What goes around…

32

Originally posted on 2, April
Sometime back, a company organised an event and fronted 4040 as the charity of choice, to benefit from the proceeds.
I had met the M.D, *Charles a few times before.
When he pitched the event to me, I wasn’t moved. Not because I felt like there was anything wrong with the concept but for the mere fact that I was tired of users and could not imagine another scenario in which I pick up the pieces. The charges were also high and I knew that it would be a hard sell even to people who would ordinarily want to support our different campaigns. I shared this concern and he assured me they had it under control.
He was persistent.
We had a back and forth, including meetings which involved other members of my team.
I told him my only condition was that they did the work without expecting the ‘beneficiaries’ to go all out on promoting the event. Since it was primarily a business venture, they would go on about their work and contact us when ready to make statement or contribution.
Our plate was full and we couldn’t be adding events we didn’t plan for to our calendar.
He agreed.
We set the plan in motion.

They got to work marketing the event and my team even pitched in once in a while.
A few weeks to the event, I tweeted about a friend’s perfomance, asking people to attend. One of Charles’ colleagues,Tracy sent me a message that read “I saw you tweeting about a perfomance instead of telling your followers about our event.”
What in the world? I was furious. Now my personal pages were being policed? I couldn’t support my own?
I tried not to be rude as I explained to Tracy that I have many different interests and cannot be expected to only speak about matters pertaining to 4040, not to mention I hadn’t promised to promote their event. We were just adding to their existing strategies.

D-day arrived and as (partially) expected, the event wasn’t well attended, not enough for it to be profitable at least. Charles and his team had clearly invested money, lots of it. What they didn’t invest was more time in the planning process, to allow for better execution.
After the event, I made a courtesy call to Charles to congratulate him upon a milestone. Putting together an event of that magnitude in itself is/was huge.
A week went by and I asked Charles if we could have a meeting just to discuss the event, learning points and put a close to it.
He declined.
At this point, I already knew they couldn’t have made money and I was not even the tinniest bit mad that no ‘proceeds’ were shared.  I know how difficult it is and being their first event, it could only get better.However, when he ignored my second attempt, I picked a clue and moved on.

Soon after, I found out that he was telling anyone who cared to listen that it was 4040’s fault the event flopped.😮
He added that we were ‘nobodies’ and in fact every company they approached seeking sponsorship had never heard of us. (How is this even a problem? We get to spread the dream further,no?)
Apparently, they (Charles and his company) were merely doing us a favour including us in their event and yet we thought we were big shots. We would never prosper..
He went on to say that “If 4040 comes to look for their hours of footage that we filmed, we shall not give it to them. ”
It goes on and on but I will save you the other details. By now, you already get the drift.

When I heard these stories I was sad. Not sad for myself or 4040 but for Charles. I was sad because I did not think he believed what he was saying and if he did, it was simply in an attempt to find someone to blame but himself. On top of it all, that level of petty does not a leader make.

I kept this information to myself. Whenever someone cared to ask about the proceeds of the event, I told them the company hadn’t made enough to include us.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, Charles’ operations manager contacts me. I am suprised because my last encounter with the company in general was in form of the ‘blue ticks’ Charles accorded me.
I ask what it is about and she tells me about an upcoming campaign they have..😞
Yup..it is indeed what you are thinking. They want us to get involved.😥
Sigh.
In their world, everything was erased by time and a clean sheet could just be opened, new script written.
No questions asked.
Well, I made a call and asked some questions, engaged in a mostly one sided conversation in which I sought the closure I never had the chance to get.
I assured Tracy that there was no way we could work with them again especially since they are not trustworthy. I explained that I neither wanted their money nor an apology but I needed them to know that “I know” and that is no way to work with people.

I hope that one day soon, I will get to meet Charles, not to ridicule him or remind him of how he wasted a learning opportunity and future partnerships (although the latter would most likely come up) but to encourage him to look in a mirror, like really look; and then surround himself with more honest people.

 

 

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

Plan A is always…YOU

“You should not bite the hand that feeds you.’ But maybe you should, if it prevents you from feeding yourself.”

