Do unto others

Part one (story number 2)
Some months before the 4040 journey, my friend started a company.
Let us call him Frank.
He invited 5 other friends, including myself, in different positions. We all had other ‘hustles’ and met once a week.
During these weekly meetings we discussed the vision for the company. We also contributed financially to a ‘fund’ during each meeting.
One of the issues to tackle was climate change and we were planning a symposium. That was 6 years ago so you can imagine how ‘current’ the themes were. We would probably have accomplished quite a bit by now.
I speak of it in past tense because one day we were up and running and next day…we just weren’t.
Frank is quite ambitious, a go better who had a clear vision of what he wanted. Some of his friends were either less interested in this particular venture or just weren’t in the place Frank needed them to be. They missed meetings without apology and generally had a laid back approach to work.
I do not like to start things if I have no intention of seeing them to the every end and generally frown upon unprofessionalism so I was bothered by their laxity. I mentioned this to Frank a few times but I could also see they were friends first, even closer to him than I was, so it remained one of those things I couldn’t do much about.
I decided I would do my part. Another friend, Sophie who was in charge of accounts also took her work seriously. We would balance it out. I hoped
We started setting up meetings to rope in partners. We weren’t going to fight global warming on our own, now were we?These 20 something’s were ready to take on the world.
I even got shares in this company..Whaattaabout?!
Along the way, without so much as a goodbye, the company went into oblivion. I can’t quite say how or when..but it did.
Maybe the time wasn’t right or the team wasn’t ready; perhaps other life commitments took over. I will never really know.
This week two things happened to remind me of Frank’s company. I got a notification about a Facebook like (as I am an admin on the page) and I took a boda boda that rode past one of the organisations I had approached to partner with us.
I smiled.
Fast forward, 4040 begins and I give it my best. I have a team made up of friends so there is a line that should or shouldn’t be drawn. It’s a conundrum.
I look back at my work with Frank, there may not be much to show but I do not regret giving my time and resources.
I was supporting a friend, when he needed it and I would like to think I accomplished that.
Part two (Story number 3) *You will notice that this is like 5 stories in one so please allow me to combine , and count them as two-yes? Yes. Thanks
Later on,Frank gets a good job as the right hand man of a prominent C.E.O. Circa early 2014, we are in the process of building a dormitory and we are Ugx 5 million (approximately $1,500) away from meeting our target. We have run campaigns, organised events and used up all the ‘public’ avenues to raise funds. I pray for a miracle and make a plan to ensure anyone who dares to ask “how are you?” gets the real truth.
Stuck is where I was. This dormitory needed to be completed and short of a miracle, there was no other way.
Around that time, *Ruth and Frank* get in touch. Ruth was coming into the country for a short while and wanted to have tea..Frank was just casually checking in on me.
I told both of them about my struggle.
Ruth immediately offered to contribute Ugx 1 million. I wept!
By the time Frank checked in, my problem was less by a million shillings. I told him we needed Ugx 4 million.
He also immediately suggested his current workplace and asked me to draft a letter.
In our conversation he told me to consider it done. Given how close he worked with the CEO. I believed him, without a doubt.
The next day, I trekked to town armed with a soft copy of the letter, an empty purse and a grateful heart.
I went by Frank’s office after printing the letter. He suggested changes. I went back to the printery, edited and brought the ‘final’ copy complete with attachments.
I walked to Ruth’s with a spring in my step and told her about my miracle. She was excited. We had our tea and she handed me the 1 million at the end. This was the work of God and I was honoured to be a servant.
A week went by and I contacted Frank.
He said I would have feedback the next week. After one week I got in touch. He mentioned his boss was away.
Next time, the boss was ill.
Then, no reply.
Suddenly,all  my messages and calls were being ignored..
I was confused because all he needed to tell me was that the request was rejected..or even come up with some story about the organisation only taking part in a certain kind of CSR which we didn’t qualify for, blame it on global warming. Anything.
Radio silence.
Finally I got a clue and decided to look for the balance from scratch. It was H.A.R.D!
I blamed myself for counting my chickens before they hatched. I was the only fool in this equation.
The thing that confused me the most was I did not see why Frank had to treat me this way. It made no sense. We were friends. I had spent two years hustling to build 4040 and he knew it. I mean, I could see why someone else would do this and have experienced it from several people especially on this 40-40 journey but him.why?
I was perplexed but I had to let it go, grudgingly.
For a long time I thought I would not be able to look at Frank or speak to him. I felt he had treated me like awfully and I didn’t think I deserved it. When I confronted him, I left feeling patronised and had to accept an apology than I never did receive. He literally acted like nothing had happened while I nursed my still-very-fresh-wounds.
In case you were wondering, we managed to raise the Ugx 4 million balance. It was not easy but we somehow did.
The story wasn’t over.Yet
About a year later, 4040 starts another campaign to raise funds for a second dormitory, for girls. Lo and behold! Frank asks me to draft a letter so he can talk to his boss about funding.
I read the message and all my frustration and anger returned. I felt sick to my stomach.
It felt like deja vu except I knew for sure it was real and not the brain playing tricks.
I decided to take a few deep breaths and then I called Sophie.
Now in case you don’t remember, Sophie had served with me at Frank’s company..and was now volunteering with 4040.
The conversation went something like this
“Frank has contacted me about contributing for the girl’s dormitory. If he is serious, I don’t want my pride or feelings to get in the way of our girls getting a home. I don’t trust myself not to have an outburst or say things I will regret so do me a favour and take it on from here.”
She understood. I later drafted the letter and send it to her. She did the follow up while I remained present only remotely.
In a couple of weeks, the payment was approved and an EFT made to our account.
I generally like closure and would have wanted to know what changed this time round. It would be nice to understand why my calls and pleas were avoided like the plague. Was this second attempt penance?
However, none of these is as important as the girl’s dormitory that finally became a reality because hundreds of people contributed, including the company Frank works for.

