And then there was 5 Aside UG…

If you have organised an event before then you know that while everyone is chatting and having a good time, chances are you are battling a few ‘demons’ behind the scenes. The bride isn’t talking to the maid of honour; truck carrying the drinks gets involved in an accident minutes before the function begins, the guy with the public address system is a no-show and all his numbers are off. Does any of this sound familiar? If it doesn’t, you are one lucky lad!

You can plan an event for months and even fix provisions for the worst case scenario, only to be shocked by scenarios worse than the ones you envisioned. The universe has jokes I tell you.

On March 8th , 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation organised an event dubbed “5 Aside UG,” we had planned it for quite some time and were pretty anxious to see the outcome. Meetings, whatsapp threads, late night discussions, stalking service providers- we did all that.

We began approaching ‘potential teams’ six weeks before the event from within our networks. The response was overwhelming. Our target was 32 teams but even before we launched the campaign, about 35 had committed to getting players. When things seem too good to be true, they usually are.

A few weeks later when we contacted the team captains, the number dropped by more than half, some even denied ever hearing about this tournament or even 40-40 for that matter. It was hilarious. Not.

We went back to the drawing board and decided to accept our fate. We were going to close registration with or without the teams we had earlier planned for. In the background, we tried to make registration as convenient as possible but the day before the deadline, we had 15 teams. We agreed to close at 16 and make fixtures based on that number.

Closing day :The ladies in charge of registration had been called all sorts of names and had their patience tested for the past weeks. We didn’t think it could get any worse. However out of nowhere-literally, we had an avalanche of teams. In fact, the number exceeded 32 and we had to call people to ask them to withdraw.

I will give you a few examples of the drama that surrounded this.

-‘John,’ whom I actually know had no idea I was the one who picked up the phone because my colleague whom he had called was driving. The conversation went something like this. “You have to register my team. I got held up and delayed but money is not my problem. If you don’t register I will call *insert name of 40-40 member whom he was sure had a ‘higher rank.’ (The organisational structure of the foundation is unlike that of most bodies and thus you will not find titles like C.E.O, C.F.O, U.P.D.F etc) In fact, I was more agitated that he thought he could talk down to someone he had never even met!

-This next guy we shall call Bosco. He didn’t speak to me but here is an excerpt of the conversation. “You need to register my team; do you know how many influential people and potential sponsors I can bring to your event?” (Please! All the guests we had already invited are ‘influential,’ enough if they are supporting a cause that is bigger than them) I will save you from other such tales and move on to us eventually settling for 40 teams. Did I mention the teams that came back to claim their money because they thought ‘5 aside soccer’ was actually basketball? Hihi. Bambi we returned it in good faith 🙂

The day finally came and if you were at Bush Court, I need not go into details. As if the 40 team shocker wasn’t enough, people came from all over to attend this event. From the parking lot alone, you would think it was ‘Enkuka y’omwaka’ (I have no English translation for this)

Yes, we had a few hitches and the team at 40-40 apologises for those. If it is any consolation, we were attacked by the more vocal ‘victims.’

As I made my rounds, this lady walked up to me and asked if I was Esther. As soon as I gave a positive response, I realised that a lie might have made more sense. She had a stick that wasn’t so much for beating as it was for gouging my not-so-small eyes. She explained how her team had not been called, deserved to win, the team which ‘cheated,’ etc- all the while moving the stick an inch from my eyes. I remember constantly repeating ‘I will see what I can do’ while taking short backward steps. Competition is real. The dramatic encounters were not few but I will share just one more.

I met another gentleman who told me he had only played three games and thus needed ‘compensation’ before he left. I was trying to comprehend this. Was each game worth 2,000 shillings so that he gets 4,000/= in change? Just before I could respond, a tipsy girl tapped me.

Her: Happy Women’s day

Me: Thanks, Happy Women’s day to you too

Her: Do you know that you are a woman of substance? (sips Guiness)

Me: *crimson face*

Her: You got me to get into a taxi all the way from Kansanga to come and contribute the little I have to change a child’s life. (sips beer) I don’t even go to church and yet here I am supporting charity. Thank you.

