How is February coming to an end already? I am shook! << Speaking of, are there any slangs you hate/find ridiculous and end up using them as a joke only for them to stick? Mine include ‘bae’ and now ‘shook.’ Yup, I am cringing as I type but here we are!

The past couple of months have been a rollercoaster. One day you have inexplicable joy because your person who has been out of a job for over two years has finally signed an awesome contract then out of the blue a wave of depression hits. You are half way into a sip of pina colada celebrating the gift of another year for your loved one only to receive news of the loss of another. I have asked “life kyeki?” <What is life?> silently and out loud, more times than I can remember since this year began. Some highlights have stayed with me nonetheless.

Moses* called me at the end of last month. He invited me to speak to a group of recovering addicts under his care. It was a busy time and I asked him to slot me in close to the end of February; Wednesday last week to be exact. I forgot about it. As the day drew nearer, I began to panic. What did I know about addiction? What could they possibly learn from me? Who made me an authority on any subject? Would they be able to tell that I was a fraud, preaching hope while crumbling inside? SOS!


Incidentally, I met Moses at a talk last year. He belonged to a mentorship group whose leader invited me to speak. I was told to expect 15 or more people. I walked into a well set up room complete with a podium and ‘high table.’ Only 5 people showed up. It was so bad that we each had to pack the snacks which had been prepared for a bigger group. BUT; It was also one of the most fulfilling sessions I have ever facilitated. The small group was so eager to learn, they took notes and kept flipping pages. I was so pumped, I just went on and on. I chose to sit with them in a semi-circle and encouraged them to interrupt at any point. They did! J It was doubly awesome because my fried Ritah joined in. We had plans later that evening and she offered to attend the talk as well. Her voice was a great addition to the discussion because she had experience as a volunteer. I did not have to give all the examples. She was right there to pitch in.


After several attempts, asking Monsieur Google to help me plan my talk, I decided to relax. Each time I have spoken from the heart, it has worked out just fine. I would do the same.

I got there almost an hour early. This gave me time to catch up with *Cathy who is an employee at the organisation.

The Christian non-profit supports individuals to overcome addiction. The residential program lasts a period of one year. During that period they are equipped with life skills as well as knowledge of the scripture.

I was told to expect 16 men between the ages of 16 and 50. My audience comprised of 14. I asked each of them to tell me their names and something about them, preferably something they like to do/something which makes them happy. Most of them mentioned football, cooking (pleasantly surprising) and God. I wasn’t ready when this gentleman’s turn came. He was arguably the oldest in the group. He calmly said. “Henry. I am a father.” 5 words, simple yet heavily loaded. For a few minutes I drifted off imagining how he got here, what his children thought and how he felt ‘hanging’ with teenagers in the same space. When I eventually snapped back, we were on to the last introduction. The next exercise involved them writing their biggest, boldest dreams on a sticky note. What they would do if they had limitless resources. I later jumbled them up and let each one read someone else’s dreams.

Almost all of them mentioned their intention to do more for a vulnerable group, from orphans to the elderly and recovering addicts. *Daniel called out “Esther, you haven’t told us your dream…” and that was the perfect intro for my story.

I spoke about my journey and openly shared about the 9,876,421 road blocks I have faced, I shared countless testimonies and told stories within stories. It was actually pretty mentally and emotionally draining going down memory lane. My audience was mostly quiet except for *Daniel and his neighbour, Aaron. They kept mumbling, taking notes, and I even saw a high 5. I thought to myself, “I am either really interesting or these guys are working on their own happy project.” Nonetheless, I continued, trying to engage everyone the best way I could. Finally, it came to an end, and I asked for questions or comments. Walala! I was NOT ready. First of all the pair that seemed busy throughout asked like 15 questions all on their own and then the rest. I had a 5pm meeting, meaning I needed to set off by 4.30 or so. I quickly realised it was going to be impossible to leave. I sneakily texted Kristine to let her know I would be late then gave these men my full attention. Their questions were deep, some of them silly, as if testing my sanity. All of them were engaging. I quickly noted who the ‘class clowns’ were. Henry did not say much else :/

Just as I thought the questions were coming to an end, Daniel asked “Can you please look at our proposal before you leave?”

Me: You mean you have written and completed a proposal during these 2 hours?

Him: *laughs* No, we started planning this 2 weeks ago and you came right in time.

This explained his questions about vision, mission and general organisational structure during the talk. I agreed to look at the proposal.

