Starting Over

12
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 did..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

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The time to complain was yesterday; The time to act is NOW

Yesterday we visited some children’s homes, as part of our ground work to establish which ones have the most needs or are best suited to the kind of support that we offer. There were lessons to learn from several and it was especially pleasing to note that we have now learnt which questions to ask, how to be objective and carry out due diligence among other things.

I remember our first project two years ago was driven by 1% by a whim and 99% by emotions. We surely have grown.

Our main focus as we did this tour was the need for sustainability. This means that even though we know one of the homes we visited has children who survive on one a meal a day; we shall not rush to a retail shop, fill a truck with maize flour and carry it to the house. Instead, we shall give the caretakers capacity to purchase these supplies and allow them the pride that comes with knowing that their hard work paid off.

It was amazing to see some children already actively involved in economic activities. For one of the homes, the crafts are actually sold by the children to raise school fees directly. If their school fees is 150,000, they know that they have to make that much if they are to see a blackboard the next term, which makes them that much more determined. Is it fair for a 12 year old boy to trek under the scotching sun to get an education? No. Will you back that ‘No’ with a better solution? (….) Are we going to find ways to make the situation better while promoting his skill and nurturing his work ethic? Heck yes!!

I was particularly astonished to see that despite the limited space at one of these homes, they had  make shift reading tables for the children, especially those sitting for finals this year.

One of the boys, David has a profile that reads “I want to become a lawyer, so that I can become a politician then a president and change my country.” Enough said.

An elderly woman who looks after several women said she would love to cook a few snacks for sell to earn an extra income. Little things like samosas, fried cassava, mandazi etc. A moment later she changed her mind. She explained how complex it would be. “How do I continue frying when one of my children is staring at me with hunger written all over his face? Of course I will give him one and that won’t be enough so he will want another. The cycle continues.” She said as we shared a light moment laden with words unspoken. She looks after vulnerable children n her own house.

How heartbreaking it was as we left when she asked us to keep checking in. “I lost my son five months ago just before he graduated from Makerere, she said as she motioned towards a photograph of him.

“When I see young people like you I am reminded of him and I don’t feel lonely anymore,” she added with a sad smile.

Some moments stay with you forever.

Policy is important but how do you explain to an individual who has raised so many children at hear home that it is illegal to have that many under that roof? While we are still responding to that, let us put into consideration the fact that there would probably not be any place to take them if they were moved because only a handful of state-run children’s homes exist and not without their own shortcomings.

This isn’t one of those posts where I will suddenly request that the president intervenes. But then again,even if I did, he is quite busy opening taps and all.

The truth is that we (40-40) are not experts but I would rather passionate amateurs than lazy specialists.

About a year ago a pre-teenage boy thanked me for convincing him to stay off the street. I have no psychology major. Are you still going to blame your lack of action on absence of skill? I dare you.

I may not have 20,000 in my purse but as a team, we at 40-40 have raised over 100 million shillings to support vulnerable children.

I know that a Government official can steal this in a day and a corporate company signs such cheques in minutes but this is no competition.

I have seen the sweat, tears and sleepless nights that have led to this moment when I can talk about such a sum.

I have seen sacrifice redefined by individuals who have nothing to their name.

This post is not about what could have been, it is about what is and will be.

It s about what you can do in your own capacity visa vis what you can promise to do all your life.

“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

If a 40-40 volunteer who doesn’t even have a first degree can sit through a meeting and come up with brilliant ideas but more so implementation strategies, what excuse do our Members of Parliament have?

You have an i pad that you use mainly for solitaire, a chauffeur for your 4 wheel drive that has seen more lodge parking lots than it has your garage at home but pupils in your constituency still walk barefooted for several kilometres on dirt roads to get some sorry excuse of an education they may never utilise.

Toddlers in your community still die from diseases that can be immunised  and midwives use torches during child delivery, but this is normal,right?

So we sit and say “I will never vote, nothing ever changes.” Or “I voted and elections were rigged so my candidate lost.” Nothing is ever your fault and you are okay with that.

We all have our rights, we can choose to or not to exercise them but your greatest right should be your right to do right.

No education, Government or self help book can teach you do this.

“It’s the action, not the fruit of the action, that’s important. You have to do the right thing. It may not be in your power, may not be in your time, that there’ll be any fruit. But that doesn’t mean you stop doing the right thing. You may never know what results come from your action. But if you do nothing, there will be no result.”  Ghandi

Amidst all this bent up frustration lies a message about a group of people that knows they can’t solve every problem but decided to start small and work their way up. I am proud to be part of this group.

We work with children, perhaps you are most disturbed by the environment and the fact that we barely recycle. How about you do something about that?

But when it comes to us;

Here  I am saying that if you had a rough childhood, you can still be part of making a better one for someone who deserves a second chance.

If you had  good one, allow another child to get a glimpse of what you had.

The supporters and well wishers of 40-40 have trusted us and I am asking them to trust us again because we are in this for the long haul.

