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

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Putting pain to good use

On any other Monday, I would be as fit as a fiddle, running around trying to do anything and everything that time can allow. Instead, I am lying in bed trying to type this post at an awkward angle.
For the past five years, I have been hospitalised at least once annually for a condition that is yet to be ‘correctly’ diagnosed. It comes in small doses during the year but there is always that one episode that comes prepared to crash and burn. When this happens, I run several tests with the hope of a new, more satisfying response but these efforts are mostly futile. Still, one must keep trying!
Last week when I saw a ‘new’ doctor, I recounted this to him and he asked “Have you been admitted this year?” I happily responded in the negative and he added, “So, is today the day?” I told him I hoped we would find an actual problem this time and treat it so I could go home. Several tests were done and they each came out negative. I left with drugs to take care of the symptoms, feeling worse than I did when I made my way to seek medical attention.
The fact that I know my body sometimes turns against me means that when I am 100% healthy, I have to be 150% active. When I work, it’s like my life depends on it with 2,345 items on my to-do list. When I dance, it is to ‘finish my money,’ never mind that half the time, no money has been paid in the first place 😛

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”

There’s a positive side to all this and I guess that is what I would like to highlight today. Experience makes you wiser and wisdom gives you insight that can help you ‘save’ others. Let’s see if I can illustrate this.
My grandfather was a humorous man who always had a joke up his sleeve. When he got Alzheimer’s, it was difficult for us to tell because most of his actions resonated with the personality we had grown to love. When he was diagnosed, it all started to make sense, albeit too late. Thankfully, he came to live with us to ensure he was surrounded by love and maximum care in his last years.
One of our family friends whom I shall call George noticed some changes with his own father a few months later. When he shared this, mom quickly recommended grandpa’s doctor. As suspected, he too, had dementia. He began treatment immediately and the gentleman who had looked after grandpa during his illness is now a caregiver to George’s dad. Whereas we lost a loved one, another family benefited from the lessons we  learnt.

The irony is that as I treat my yet to be identified condition, I am constantly dispensing mostly unsolicited advice on the meaning of certain symptoms, which specialist to see and when to seek a second opinion.
My ‘experience’ as a full-time participant in health issues concerning myself, my loved ones and those around me  has ensured that I often make the right call ‘accidentally.’
Recently, I visited a friend’s mother after her surgery and very soon the room filled up with her friends and relatives. We exchanged several ‘horror tales’ of our country’s health system. After a while, her cousin tapped me and asked “How long have you been a medical professional?”
It was sadly funny.

I guess my message today is to encourage you not to let any kind of pain go unused.
This might sound pretty strange but you need to make the most out of it, in any shape or form that you can possibly muster.

Julie lost her job and it turned out to be a great time of self reflection for her. Before long, she knew exactly who her real friends were because the fake ones walked out the door the moment they realised she was broke.
It didn’t matter that she had picked them up during their lowest moments. They quickly forgot that and became instantly unavailable whenever she needed them.
As she starts her new journey, she knows exactly whom she’s carrying along for the ride and those she will happily leave behind.

We all have these moments. They come in form of different experiences.

You break up with Bosco, the love of your life and suddenly everyone has evidence to prove that he is such a low life. *Never mind that none of these friends told you when you were together. * <smh>

Before long, your heartbreak turns into a ‘good riddance!’ and guess what, you still continue to breathe after this failed relationship.

As cliche as it sounds, what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. The best gift you can give to your current  and future self is to deliberately seek out the lesson in each situation that threatens or even manages to break you. After all, you can’t mend that which is not broken in the first place 🙂
It’s only a matter of time before it is a distant memory and the best ‘revenge’ you can ever get is to take a seat, grab some crayons and draw your little rainbow when it’s all over.

jumping

We came. We fell. We got up.

By this time last week, my situation was ‘a calm state of panic.’ We were at the Uganda Museum for our third edition of croak and rhyme. While many things were going right, an almost equal number of irregularities seemed to come up every now and then.
The funny thing about being a leader is that you have to strike a fine balance between optimism, realism, patience and unwavering determination during the most demanding situations. I do not think I am even half way there. Therein lies the beauty of time, experience and the lessons that come along the way!
The concept of croak and rhyme, like many of 4040’s ideas was random and uncomplicated, during one of our many meetings over two years ago. As one of the group members suggested the name, we laughed and then fell in love. Just like that, it was adopted and here we are. When I saw the bold words ‘croak and rhyme’ in one of our dailies this week, I grinned as I reminisced. Humble beginnings can surprise you!
This year’s edition was quite taxing. We came up with a theme and then needed to figure out how to work around it. Our wish list was loooooonnng (yes for emphasis) In fact, last year we toyed with the idea of bringing Sauti Sol for the event. *mental note to review my sent items folder for good laughs years from today* The irony that this blog post is coming out when they are in Uganda already for tomorrow’s show! Eh! Perhaps I could get a word with them. No? I digress.
We contacted tonnes of artistes. Some said no, others yes, a few said maybe and some simply led us on because they did not know how to articulate their negative response. I can look back and chuckle now but when it was happening, it was far from funny. We had legends with us though :D. This madam made my waist do things, good times!