Finally, Jesse put up his hand. He had picked up on a part of my story where I mentioned difficulty in getting volunteers, discerning who is there for the right reasons and maintain friendships. He read a Bible verse in Colossians (Col 1:15-18)  and encouraged me to focus on God and not people and just as he was concluding Tom opened his Bible and to reiterate read “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters (Col 3:23) *Martin then added Proverbs 4:18 “The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” I was overwhelmed but they weren’t done yet. Jesse asked if he could pray for me. They all stretched their hands and he started to pray. I had mentioned my struggle with insomnia briefly and here he was bringing it up. Jesse prayed for my family, friends, past, present and future, like an old friend or even a sage. The tears that I had controlled up till that more moment could no longer be held back. In that moment, I surrendered the baggage I had carried to this house and felt much lighter. By the time the ‘Amen’ came, I had forgotten where I was.

Everyone who needed an extra word, came over after the talk.

Jesse recommended a book.

Rodney offered to cook for me on his day off as a thank you. (I believe they earn these after 3-4 months)

Jeff asked me to check out a home for street children he helped set up.

Eventually, I sat with Daniel and Aaron to go through the proposal. Daniel’s energy constantly at 100 “I did not finish school so I am not good at writing, but I am a good talker. My boy here does the writing.” (patting Aaron) I read through and talked them through the alterations. They are looking to seek permission from the organisation; to do some work within their community. They hope the organisation can contribute half the start up capital and they (students) can fundraise the rest.  They want to use their spare time to clean homes, fumigate, garden and other related activities; to utilise their time and energy plus make extra income. It was quite humbling.

I invited all of them to our annual football fundraiser #5AsideUG slated for March 10th. I was worried about it because they have to ‘earn’ their days off and there will be alcohol sold at the event. I asked the administration to weigh the pros and cons then get back to me.

Cathy sent me a message a couple of days ago. The students are looking to put together a football team and contribute. I explained that my invitation meant that they attend at no cost. She said they knew that and wanted to contribute the little they could regardless. *Sniff*

I hope they can make it, if only to have some fun, a connection with the real world and bear witness that dreams do come true.


Of legends and fans


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.

What goes around…


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..😞 is indeed what you are thinking. They want us to get involved.😥
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.



Humble beginnings

Playing catch up, here is 22 and 23


When 40-40 began, I had no real plan for continuity. As such I had not given any thought to things like logos, which are important for a brand. Thankfully, God had that covered. One fine morning at work, my colleague Noah walked over to me with different versions of the 40-40 logo we now use. It was (is) beautiful! It was even more meaningful because he took his own initiative. Many years from today, I will still look at it and remember how it came to be. 🙂


In 2014, we scheduled a strategy session for the team and invited an expert in Social work to speak to us. One of the resounding messages that day was “Stop playing small.”
When I got home I spoke to mum about it and toyed with the idea of finding office space. She immediately told me someone was vacating a nice spot near her work place and I could check it out. I went by and liked it immediately. I felt like this was a sign. The rent on the other hand, I did not even have 10% and yet we had to make a huge down payment. In the weeks that followed, I was able to secure small loans from friends (and members of the team) and a small grant from the father. Thankfully, payment could be made over time. The year is 2017 and we only got some real furniture last year.
Each time people walked in, they felt like we were just moving in and could not believe it has been around for a while.
A couple of months ago, I began to make some small changes to make it feel homey and (kind of) professional. The process is slow because there is no ‘bottomless’ fund to pick from but I am still proud of it nonetheless.
So many things in my life, in the 40-40 story have taken longer, appeared more complex or difficult and been surrounded by endless hurdles but in everything I have learnt not to despise humble beginnings- neither should you.

In everything, give thanks.

Uber volunteer


Another real time tale

I met an old friend today and during our conversation I told him I miss being incognito; that I love being in places where I don’t have to explain who I am or what I do.
Shortly after, I ordered an Uber.
After the pleasantries
Driver: Aren’t you that lady from that charity
Me: Huh?
Him: 40 days over 40 Smiles
Me: * so much for being incognito& 🙆
Me: Uhm..Yes🙈 Have we met?
Him: No, I have seen you on tv and online
Me:But it’s dark, how did you even recognise me?
Him: I just knew it was you.
He goes on to ask about our upcoming events and I lay out the entire calendar. What happened next surprised me in the best way possible.😄
He asked “Besides the events, do you have volunteer opportunities?”
“Yes!” I almost squealed.
Him: That’s what I am interested in.
He went on to tell me his mum works for a rehabilitation centre and he has always been around children.
I ask a few questions and get to know him. We are now around Old Kampala, nearing home.
Him: God works in mysterious ways. This week I have been applying for volunteer opportunities and God sends the overall head of charity to my doorstep
Me: *silently* I am not exactly the head but…
Him: When you truly want something and give it your all, it often finds you
Me: I agree.😊
Anyway, as I speak, I have added him to the whatsapp group for volunteers. He was excited when I told him it even exists and that he will join.
Oh, his name is Peter by the way..and boy am I glad he was my Uber driver this evening! 😊😊



Note: Originally posted on March, 21.

