What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

This is probably the most excited I have been about writing a blog post! Perhaps it is because I don’t have to write much, or maybe the fact that it is something close to my heart. Either way. I can’t wait to share!

When I read the book Lean in, by Sheryl Sandberg at the beginning of this year, I found myself taking notes, nodding and generally falling in love with the brain of this woman. It is not that what she was ‘saying’ was new, more like she had evidence to back what I felt, what several women have felt for generations.

We are often afraid to risk, to lean in, to take positions of leadership. I mean some of us cannot even take a simple compliment! I can’t count the number of times I have been asked to write a brief about myself, a personal statement or just a simple cover letter and gone numb. I start looking around for someone who can help me describe myself! It is a bit ludicrous when you think about it but it is true. Ask me to point out good qualities about my loved ones, and I can go all day. If you can relate to this, fear not. You are not alone. If you can’t, good for you. You survived the bug!

Do you love your job or is it what your family expects of you, what society finds acceptable? Are you happy in your relationship or afraid to let go because ‘what if I don’t fine someone else?’ These are some of the questions I would like you to contemplate as you go along.

what would you do 1

Please watch this speech by Sheryl, as she talks to these graduates about leaning in and the real world to catch my drift.

I asked a few ladies what they would do if they weren’t afraid. It was so funny because some gave me 431 follow up questions, others told me to give them time to edit their pictures while some were even more excited than I was. Can I just say a quick shout out to technology for making it all that much more bearable?

Some ladies shared about career, what they should have done way back or what they can still do. One even had a complete ‘how to’ guide :D. See for yourself

 

Kyarikunda

Dru

ritah

Sharon

Pesh

 

shunkunu

 

Gloria

A few women have dreams that they are yet to chase, talents they have’t fully exploited, plans to do more with their time, pursue another degree, start a program..Do you fall under this category?

Esteri

Damalie

Karungi

Hannah

Kemmy

Carolyne

Is it a character trait you can’t seem to shake off, does society often determine how you act or feel, are you unable to forgive,is there something you want to say but are too afraid to?

Kamara

Celine

 

E

Violet

Laura

Felicia

I must say, this exercise got me thinking. I think I am going to just pack a little bag and run away after clicking ‘upload’….if I wasn’t too afraid.

I have a sticker on my wall. It reads “Courage does not always roar, sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying I will try again tomorrow.”

I hope that you who is reading this can try again tomorrow, that you can face your fear. The worst that could happen is that you will fail and guess what, failure is for mortals like us!

P.s: If you would like to take part in my ‘what if you weren’t afraid challenge,’ send me an email here.

A huge thank you to the ladies who participated, bearing my incessant reminders and letting me share a part of you with ‘the world.’

what would you do 2

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Me, myself and I

Someone once told me ‘never to start’ if I wanted to live with my loved ones peacefully.

In her view, if you know you aren’t going to do something ‘till death,’ it is better you do not start it at all.

Here is an illustration;

If a man is courting a lady and pulling out as many tricks as possible out of his bag, he should be ready and willing to maintain them when she finally says yes.

That means if you opened the door on date number 1, you should keep this up even on date 762. If you used to tell your wife you loved her ‘curves and edges,’ after her third child, you better be ready to continue complimenting her figure.

If you do not intend to then simply ‘don’t start.’ Now does it make sense?

We had a good argument about this. I explained to her that some things are possible ‘now’ and might not be in future so you need to maximise the opportunity while you still can. If you are wealthy, your children deserve to have the best life you can afford. In the event that something goes terribly wrong, and you become bankrupt for instance, at least they have good memories. Would you regret the ‘good life’ they had or wish they had gotten used to rugs in preparation for this time in their life?

Nevertheless, there are times when her reasoning comes to mind and actually makes some sense.