These were 'our days'

These were ‘our days’

This event comes with a lot of pressure because of the expenses involved in putting it together. It is nothing short of a gamble and I must admit some of the lessons have been learnt the hard way.

Our first edition brought in a full house at a small venue. The management expected a small crowd and gave us few chairs that they did not expect to fill. Before long, we were trying to create space for the overwhelming crowd. At the end of the event, after realising the profit from their sales that night-they were asking when our next event was and more than willing to provide the venue.
The second one was taken to a bigger venue to accommodate the growing numbers. While we paid attention to that detail, other factors came into play. The World cup quarter final fell on the same date. Additionally, both traditional and social media were awash with announcements from the police about a terror threat to the city. I cannot count the whatsapp forwards I received on D-day warning me and basically asking that we discontinue our plans. These factors worked against us but we still had a sizeable crowd. The event was well organised and raised the bar for us. Armed with these lessons we set out to do even better this year.
The rain during the day got us on our knees, some of us even started yelling at the skies (yelling at God really) and thankfully the weather behaved. The drizzles during Maddox’s performance were hardly felt as the crowd sang along. Blessings just 🙂

maddox 1

crowd 2

 

 

I realised the ‘power of alcohol’ when I was confronted by a reveller who said he could not stand to look at me, knowing beer had run out at an event I organised. Eh, I took cover immediately. We must admit the crowd overwhelmed us and found us under prepared. We take full responsibility. There were other faults that we have certainly taken note of. Be sure to see changes next time 🙂
Despite the massive turn out at the event, the figures were not as exciting as we anticipated. We found out that an unscrupulous individual stole ‘tags’ from our entrance and started selling them to attendees before they reached our team. As a result, payment was made to him and sadly, it will never reach our dormitory.
That Sunday night as we tried to count, recount and then count the proceeds some more, we silently hoped that some of the coins would morph into notes and the ‘1K’ notes would transform into ‘50K’ notes in the process. This was not to happen. BUT. It could be a lot worse! We could have made an investment and then failed to break even. We could have planned this event for months only to have 50 people attend. That did not happen. Yaay!
The artistes gave energetic performances, moreover at no cost. One of the artists’ managers on our wish list insisted that we were making stuff up. There was no way any Ugandan artists could perform completely for charity. Oh ye of little faith! I hope one day they’ll understand that- *It’s not only about the money*
So, as I type this I am over the ‘we could have done better’ and now onto the ‘we shall do better’ state of mind. Everyone who attended and supported us even when we erred, the artistes who resisted the urge to become ‘divas,’ simply offering their talent and the service providers who have stuck with us, you made it possible.
Special thanks to those individuals who could not make it buts still sent entrance fee or directly contributed to the dormitory.

To the team that was behind the scenes, having pre-event nightmares and fighting then making up, then fighting again because you believe in 40-40 and what it stands for- you are invaluable.
We are now Ugx 11 million away from completing the dormitory. It seems like a little. Or a lot, depending on how you view your glass.

Nonetheless, I will be back here with pictures after we complete that building. Until then, please do not tire of answering our call. We are doing all of this, together for Uganda’s future, for a generation that will outlive us and learn from our dedication.
Till then, keep being the change, even when it hurts!
X

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

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? 🙂

A mother’s love

Is it possible, really, that there are things I have not said about this woman? Well, perhaps it isn’t always what you say but how you say it. For her birthday this year, I will revisit some of the lessons she has taught me. I know other people have learnt from them so I shall speak for all of us 🙂

I just read this and although I wrote it last year, it covers most of what I want to say, so perhaps today I will only make a few more additions to what may one day become a collection of letters to my mother, our mother.

“My mother… she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.”

1. Your guests are royalty

You need to be fly on the wall when we are receiving guests. Each one requires a special kind of welcome down to even buying them their favourite drink if mum knows which one it is. I have seen some of these people for years, so I will know they are coming and still go on about my business but no, one must give them special treatment till they leave. It is worse if they are spending the night. Even if they came on a bicycle, bus or plane, you shall press the best bed sheets and give them 5 star treatment, even when it is your room that is now becoming theirs 😀

It is so ‘bad’ that even my very own dear brothers who don’t stay at home have to be treated like kings when they visit. Breakfast menus change, suddenly they need a chauffeur and one must pick after these grown men. Hehe, I grew up and stopped complaining. I am now happy to play my part in making their stay grand because one needs to make the best of all the time spent with family. *once in a while a side eye shall escape *

2.Stay up, listen, be present

My brother says that when he was a student far away from home, he would buy a call card specifically to catch up with mum. He would have the issues to discuss noted down so that nothing was left out but alas! Mum would give him so much ‘kaboozi,’ he would even forget why he called and his list would have to wait for the next week or month. Knowing her, the first part is about healthy eating and questions about your weight, vegetables et al, then everything follows.