She walked away and when I turned around, Mr. compensation was gone too. Overall, it was a very humbling day. I am actually not over it, a whole week later.

We learnt several lessons and are very grateful to everyone who took the time to participate and was patient with us throughout.

.I wish my team could get a month off or more, for all the hard work and sleepless nights. You guys rock!

Unfortunately now that we have raised the money, the work has to begin. Just to reiterate, we managed to raise 11,376,700 on that day, after an initial investment of 4,712,600. That means we have 6,664,100 surplus that we shall inject into our programs starting next month. Literacy and numeracy as well as food and nutrition shall be our focus as we continue to better the lives of those less fortunate than we are.

How do you like our custom made boots and medals? I just love my team’s creativity and how they are constantly re-inventing things that would otherwise seem so ordinary!

boot 1

boot 2


Congratulations Team Wesonga (Winner) and Team Benezeri (Runner up). The finals took place using ‘DIY flood lights’ and it worked!

This was our biggest event yet, with over 1,000 people present and we don’t take it for granted. Keep spreading the word and being the change! The numbers are great but having you as part of our movement and programs is even better.

To our partners, friends and well wishers, the team at 40 days over 40 smiles says thank you! It is because of you that we have made 2 years and can’t wait for the decades to come.


Playing for a friend lost too soon

I remember I was still in bed when a message came through, “Have you heard that Adam passed away?” it read. I got up and began to ask “How, why, when…?

When I logged into facebook, the News was confirmed. I remember being generally livid because the year had barely began and all the deaths that occurred seemed to be of young people. It was totally unfair.

 See I shared a class with Adam. He was one of those people you couldn’t help but notice. Funny, cheeky and enormously care free. Even when he tried to tease me, it was impossible to get mad at him.

 He always had a smart retort and even the teachers secretly grinned as they apprehended him.

There is only so much you can say about loss for it is he who gives that takes away and we have to trust that his timing is right even if we are hurting.

A couple of weeks ago I received a message from Adam’s friend Biko on facebook. I must admit I was a bit shocked even before I read it. I hadn’t heard from him in years and was curious to know what the contents were.

He was interested in the event 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation is hosting tomorrow: “5 Aside UG” I gave him the details and now and again, he kept asking for updates on registration and other requirements.

A few days later, I saw another friend, Tyler share our event poster and add that they were fielding “Team Azarov” (Adam) for the event in his memory. My heart sunk. I had to try hard to swallow the lump in my throat. It was a beautiful gesture that also made me very sad. That is life I guess, bittersweet.

I collected my thoughts and decided there and then that I would pay a small tribute in the best way I could hence the blog.


Through my ‘research,’ I found out that Biko initiated this idea. This is what he had to say.

Adam left a trail of smiles along his life path so when Tony (another friend) told me of the exhibition Esther had put together with 40 days over 40 smiles, it made sense for us-to celebrate Adam’s life having fun and leaving a few smiles as we did so.

Kaahwa Morris

Adam is someone I met in my first high school year at Aga Khan High School. He was a friend and classmate of my older brother but eventually became one of my friends. I spent time with him during recess whenever I used to go see my brother and as we walked out of school everyday…But man Adam was always fun to be around, hands down. He was always happy, I don’t remember ever seeing him down or quiet.

Rest in Peace Adam, you will always be missed.

“Tyler Himself” who is Morris’ brother said;

Adam was a friend, brother and binding factor in school and after, a person for the people and by far the most social person I have ever known. We miss him now and he still lives within us. Rest in Peace Adam.

 Sigh. Receiving these messages was difficult but typing them is downright heart wrenching.

Team Azarov shall be at Bush Court tomorrow wearing t-shirts with his face as they participate in #5AsideUG.

40 days over 40 smiles is humbled and honoured that they chose to celebrate Adam’s life with us for a cause that is beyond any individual.

May Adam’s soul rest in eternal peace.