If you still have your doubts, we understand you, join us to visit these children and see what we mean.

When we promise, demand delivery, if we slack, ask why.

The only person responsible for making a difference in your life, your community is you. The sooner we acknowledge this, the faster we can create the Uganda and eventually the world we want to see.

kids

 

The baby is 2 :)

Time check: 10.55pm.
It was on this night two years ago that I made an independent decision to have my first child.
I didn’t give it much thought then. It was one of those impulsive things that felt right.
I didn’t think to plan.When the idea crept into my mind,I thought “Why not?  I am here and I am ready”
The next day, I got busy.
The baby needed a home and several caretakers.
I needed to book them in advance,they would certainly make the time.
This home was facebook, the caretakers were my friends+family and the baby…well you know
40 days over 40 smiles Foundation.

Whereas I can’t compress this entire journey into a blog post, I can attempt to make some ‘loud’ observations.
You win some you lose some
That first Easter weekend,we visited two orphanages.
Friday had about 35  friends of mine present as did Saturday.Along the way some have dropped and others have joined in.I have extensive experience in what it means to have people in your life for a season and a reason.
I have some insight about those who will be with me for a lifetime but this journey has given me enough wisdom to know that even those can change with time.
Love and loss
My first heartbreak occured during these two years.I didn’t lose my knight in shining armour-even worse, I lost angels whose broken wings I wasn’t done fixing.
I think of and dream about them. The simple yet most beautiful part of it all is that I kept their memory far from anyone’s reach but my own-deep down in my heart.

Not all that glitters is gold
The team does all it can to spread the word,locally and internationally. We don’t do it for fame or fortune but sometimes we do it too well-albeit unknowingly.
The outcome?
Some organisations don’t want to work with us because we are “rich enough” others would love to associate with us when it is convenient and walk away when it doesn’t benefit them.
Individuals claim responsibility for successes they didn’t contribute to and tiptoe to the back seat when things go wrong.C’est la vie

Everybody is somebody
Over 60% of our biggest donors are friends of friends,random acquaintances and curious observers.
The lady who eavesdrops on a conversation shows more support than the friend who has seen you at rock bottom.
Bittersweet but also plain amazing
Start small

No one envisioned two years. I know at the time my eyes were set on just a successful Easter weekend. After it happened, we got to thinking and look where we are now.
We are not a household name like coca cola but we are who we are, the best change agents we can be. You haven’t seen our label? We produce t.shirts, wrist bands, mirrors and so much more- order now 😉
Small minds discuss people
Without meaning to stereotype, a good number of people in this country spend valuable time discussing/analysing none issues with the sole purpose of destroying what others have built.

Before they even know what you are about, they want to bring you down.It’s not good enough-what are their ulterior motives?-I can do better-That car must have been bought using the charity’s money- That was my idea,how did they steal it?-The list goes on. It gets ‘funny’ after a while. Your life is made a lot more interesting than it actually is.

uhm,how about we each water our own side of the fence?

Hope even in its false form can be exactly what one needs
There have been days when a project has stalled or the account is dry. In your anguish,you mention it to a person or two. They assure you that they will carry your load for you. You sleep better,dream more and wait patiently.
After weeks you realise the promises may not materialise. You also quickly notice that this hope kept you going nonetheless. Silver linings 🙂
Growth finds you
You can plan your entire life,doesn’t mean it will go according to your expectations.
No job,literature or school prepared me for the experiences thus far. None of them could have molded me to this extent either.
It is a phoenix situation-several times over. Cheers to being reborn.

Patience pays

On this one, I could go on for days on end. I have been tested more times than I can count. I thought I was a gracefully patient person till I learnt that I just hadn’t been pushed hard enough. Now I am just learning all over again, that people change, things fail, mistakes happen. Nonetheless, you get up, show up and work.

Never lose your sense of purpose
It’s been 730 days since that first facebook post which I unearthed >>> “During Lent, as you fast or choose to stay away from certain treats, I urge you to save up a little so we can share Easter with the less fortunate.
We shall bake cakes, buy toys and get clothes to distribute at orphanages and paediatric units of hospitals.
Let us join hands and give all we can:-)”

We have several ‘anniversaries- The day the page was opened, the first Easter weekend when we spread love to those children, the day we got registered.I maintain this one as the most special to my heart. A simple thought grew into a great revolution that is only beginning to bloom.
Long days and sleepless nights have surfaced since-ridicule,disappointment and betrayal often cause palpitations but the victories,little thank yous,compliments from ‘strangers,’ innocent hugs and special bonds bring deep satisfaction that no one can take away from you.

There are people I have never met, others are barely speak to and acquaintances that have shared their love and resources-
A large pool of friends and family who have supported at different stages and continue to be with us
A team that has seen the good bad and ugly but still stuck around against all odds
The overall master who brought us this far and continues to go before us.
All these combined have culminated into 40-40 at 2 years- my baby, my reason to get up everyday, my source of pain and comfort but most of all-MY PURPOSE.

cake 2