Nonetheless, she is an amazing listener who will keep in mind all your milestones and pray about your trials.

When guests come home, the television is to be switched off, as you speak to her, your phone should be far away. Those things you do where you look at your phone and reply a text but keep going ‘Yeah, uh huh…’ will not cut it. It is only fair you return the attention she gives.

There are so many times I have come late after a long day. I neither want to eat nor talk, just a bath and my bed. She will wait and give you company as you eat or just ask ‘How was your day?’ Whether you give the short version or long one, you know that someone cares to ask and usually, that is enough.

3. Mother knows everything, even when she doesn’t

She is always right, always. Instead of asking a fortune teller, just bring your boyfriend/boss/best friend home for tea. After that evening, she will most likely tell you many things that you looked at but didn’t see, heard but didn’t listen to.

It is from very simple things to actual life changing ones.Before the rains even began recently, she saw me walk out of the house and asked me why I wasn’t wearing closed shoes. I didn’t have a good reason except that  wanted to wear sandals. Two hours into my errands and the skies growled and gave way to endless rain. I died in my movie.

From a young age I have taken her predictions seriously, and I can still hear her voice when I am about to fall off the right road.

4. Compromise

I love road side chicken and in mum’s eyes it is unhygienic and deadly. However, when I am under the weather, she will bring it home and even get mad if I eat too little. See a team player!

I borrow her car all the time and sometimes she needs it or me but as soon as I share my plans- she is willing to compromise. She owns the car and me, technically, but never to rub those things in my face.

Speaking of rubbing things in faces, today her reply to my birthday text had a ‘LOUD HINT.’ Unless I get grandchildren, I have no reason to live for many more years.’ Well played mummy dearest. (CC the rest of you guilty clan members)

5.Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Today is her birthday so I can’t say negative things,right? Are you sure?

Have you met someone who arrives at parties before the host? This one time we were so early, that the priest ended up making me a ‘one-woman choir’ because there was no one else (They all came late, including the host!) I came up with the order of mass, hymns and all this time hoped she was getting all my side glances. *fail*

Thanks to her, I value my appointments and time but sometimes, the ‘recipients’ fail me. How do I know that it is bad? These days she sees me panicking and says “Why are you in a hurry yet you know that they will be late?”

It isn’t just time, she is a perfectionist with everything else from furniture alignment to dress code, no matter how old you are!

Recently, I got home exhausted at about 11.00 p.m and ‘they’ asked me why my shirt was creased. “Is that how you were the whole day?” I rest my case.

6. Make new friends, but keep the old

When mum tells me of the friends she has had for over 30 years, I listen in awe. They still talk and laugh like little girls. Their friendships are not marred by many vices that I see in young people today and it is refreshing. I envy what they have/had and hope that we can emulate at least half.

She has taught me not to mix friendships and to compartmentalize. It is possible to have friends that are geeks-introverts-fashionistas-introverts and sustain all of them in their capacities, even if they never meet.

I have also learnt to maintain privacy even when the rest of the world sees the picture they want to see.

Speaking of privacy , she hates photographs of her taken but after my brother and I took 8,765 pictures without her knowledge, one or two surfaced *evil grin*

mom

7. Beauty that is skin deep

What can I say, she is gorgeous! No pricked ears, minimal jewellery at all times, nail varnish, huh? What is that? And yet her beauty is natural and simply timeless. She can come to me and tell me how mosquitoes bit her and she has swellings and I am like ‘Huh, I only see beauty spots.’ It is really true that love blinds us to all imperfections because I see only her beautiful self.

She has her own style and it works. Recently, a friend asked me when I had bought the ‘new’ bag I was holding. I told him I had had it for at least two years, then it hit me. I am becoming her! She will carry one bag for weeks before switching to the next one which will also work plenty of weeks before the next switch. *See our lives*

If there is anyone I know whose life is a gospel, it is my mother. Through pain and sorrow, joy and grace, she remains her.

She does not need to tell you she is a Christian because she walks the talk-

She tells us she loves us, but she doesn’t need to because her every action screams of love that is clear for anyone to see.

In Mother Theresa’s words;

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

That right there is how my mother lives her life and the rest of us try to walk in her footsteps. Thankfully, they are wide enough for us to fit and have room for us to grow into them.

If you listen to her prayers, they will revolve around everyone but her and on this day, I pray that she will have many amazing years filled with joy derived from her friends and family but also her own for the jewel that she is.

Happy birthday dear mommy, I love you forever and a day :-*