A few weeks ago, I received a rather ‘hilarious’ text from Kate. It was 8.30 a.m on a hot Monday morning and I was figuring my day out when I noticed light flickering on my phone. My day’s first message- “I can’t believe you have also forgotten my birthday,” it read. *Meanwhile, other people were waking up to ‘Good morning beautiful’ texts…but not me*  I digress.

I was flabbergasted. I was not even dressed to leave the house but in this person’s head the day had already ended! I had actually planned to call later that day and wish her a happy birthday-fail!  After giving it some thought, I figured out the problem. She was so used to receiving a message or call from me at midnight so to her 8.30 was too late.

I really wanted to give her a nice long lecture but I thought it would probably make more sense on a different day. How do I ‘forget’ her birthday and also ruin it by trying to pump some sense into her head? I tried to delicately tell her not to ‘attack’ anyone else because people have ‘real’ problems that do not include the day of her birth.

Alas, a minor investigation a few minutes later proved that I was not the only one who had been grilled for ‘forgetting.’ At this point, I decided to laugh it off instead because it was quite ridiculous.

One of the most glaring characteristics I have noticed amongst the human race, over time is egocentrism, in all shapes and sizes. It starts small and then quickly spreads like a bad rash. Worst of all, we practice it with friends and foes, alike.

After satisfying our selfish desires, everyone else can go hang.

Kate didn’t care if I was okay, where I was or how I had been for the past month that she hadn’t checked on me. It was her birthday and thus the world had to stop and pay homage to her royal highness.

“We have a tendency to want the other person to be a finished product while we give ourselves the grace to evolve.”

I see it begin in simple ways. You are late for a meeting because something important came up but when someone else is held up, World war III must erupt. God forbid another person has an excuse! You are the only one who is entitled. Your lateness was understandable but theirs must be deliberate.

The boss makes little mistakes that cost the firm their reputation and maybe even some clients from time to time. The moment an employee even dares to think about almost, kind of, getting close to such a blunder, they will be insulted in tongues and reminded how worthless they are (Imagine the irony if this employee’s photograph is pinned on the wall as ‘employee of the month’ amidst all this drama)

It is more ‘acceptable’ coming from a superior but our peers are often the biggest culprits.

One day, you are ‘bffs’ and the next you are an adversary simply because you did not live up to the standards you set. <<The universe and its mockery.

The other day I overheard Michael complain. His very good friend owed him money and had taken weeks to pay it. “It is only 1 million shillings but he makes it seem like 20 million,” he added angrily.

It took a lot of self-control for me not to turn my chair around and wash his dirty linen in public.

He of all people would, idyllically be quiet on matters pertaining to money and debt but NO…one must show the world how ‘able’ he is.

See, Michael had been in those shoes not too long ago. He too owed money for months, much less actually.

During this time, however, he purchased a new phone, tyres for his car and even gave it a paint job.

You know those people who get potbellies when they owe you money and you are there chilling with your ‘one pack?’ >>>Michael is the poster child.

In all his wisdom, he saw it fit to share all this ‘good news’ with his creditor even though he had failed to pay up. Of course, his car’s paint job was more urgent than paying up his debt!

I really hope when his daughter tells him her school fees is due, he won’t reply “but sweetie, can’t you see daddy is still working on the swimming pool at home?”

I have been guilty of this selfishness too, we all have but can we at least make an effort, slap ourselves out of it when we notice it creeping in?

DO UNTO OTHERS IMAGE

 

Be yourself. No, not like that

Do you choose your friends because of who they are, what they do or where they come from?

I get disturbed when I have a conversation whose path I can clearly tell is headed for a stereotype or two.

Some of our parents (and most of  their generation) find these conversations ‘normal’ and sadly there are many of us who have caught the bug. I will illustrate.

I met a lady I know who is  in her early 60’s and this is an excerpt from our dialogue.

Her: Where are you going?

Me: To a friend’s wedding meeting

Her: Oh, that’s nice. What tribe is her husband?

Me: I don’t know

Her: How long have they been together?