I received a call recently. The lady spoke so fast and I could barely make out what she was saying. Whatever it was, she needed it fast.I told her to slow down so I could actually listen.

She finally introduced herself and  I realised she was someone much older,Maggie,* whom I struck up an acquaintance with in the past. I also eventually managed to make out the ’emergency.’

There were some foreigners in the country who were leaving soon and needed to visit an orphanage ‘ASAP.’ She asked me to be available the next morning to pick them from their hotel, take them around and then safely return them in time for their workshop.

I explained that I had plans and it was short notice so the best I could do was offer them an hour and a half. “What could be more important?” she asked. “Well, I have a team building with the people who actually ensure work is done so yes, they are more important. I have to be on time” “No, you can be late for that, these people will get you funds.” Maggie responded, completely oblivious of the weight in her words.

Fast forward to that morning with the said ‘visitors.’ They were not only impatient and arrogant but also very unpleasant. Almost every sentence  they uttered was said to shame Ugandans oh plus a few condescending remarks.  I was quite agitated but made sure to respond as calmly as possible. There was no way I would stoop down to their level. (Although I must admit I inwardly counted to ten several times before responding)

When I returned to pick them up, they asked something that caught me off-guard. “How come the administration of the home says they do not know Maggie and have not received support from her?” I probed further. It turned out Maggie had made it seem like she had been giving aid to the children through 40-40. Never mind that she can’t even pronounce it in full.

Sadly, I have reached that point where this scenario is neither new nor shocking. My only issue now is that people have so little tact. Okay, that isn’t my only issue but, moving on…

Since when did it become anyone else’ responsibility to find solutions to our problems? Why is it exciting to hear that someone of fair skin is interested in your enterprise yet you can neither sell it to your own people nor hire them?

One in two people shall ask me”Why aren’t you targeting international organisations?” before I have even fully explained what we do.

When I mention that up till now we have achieved some milestones with limited resources from young people in Uganda who are far from wealthy, it isn’t because it is something to brag about. It is something that should be a challenge to the listener but more importantly bring a sense of pride, knowing that homegrown solutions are not simply a myth.

In the event that foreign donors come along, (as they shall), wouldn’t it be much more meaningful if they found strong structures that already exist?

If you haven’t already, please read up on Fitclique256, a women’s only gym in Bukoto that allows women to freely express themselves and love their bodies while having some fun along the way.  It offers different classes from yoga to dance to encourage a healthy lifestyle in a comfortable environment.

Before Mildred Apenyo began this gym, she had gone to gyms which were mostly filled with men who weren’t always pleasant to the fairer sex. Why not have a space free of distraction and judgement, she thought? Voila, the dream was born. It has also taken her places I might add.

The Medical Concierge Group is another great example of a company addressing local needs. They provide accessible and affordable health care using seemingly effortless methods that were hitherto not applied.

If these enterprises get international recognition, (as they have) it is obviously great. However, the onus is on us to appreciate and support them even more because we are the ‘real’ beneficiaries.

A few minutes ago,I looked at a list of all the things our office needs. Some are out of reach at the moment, others quite attainable.

Instead of looking for solutions outside, I decided to ;

1. Write this blog

2. Start finding solutions after writing this blog.

Okay bye.

“You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence”

we can do it

You win some. You lose some

During the month of World Cup, there was no avoiding it. Whether you were a fan or hater, it followed you in one way or another.

The fans have probably recovered by now while those who couldn’t wait for it to end are thinking “What was the fuss anyway?”

Football has a way of revealing emotions in an admirable manner. The raw energy, excitement and heartbreak can be a sight for sore eyes. For some people, it is either a win or loss but even a curious observer like me knows that it is worth much more. The joy of seeing an underdog excel as the mighty fall (at least for me) or just watching your favourites get better and better can be gratifying.

