does for kyeyo in ‘outside countries?’

Have you ever asked or are you content with simply receiving the fashionable clothes and turning to them each time money is ‘scarce?’ I have always had great admiration for people who leave their home country and start a completely new life with meagre  resources. I am even more awed by their resilience, accepting that despite being away from their loved ones for a long periods of time, they shall be in better position to provide for them. It is a difficult decision to reach given what you have to sacrifice. Lately, I have heard many stories of people in these situations and while I feel like I’d find it difficult to ‘survive,’ I also know that desperate situations call for desperate measures. Sometimes. you just have to learn on the job.

Linda will soon mark two months since she left home. Everything has changed. Everything has remained the same. She has experienced all the ways life can humble one and learnt how to deal with the agony that distance can sometimes turn into. Birthday parties have been ‘attended’ on skype and whatsapp, new jobs and promotions have been celebrated with an array of emoticonsshe has only been able to commiserate over the phone with loved ones who are mourning and in a couple of weeks shall miss a wedding where she was meant to be a maid of honour. She will not be able to hold Juliet’s hand as her momma undergoes surgery next week and there are many more moments that will sail by as she watches on, helpless. An  ‘adulting manual’ would probably have a chapter on this. Any writers ready to embark on this project?

While being away from everything one knows and loves can be difficult, it also presents so many opportunities. Linda decided to create new moments. On Tuesday night, at exactly midnight,her skype showed it was Jacob’s birthday exactly midnight. She made a mental note to talk to the other scholars about doing something to celebrate the day. The next day, while at the library, when she mentioned it to Milly, she found out the day before had been Norah’s birthday too. The more the merrier, she thought. She only had a few hours to plan a small do. The easiest, most practical thing would be to purchase a cake and have them cut it. When she mentioned it to Nadia, she was quite astounded by the response. “There are cakes at the supermarket at 2 pounds, which can be heated in the microwave then shared.” Quick calculation, approximately Ugx 10,000, for a birthday cake? Linda thought out loud before she could catch herself, “I’d definitely not want a microwave cake on my birthday so I shall not buy one.”  Nadia quickly remarked that if she wanted expensive things it was up to her. Linda had already decided she would not ask any of the group members to contribute as it’d prolong the simple process but this moment reaffirmed her resolve. She found a restaurant and luckily they had a chocolate cake that already had the words ‘Happy birthday.’ She had about 4 hours to get everyone together and ensure they kept the little secret. As you can guess, it was dramatic. If it is difficult to get friends together, imagine how much harder it is for near strangers. From people showing up late, to the the ‘guests of honour‘ failing to fall for the lies while everyone hid in a dark room waiting to scream ‘surprise!’ It was a pretty funny experience. Eventually it worked. Jacob and Norah couldn’t have been more clueless! Vanessa carried some drinks and it all made for a nice little treat.

Owing to the fact that there is a difficult, yet important assignment that they all have to hand in soon, there was a shadow over everyone’s head. Sadly, this shadow was spoken about for longer than Linda would have liked. During the toast, Lillian mentioned the assignment more times than celebrating life or happiness which were essentially the ingredients for the little do in the first place. Linda decided it was probably her who was ‘unserious’ enough to put this time out above all else. Nonetheless, everyone was quite pleased as they had not met in one place since their first week in London. Before long, they were asking Linda to organise more meet ups and tours for the whole group. She laughed at herself later that night when she reflected upon the habits she had carried with her all the way to her ‘current home.’

home-is-where-the-heart-is

While Norah and Jacob were elated and couldn’t stop thanking her for the surprise , Linda knew her own joy was up there with theirs.