Me: About a year, I think

Her: He must be rich then

Me: I don’t know

Her: Is your friend pregnant?

Me: No

Her: What does he do?

Me: I have never asked

Her: What do you know?

Me: That they love each other and that is all I need to knoW

Even if I had answered the questions ‘correctly,’ she would have found fault if she wanted to.

What followed was a semi-fight. She lectured me on the perils of marrying someone from a different tribe and went on to give me several examples of everything that could go wrong. I told her  all the things in the world that could turn a marriage sour which trounce your spouse’ tribe.

Of course the conversation ended up being about me and why I was taking my time. “Leave that charity of yours and find a man before it is too late, people will even start to think you are the problem ” she said. “People will talk no matter what I do, at least let them talk while I do something I love,” I replied.

I know for a fact that many people think like her but they don’t always get to speak their minds. When they do, be sure to stuff a nice round object into their mouth and then give them a piece of your mind. Okay, that’s a bit much, but you get the point.

society 1

Have you ever met those people, who ask you for advice only to do the exact opposite of what you said?

Anne is just like that. She asks. “Which works better, the blue bag or the red one?” You respond with all the reasons why she should actually carry the red one. Shortly after, she walks out happily with the blue one.

A few weeks ago, Rachel called me at about 1:00 a.m. She sounded so heartbroken. She was sick and tired of her job and simply wanted to quit. Her passion has always been music and she figured now would be a good time to pursue it.

I was really excited for her because she sings beautifully and there are few things more amazing than the joy of waking up to follow your passion.

She told me about all the issues she had at work and how depressed she was.

We spoke at length but I was later quite amused by some of her worries. Even if she called me out of everyone else, (maybe because I quit my job to follow a dream with nothing. No?)it seemed her intention was to actually convince herself that her life is great and needs no alteration.

She explained that she could not face her parents whom she lives with after making such a decision (‘Oh my God Esther, how did you manage? They will kill me’) *No, they won’t but hey that is just me.*

She further told me that her ‘image’ needed to be maintained because she is smart and from a good family of professionals so ‘people’ will never understand the change (Erm…)

“My goodness, how will I survive without a monthly salary that always comes on time, on the 28th?There is no way I will miss a shopping spree or vacation because I quit my job.Also, how does an adult even live a life of uncertainty, not sure when the next big break will come? *Yes, how do those adults do it?*

This back and forth went on for almost an hour till I realised that she did not want to hear the  “Follow your dream” speech. She wanted the ‘blue bag’ that she would pick whether or not I shared my opinion.

There will always be someone who drives a better car, has a fancier job title ,makes marriage look easy,gets all the acclaim, goes to all the great vacation destinations (and takes even greater photographs)…….*insert that which you most desire*

And yet, there is a certain comfort in humble beginnings, stupid mistakes, crazy ideas coming to life because you dared them too.

I guess it is ‘okay’ to want a good life and do everything possible to get it even if it means maintaining a dead-end job as you wait for the next best thing or getting stuck in certain relationships because the other party is of the ‘right’ tribe and has the ‘right’ kind of status. Whatever it is, do it for you, not society because not only do they not really care, they also do NOT matter. (unless you let them of course)

society 3

Against all odds

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” 

 

A confident 30 something corporate lady walked into the board room at an investment firm. She was one of four short listed candidates for a top job.

She was asked several questions among which was the popular, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” She didn’t hesitate. She explained that she could not see that far and would rather discuss the ‘now’ because it is more realistic. She went ahead to add that her past five years had been filled with impulsive decisions that made her who she was today and she would rather not play the game as it should be but rather re-invent the wheel. Her job experience was impressive and her eloquence matched it. The panelists exchanged looks and promised to call her back as they parted ways.

She was the last interviewee and upon her departure, two out of the three panelists scoffed and sneered. In short, she was not traditional enough. Only one defended her ‘out of the box’ thinking.