The finesse, the stolen hearts, the adrenaline rush-all of it makes for proof that this seemingly simple sport holds a lot more than meets the eye. I am a firm believer in lessons from pretty much anything. As dark as it may sound, loss can be good for you. Perhaps it would not have been wise to say this to a player from Brazil after the 7-1 loss to Germany but well, when it is all over- you look back and start to see it. If you are lucky, it teaches you something to prepare you for the future.

That is the most I shall ever attempt to write about soccer so let me dig right into why I actually wrote this. Losses or wins, in my life that hold a lot more than meets the eye.

“Sometimes not getting what you want is a brilliant stroke of luck.”

Before 40-40  ever had office space, awards or beneficiaries, we had a dream. However, we needed space in which to sit together and throw ideas to make this dream come true. Everyone had a job or was looking for one so we set aside one evening weekly to meet and plan, you know make sense of this dream.

The first space was too small. The numbers were a bit scary even for me. To get to the bigger space enough to accommodate these numbers, we needed to pay a certain amount the next time we came. We did not return.

The next week we moved to a more spacious restaurant that had a ‘laissez- faire’ feel to it. No one really complained about our numbers, in fact the waiters and waitresses became friends. We knew them by name and they knew our orders by heart.

It was win-win.

For one year, we met there first every Tuesday and then every switched to Thursdays.(because some of our team members had lectures) We had no qualms until one ‘fine’ Thursday when the manager of the establishment decided to show us his true wrath. It was so sad that it was funny.

He told us we were too loud yet his other clients had come to enjoy silence. He showed us these clients, a table of about 10 girls in their late teens/early twenties. They were anything but quiet but hey, what do I know. He assured us that his rent was in dollars (is 300$ ‘greater than’ 300 million UGX? He didn’t specify how many dollars so I am just asking) Many unkind word followed before he concluded by saying he did not want us to return.

The strangest thing is that on that day of all Thursday we were battling despair as an organisation and the last thing we needed was such antics. I remember even the loudest amongst us being speechless that day.

Fast forward to us ‘restaurant hoping’ in such of a new ‘home.’  We finally got one. On a random Thursday the manager calls me to inform me that he had noticed our consistency and yet there is no increase in sales. Also, do I know that other restaurants charge for this sort of thing? I told him to be straight forward. If he wanted us out, he needed to speak like a man and not beat around the bush. I was distressed but let that go.

A week later he called me aside. “I have noticed that you are a good leader and know how to mobilize people. Do you think you can help us get more clients, especially using social media?”

The rest, as they say, is history.

Sometimes you need to act first, think later

Several years ago I was in boarding school, I though those were the most dramatic years of my life until I grew up.

During the rainy season, so many of the girls got asthma attacks. On this particularly cold night, so many students were admitted at the school clinic and I was present because had taken a roommate.

The nurse was overwhelmed so she asked me for help. Before I knew it, I was connecting IV tubes (drips) and searching for veins. It didn’t dawn on me at the time that it was unsafe, let alone illegal. I had been around enough patients to know generally what is expected but didn’t think I would practice this ‘knowledge.

Thankfully none of the patients got a needle stuck or badly connected drip. I was in the right place at the right time with almost the right ‘experience.’  Needless to say, I have since retired from this ‘profession’ but who knows, right?

Standing out

Social media is pretty pretentious. You are one person in real life and transform into the exact opposite when typing out your ‘thoughts.’ We want to impress everyone and end up losing ourselves in the process.

You share photos of ‘bliss’ on instagram to cover up for the actual depression you are going through.

We share so much information about the world outside , fill our heads with all of it but know nothing about the actual lives of people with whom we share houses, cultures, and friends.  For every perk, there are two disadvantages but hey- whether you love it or hate it, it still exists.

That is when I bring you the exception to the rule-

There are several causes that have actually benefited from social media and businesses that are flourishing by maximising the reach, access and low cost of using this platform.

I happen to have evidence 🙂 While I loathe the pretence, cyber bullying, hypocrisy (etc) that is magnified by this particular type of media- I can admit that without it 40-40 would not be where it is today.