The complete dormitory for girls in Bombo, Uganda

What would you do?

This is my second and third installment in what I hope will be 40 stories about the 40-40 journey spread out during these 40 days of lent.


Learning to Fly

I was about 18 when I got my first driving lesson. I am pretty sure my mind deliberately skipped the process and focused on the ‘end game.’ I was exhilarated knowing that one day I would have the chance to get out on my own, in control of a ‘machine’ unsupervised and ultimately join the adult universe.

When I finally did, the feeling was incomparable. Also, I had wild and free natural hair so with windows down, that wind through the hair effect was massively felt: D

I learnt soon after that I got a huge adrenaline rush from speed.  I also discovered that unless I know my driver well, I am bound to be hitting imaginary brakes whether I am in the front seat of a comfortable luxury car or the back of a stifling bus.

My patience was heavily tested this one time on the way from Gulu when the driver decided to give us a free late night show. “How to react when faced with a near-death experience.” Had I not been too busy saying one prayer after another, I am sure I would have walked up to him and…Wait. What can you really do to such a person in that moment?

I have been thinking a lot about mobility lately. In another lifetime, perhaps I would consider learning to fly a plane. It would not be for commercial purposes I imagine. Maybe on a boring Saturday, the kids and I could fly to Mbale-just because we can 😉 Anyway, moving on..

In my mind’s eye, I see a toddler learning to walk. If only we could read his mind, would he be thinking “Freedom at last?” or perhaps “Thank goodness I don’t have to be carried all day.” (insert baby language)

It is a precious thing we often overlook really, to be able to get up, walk, run,  do things on your own-you know?

I know a brilliant gentleman who has been paralysed for over a decade now after sadly suffering a stroke. He was soaring high, tremendously successful in his career when it happened.

He has had to re-learn many seemingly ordinary actions and some, he hasn’t. Many of the things he has failed to do are because his soul gave in quicker than his body after that experience. A state of depression has overshadowed any progress he could have made.
Whereas, I can’t begin to grasp the extent of distress him and his family have had to experience- I think we can all relate to loss of someone-a bond-a career- a dream. Name it.

Can you imagine going blind after enjoying sight for so many years? The torture of losing a limb or two and having to watch people take care of you as if you are a child all over again?  This after you were an athlete and your limbs were what you believed defined you? To lose your memory of the things you loved and people you adored? It is utterly terrible

“Fly without wings;
Dream with open eyes;
See in darkness.”

I have to get  used to using only one of my hands for a few days. I decided to think of it as walking a few metres in the shoes of someone who deals with this on a daily (a mile would be quite inaccurate)

My respect for people with disabilities who beat all odds to go on with their lives even when our systems don’t always provide the resources they need keeps increasing.

I recently watched a piece on NTV News about this boy who is sitting for  Uganda Certificate of Education (U.C.E) exams. He is unique because he will be writing with his foot. I was amazed by the beauty of his handwriting but mostly his determination!

He will not be given extra time and shall be expected to finish the examination like everyone else, after 3 hours. He was shown doing other things with his feet, like eating, sipping a soda and using a phone. My heart warmed up in all kinds of ways!

I will certainly be rooting for him!

If you are stuck in a rut or failing to move from one place, it happens.

Take two extra steps daily in preparation for that race. You will soon find that, you will be ready to fly 🙂

“If you were born without wings, do nothing to prevent them from growing.”