Yesterday as I was filling an application I got into a similar mental dilemma. I was asked for my 5 year career plan and I quickly filled all the dreams I have for 40-40. I re-read the question and realised it was personal. That meant my replies needed to begin with ‘I’ instead.  As if that wasn’t enough, the next question was “What is your long term career plan?” I am sorry, 5 years was not enough? I closed the page and moved on to other things hoping I would later be inspired.

It is about 8 months since I got out of gainful employment and it seems there is no limit to what can possibly be learnt about people and life in general. I have had to ‘cram’ responses to questions like ‘What next?’ because to them what I am doing is temporary and I should soon snap out of it.

On Saturday a close relative said to me, “ Why don’t you go back to school and do something with your life, you are not Mother Theresa, you know? ” Hehe,  the comeback for that one took a little longer than usual. However, yesterday poor Mother T (rest her soul) ‘came back’ for me. A concerned well wisher asked me what I wanted to do to grow career wise. We discussed options before he remarked, “I understand if your purpose in life is to be Mother Theresa and inspire people. I shall not hold it against you.”

He must have wondered why I burst out laughing after. It was just a weird coincidence that she had come up one more time. Is it strange that I am discomforted by this ‘association’? I haven’t even sacrificed 0.000000001% of what she did for the poorest of the poor. This is not even up for discussion (shakes head), let’s move along.

Why do we have to label everything? Why can’t someone just be who they are?

You are single or married, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, a believer of God or an atheist. When are you just you, a human being?

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” 

Joy, is 36, unmarried and more independent than anyone I know. She has had a series of bad relationships, the most recent being the most peculiar seeing as guy X ran away with several household items because he was apparently broke. She has more money than she can spend so this not so wise gentleman might as well have swallowed his ego and asked. No? Theft works better? Yes? Okay.

Before that she went from one guy to another simply to ‘fit in’ wit the married lot but she has decided to take a well deserved break.

She has reached the peak of her career, takes annual vacations and has pretty much anything money can buy. Is it her fault that she isn’t ‘settled’ yet? What is settling any way?

Society does not want to know her past. This person called society is more concerned about the ring-less finger and her poor ovaries. How shall she manage? Bambi..

Eve, on the other hand, played by the book. We graduated from University at about the same time. Months later she got married to her High School sweetheart and has two adorable children. This is how it should be done, right? She is settled and ‘knows what she wants,’ yes? So how come her and Mark only appear at church and parties together but don’t share a room in their own house? Why does she want to get a divorce but is afraid she will not get custody of her children? Is it her fault? Did she not do what she was ‘supposed’ to do?

Joy and Evelyn represent a world of women and men stuck in situations that are not new or surreal. It is just life being life and male, female, millionaire or pauper, we all have a story and it is even more beautiful if it is uniquely yours!

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” 

You, dear reader, know countless stories of people that are living a life that is not theirs, heck you might be too. The decisions you make are entirely yours to deal with. God knows all the mistakes I am constantly making are copyrighted. I shall not let anyone take the blame let alone consciously blame them!

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”

The business executive who might not get the job because her responses weren’t conventional enough sleeps a lot better than the rest of us who walk with our heads up high because we are conforming to society’s idea of who we are or must be.

I can’t emphasise enough the value of being true to oneself.

If you find people struggling to label you, to explain where you belong or even ‘force’ you to belong somewhere because it will make them feel better, make them understand you or worse still make you just like them, that will be a good time to slowly walk away.

The road to the top is lonely and also narrow, you decide what or who gets to take it with you.

“Let yourself be drawn by the stronger pull of that which you truly love.” 

be you

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 Price of a dream

“Your dream is not big enough if it does not scare you.”

Last year I met someone who said he was interested in hearing more about 40-40. During our conversation he said something that startled me. “Sorry you lost your parents,it must have been difficult.” I was confused. “Did I say I lost my parents?,” I asked, trying to find a polite way of getting to the bottom of it. “No, but I figured the only reason you would be interested in helping orphans is because you are one yourself.” he replied matter-of-factly.