I have actually tweeted different people about 40 days over 40 smiles. Some scrolled through and many do not even run those accounts. I am sure others did read them though CC John Legend, Michael Kiwanuka, Ellen, Bill Gates and even our very own President Museveni.

They are simply waiting for the right time to join us J Jokes aside, even with those tweets that we simply cast like a net, hoping for a big fish to put its head out, so many everyday heroes have joined us and believed with us. On July 4th, we got a call from the office of the Prime Minister thanks to #CroakAndRhyme. He read our tweets and was moved to contribute to our cause. As you can see, we are just getting started. (Waves at Hon. Amama Mbabazi) *wait till we are on first name basis-heh!*

Speaking of #CroakAndRhyme, this is actually a good example of winning and losing. Of course as an optimist, the glass will always be half full.

See, the event we had before this, which was #5AsideUG  pulled about 1200 people. We needed to at least be close to this number. We had the world cup  ‘against’ us and an obscene amount of terror threats going around.

There was only one thing we could do, have faith and give it our absolute best, and that we did.

Did you guys see Maddox Sematimba? I mean, everyone thought it was just a stunt but we surely did have him on stage- LIVE (this is repetition but it is for emphasis) He nailed it and wowed us all.

maddox

 

All the amazing artists who spent that evening giving their best on stage and left us in awe. We didn’t pay them a single shilling. What an honour!

 

The jump c&r

After two years of 40-40, this was the best teamwork I had ever witnessed. That was a real plus!

Now we did not make the amount of money we thought we would and it was a bit difficult to explain to the beneficiaries…but…but..BUT..There was a lot to be thankful for. Some things you needed to be there to understand  (I am not saying we pulled off what some promoters can’t but…wait, I think that is what I am saying. Bye)

Getting out of your comfort zone

I went to journalism school to be able to do one thing- tell the stories no one was telling so that the readers/listeners could get inspired or at least angry/happy enough to effect change.  I knew that a by-line would be suffice and I would ensure any photographs or other information would be ‘kept’ in the background.  I did not get to practice this besides a bit of free lance work, life had other plans.

I am happier behind the scenes which is something few people believe because extroverts often relish attention. I do not.

Last week, I happened to have a profile in the New Vision.

My mom asked ‘Did you hate having your photos and information shared because you were waiting for  it on a large scale like this?” We both laughed.

The spread was quite generous, bigger than I expected. People even asked if I paid for it. Whhhyyyy? *shakes head*

I tried to be discreet with personal details, so much that the reporter even inserted his own ‘spices.’

I know that these interviews shall continue. People need to put a face to certain things, even if I have a large team and I am constantly trying to push their faces out there too 😉 Whether I like it or not, it has to be done.

It is a price that needs to be paid (as minimally as possible when I can help it) but it does have its advantages. Perhaps the next time we walk into a corporate company, they will recognise the name or a face and need little to no persuasion 🙂

I have met a few ‘strangers’ since then who were responsive. Last Friday a gentleman met us just before we went for a meeting and said he had planned to seek us out anyway. It was fate that he had bumped into us.

He mentioned three areas that 40-40 is passionate about and said he would be happy to help.

The truth is, whether he does or not, I have learnt to find joy in right now and put hope in the future.

Some promises might never materialize but at that point when you hear them, it might be all you need to keep on.

 

 

 

“Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything.”

When one door closes

“His palms are sweaty, knees weak arms are heavy. There’s vomit on his sweater already, mom’s spaghetti He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready to drop bombs”