Starting Over

The year was 2013. I quit my job without a plan and needed to convince myself that it was the right decision before I could convince my loved ones…and then the ‘world.’
I was constantly looking for signs and any positive feedback or bright light shinning on 4040 qualified. Similarly, when too many humps came my way, I would re-evaluate my decision and contemplate going ‘back.’
Around that time, I got nominated for the ‘Heroine of the year award’ by the Young Achiever’s awards.
I was excited but also extremely anxious😢

To begin with, I didn’t feel worthy. That award had previously been won by Dr.Matthew Lukwiya (rest his soul) whose heroism saved several lives when Ebola hit Uganda hard. He literally sacrificed his own life. I, on the other hand, was a rookie at most.
Awel, who put the awards together, mentioned that I was the only one who really needed to pitch what I do since all the other winners were in a competition of sorts, and were established themselves. Way to go increasing the ‘puresha!’ (Pressure)

I decided to use my fear and anxiety to fuel my preparations to speak at the event.
D-day arrived and Victoria Hall, Serena was filled to capacity (it isn’t small by any standards) Luckily, I had managed to ‘smuggle’ extra invitations for my team and knowing that they were in the room, along with some members of the family, helped. Sadly, I couldn’t make eye contact with any of them as nominees sat separately.
I kept hearing the names of the dignitaries present,titles like Queen, C.E.O, MD flew over the room as little ol’ me sat, shaking.
That entire week I had had trouble sleeping..I had dreams, scratch that-nightmares.
Once I was tripping in high heels, then in another, I was stuttering as I spoke.
I always woke up in cold sweats.

Well, when I was finally called to the podium I realised why I had been afraid. It was intimidating!😥

The lights, the people..did I mention THE PEOPLE? I didn’t imagine them naked (which is advice on how to handle speaking to large crowds, apparently)
I was shaking from my waist downwards..for the entire duration.Thank God no one could see that..
I received the award and then I spoke..and spoke and then spoke some more. I just couldn’t stop. I pitched with all my heart, or so I would like to believe.
I even called out the NSSF MD in my speech. *where those guts came from, only God knows*
<He would later re-appear when we won an award in 2015, story for another day>
I don’t know if I made any blunders in the speech, nor do I remember much of what I said.


I do remember the aftermath though.
Speaker after speaker commended our work, many pledged support.
It was the biggest crowd I had ever addressed and one of the most important too.
At the end of the event, I collected a ridiculous number of business cards and mentally noted everyone who said ‘ get in touch, let’s work together.’
Since it was December, I waited for the festive season to end.
After the new year began, I started knocking doors and sending emails.
Between those who ignored me, asked me to come back ‘next week’ for several months and played hide and seek, there was a grand total of about 3 individuals who honoured their pledges or came through months later.

It didn’t matter, okay it kinda hurt too but more than anything it toughened me and prepared me for a lot worse;Not to mention I have had countless speaking engagements since..and although I am always anxious, I like to remind myself of some of the lion’s dens I have been to and survived.

Aluta continua

He stayed

Story 5: Giving thanks

The Lord my father, my friend my rock, has been part of this journey before I ever dreamt of it, before it began and every step of the way since.
About 4 years ago, I went by *Terry’s office to pick up a few items she wanted us to donate or sell and use returns to fund our projects. I got in, said hello to her workmates and went ahead to sit with her and talk. As I said my goodbyes, she told David (real name) about 4040. He said he knew about us.
He took out his ‘other’ business card and asked me to contact him if we ever needed a public address system for our events. I thanked him and left.

Fast forward, David has provided sounded for pretty much every event since, at no cost.
Imagine that.

Before him, we kept changing service providers and calling in favours. We were afraid to ‘beg’ again and again. One time, a team member, Jack got us equipment from his boss and I later found out it had got messed at one of our events. I was completely crushed and started to panic. I offered to replace it well knowing that we could not even afford it.

Since David swooped in to literally save us, the process has been smooth. Sometimes his team even arrives at the location before we do. He has no airs around him and has never made us feel like second class citizens (which sponsors/donors often do)
Do attend next Friday’s quiz and karaoke night at Yasigi’s. The equipment you will see and ‘hear’ will be from D&J audio, all these years later.
You ought to contact them for all your sound needs. See link


It is evident I shall never ever be able to repay their kindness but it won’t hurt if you can give them business too😊 Might I add, their professionalism is at 💯?
If you bump into David or speak to him, let him know how much we appreciate him, his team and his work. We tell him all the time but it never seems enough.

Especially thanking God for the people he has placed in our lives along this journey.