I politely explained what I was driven by and could feel the ‘dissatisfaction’ from across the table. He thought he had cracked the code but now needed to know what my ‘real’ reasons were. He kept probing. I kept cringing.

It is unfortunate, sad actually that society has led us to believe there must be ulterior motives for good deeds. Worse still is the fact that when people fail to find this motive, they will make up one for you.

I will try to ‘briefly’ (because I can’t exhaust this topic) use real life examples of incidents that ‘dreamers’ have experienced and why you have to keep paying the price to see the finish line.

 

When a NO will suffice but….

“I am thankful to all those who said no to me. It’s because of them that I did it myself.”

A musician who is starting out and needs airplay in order for the world to hear her music. She takes her music to a radio station and asks a DJ to play it. After a quick listen, he looks up and says “This is rubbish! The fact that you even thought I could play this on my radio is disrespectful. I suggest you  concentrate on something else because music is clearly not for you.”

Lies often have to be followed up with more lies so I understand why this DJ couldn’t promise to play the song then later bin it, but why not just politely say no instead of using ‘colourful’ language? Well this ‘rubbish’ musician is actually doing quite well, with several hit songs that have been played on several radio stations including the one that was once too good.

Philanthropy on the other hand is probably twice as difficult. You are forced to ‘sell’ feelings like love and empathy and then mix it up with the business angle so that the entrepreneur feels like he too is benefiting. Unfortunately, honesty is a trait that is heavily lacking among several players within and outside the corporate sector.

I was once scheduled to meet a brand manager of this company. He had made promises to support us at one of our events and verbally, the deal was as good as signed and delivered. That is until he constantly made his phone busy, sent messages that read ‘In meeting, will call back’ and generally ignored all my attempts. It is not surprising that when I used a different number, he picked up. I eventually gave up, which is what he wanted.Months later, I met some individuals who had work with him complaining about his behaviour and the scenarios were almost ‘copy and paste’.  When I gave them a brief, they told me to find comfort in the fact that he does this to ‘everyone.’ This was actually not comforting at all! Hope is good but false hope is harmful. Imagine how much time he would save himself and everyone else if he just said ‘NO.’ The brand. He is messing up a brand that he is hired to protect. He knows what budget his company has for particular projects and can explain this in one sentence but no, that isn’t as fun as sending people on a wild goose chase.

“People who lack the clarity, courage, or determination to follow their own dreams will often find ways to discourage yours. Live your truth and don’t EVER stop!” 

Oh, another offer? Yaaayyyy- Right?

Several people shall come up with incredible offers, promises and pave paths for you. They will sound pretty great and you may even start drawing your budget based on these promises. They may even go so far as to put it in writing. Hold on to that champagne. If you don’t, you may have to pop several ’empty’ bottles.

At the beginning of this year, we struggled to complete the dormitory we were constructing. We had had several campaigns and had decided if by December we didn’t have the full amount, we would just have to find other ways to raise it. So behind the scenes,I started to tell everyone I could and on this random day I got a call. A friend of mine wanted me to write a letter requesting his boss for the balance, which at the time was 5,000,000 UGX. He said he had a ‘very good’ feeling because the boss had been impressed by our work. I made sure to follow the instructions. The problem with being ‘in need’ is that you are not sure what is too much or just enough so I tried not to push too hard but still remain in his mind. Each time we spoke, it seemed like the cheque to ’40 days over 40 smiles Foundation’ would be signed that day. I only told one other person (thankfully) and then prayed and waited. Last month this friend told me the boss had been out of the country and was now back.” He approved it,” I was assured. Well, four months and a complete dormitory later, I am still waiting. Champagne does not expire, right?

 

“If you want to be comfortable, don’t try to live your dreams.”

You are no longer just an individual, you are also your product,your dream.

You have to accept that you are now Ashley the fashionista, if you are into selling clothes. People who haven’t spoken to you in years will call when they have a hot date and ‘nothing to wear.’ Never mind that they ignored all your pleas to come check out the new shop.