Lately, I have been going through different versions of what Eminem rapped about in ‘Lose yourself.’ (You know things are a little crazy when you start quoting Eminem) It is a few days to the event croak and rhyme and if you have planned an event before, you know how crucial the last week is. You often find yourself in motion that involves two steps forward, five steps back. On top of that, life does not give you a break for one phase to end before another crops up, one has to find balance somehow. Up till last night, I was far from balance.  I was working on an application for a grant that if received, would change the lives of so many young women in Uganda. The more I got engrossed in it, the more I reflected upon life and the 40 days over 40 smiles dream. Now that I finally clicked ‘send,’ the anxiety of waiting for the outcome is going to follow- a feeling I didn’t think I would have to relive so soon. As December came to an end, a few friends encouraged me to apply for a fellowship I knew nothing about. I ignored the first two, but when four more people who don’t even know each other told me about it. I thought I would give it a shot. I looked around for references and clicked send on the day of the deadline in late January. Fast forward to an email informing me I was a semi-finalist and needed to do an interview. I began to believe that perhaps this was actually meant for me. Do you believe in signs? You know, you meet a ‘random’ person three times in the same place and start to think “Hmm, perhaps there is a reason; we should get to know each other?” Well, I started to think that perhaps these people getting in touch and my getting that far was a sign but I fought the urge to be excited or overzealous (albeit unsuccessfully) Eventually, I didn’t make the cut. I gave myself a week to mourn. It was filled with self pity, telling myself I wasn’t good enough or worth the trouble. No dramatic tears were shed but there was a huge lump in my throat that thankfully only lasted the duration of self pity. Once that was done, I went back to work.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.”

Ironically, about the same time in January,I had received a call from a friend of a friend.She was asking me what 40-40 needed in terms of capacity, which skills I would need to manage the organisation better and how best to train the team. I told her all our dreams and then some.I didn’t think much of it. Last month she called to share some good news. Her organisation (African Hope Network) had secured funding for capacity building within 40-40. Together with 5 other individuals, I had been selected to be a fellow for 2014. They did not want to support our projects but rather support us to become better at what we do for a period of 6 months to one year. Yaay us, right?! 😀 Someone finds you have fallen and are bruised, lonely with no place to go. She picks you up, takes care of the wounds and then gives you a place to stay, this is exactly what it felt like.

“I wished for someone to hold me up. Suddenly someone was there.”

When I suggested having a full time accountant as one of 40-40’s biggest needs at the moment and mentioned that we have not been able to afford remuneration for this position, she said the organisation would be happy to help! As if that wasn’t enough, a team member said he had always wanted to do more for the organisation and this was his opportunity.  He would quit his lucrative job to take the accountant’s position that comes with half his original salary and no benefits (except perhaps naps on  the office couch that we are yet to buy) Not to mention, after 6 months, chances are   his pay will be irregular if at all. I smiled to myself knowing that things had happened the way they had for a reason. The gift basket wasn’t quite empty and I learnt this a few weeks ago. When Justin posted a link and asked us to apply for the Tumaini awards, I didn’t know what they were about. I checked the website and found out that they are held annually and are organised by a group of NGOs including UNICEF, World Vision and Save the Children to reward individuals and organisations who are impacting communities in Uganda. I checked the deadline and confidently told him the day was long gone. He insisted on sending the application anyway. On 13th June, I received the award,thanks to his nomination, 1st place in the health category. To say that this came as a surprise is an understatement. This award also came with a 3,000,000 UGX cash prize. After I received the award I spoke to Justin and the phone conversation had one minute of silence between each sentence because he was as shocked as I was. Just a few days before we were joking about in and now-voila! When the prize money finally comes through, I am ready with a list of the things we need. It keeps changing but I am sure it will help us greatly. As a young organisation, all the recognition, funding and support that we receive is a great boost and gives us hope to carry on. Tumaini award pic

“… Because one who seeks the highest must not leave any path untried.”

Of course I wrote this so that you, who may have chanced upon this blog post can be reminded; a closed door isn’t the end of the road. You never know how many more are waiting to open but you will not see them if you keep looking back at the closed one.

“Each mistake teaches you something new about yourself. There is no failure, remember, except in no longer trying. It is the courage to continue that counts.”

In related News, we shall be opening doors (read gates) at 6.00p.m on Friday 4th July at the Uganda Museum. For only 10,000 UGX, you will get entertainment from the finest Ugandan  artists and poets. More info here There will be lots of food, drinks and great people to meet. Above all, here is a chance to change the lives of some awesome children while having fun. The children t Agape Children’s Home will have a better education and improved standards of living thanks to you. See you there, yes? 🙂