If you are in the entertainment industry, be sure to anticipate the ‘Can you get me a free ticket’ messages even from that guy who drives past you in his BMW on a rainy day as you walk to the taxi stage.

I can’t count the number of times I have met someone or called just to check on them only to be invaded with ‘Sorry I didn’t come to see the kids with you guys’ or ‘I know I haven’t been contributing but I follow 40-40’s progress..’ and other related disclaimers. When I can, I re emphasise that it is okay for us to just talk about ‘normal’ topics but sometimes I just listen and let it go. Speaking of normal topics, the 40-40 team which is made up of friends often diverts from fun to ‘work’ without intending to. We are at a birthday party and the food is good, music even better then suddenly you hear “I have an idea we can use to improve our data collection.” and just like that, the next few minutes shall be spent dissecting this idea and coming up with many more. *See why I always need a notebook 🙂 *

“Don’t you find it odd that when you’re a kid, everyone, all the world, encourages you to follow your dreams. But when you’re older, somehow they act offended if you even try?”

If you are doing something that isn’t conventional, then you have to get used to people telling you it can’t happen and asking you when you will grow out of it..

Once you are done with school, people don’t expect you to come and say “I have decided to make art pieces by recycling rubbish.” Your parents expect you to get value for the money they invested. Next on the agenda, is the climb on the corporate ladder. When the dreamer in you decides to make the announcement that you believe your calling is to dance and teach people to love their bodies trough dance, do not expect a round of applause. In fact, keep your armour close by just in case. Aisha (not real name) got 24 points at ‘A’ level and got a Government scholarship to study engineering. After graduation, she got a job but also  started to write more and more. She got to recite her poetry and even came out number one at some competitions which she entered. She listened to her heart and tried out contemporary dance which she loved and decided to do part time. To earn a living, she began making jewellery that she sells to friends and through her networks. All this while, her father was flabbergasted while her mom was supportive, or so she thought. Before long, her siblings called her for an intervention and explained that her parents were worried. “Not my mom, she interjected.” It turned out her mom was just not bold enough to tell Aisha to her face that she didn’t support her life choices. Aisha isn’t driving a sports car or working for a top engineering firm but she is happy. This is what should be important to her parents and everyone who loves her , but it isn’t.

Of course they mean well. Their expectations are high and they feel like she is ‘wasting’ her brain away. I am biased, for obvious reasons. I believe if you are tired  of that office that has constant  AC,scrumptious lunch and crazy benefits 😮 and want to trade it in for a life of ‘hustling,’ you should, if only to now what it feels like. If the hustle fails, you can always come back.

“I believe ardently that you should drop everything and run toward your true self.”

I have interacted with many dreamers and they have experienced all this and more. Here are a few truths that I have learnt along the way.

 

You are going to starve so you can feed your dream.

You will forego several luxuries

It is great if your passion can sustain you

If it can’t, work until it can-

You will often stand alone

Sometimes you will cry tears, seen and unseen

You will lose friends and make new ones

You will also make false friends-

The world will give you many reasons to give up, they might even be more than the ones to keep trying

Truth is there are many great ideas, but not enough people willing to risk

The fact is the world needs you

It needs more eccentric, crazy, passionate and genuine dreamers

It aches for faith, hope,strength and dedication that only dreamers have

You need to know that what you seek is seeking you too

You have to keep telling everyone who cares to listen so the dream keeps alive

But also remind your heart, for it hears you speak-

You were born to honour your calling and if it is the only thing you ever do, you will have done enough.

Don’t find faults when you can find remedies

Allow yourself to be in the dark as you wait for the light

Share your sparkle and be so bright you can’t be ignored

At the end of the day, you are on you own.You answer to only you and the one answer I hope that you can give after it is all said and done is “Yes, I dreamed and I lived!”

sky 2

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

medals

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.