Politicians and Tabloids

14

Two years ago we organised a medical camp in Kibuli. Once in a while we would tag ‘big wigs’ and invite them to put events but they would never show up.
This time Amama Mbabazi replied. Nonetheless, we didn’t think that he would show up so we made a joke of it.
That Saturday morning as we dropped volunteers, the conversation began; we discussed what would happen if the State found out he was appearing at our event soon after leaving his position as Prime Minister (of Uganda). Around this time, there was speculation that he would run for President.


My friends (and colleagues) assured me they would delete any evidence of having known me. *True friends are rare* Others assured me they would lead any security operatives straight to my home..and then disappear; if it came to that. We laughed it off.
As the event came to an end, I found several missed calls and notifications when I checked my phone. The first person I called back helped explain the situation. Amama had tweeted asking for the location of our event.
Wait. What? How? Which? There were so many questions. Someone went and picked him at the point which he had gotten lost.
Meantime, we had mentioned the camp would end at 5 and here we were cleaning up, a few minutes after 5. He arrived and we (the remaining group) talked for a bit as he asked questions here and there. It was pretty harmless.
A few photos were taken and then he left. That night, only a few people spoke about it online and I was relieved. It was soon forgotten..or so I thought.
The next day (Sunday) we had a stategy meeting at the office. I got a call from a Red Pepper reporter asking for a comment from the day before. My response: No comment.
He called again countless times. I found he had also followed me on Twitter and sent me a friend request on Facebook.
I ignored him..and I also became extremely uncomfortable.

Seeing as tabloids can make up a story in a split second, I started to think of all the possible scenarios. A political angle maybe? No money had exchanged hands but I imagined that train of thought was also a possibility. That night I made the mother pretty uncomfortable as I told her to expect the worst in the next day’s papers.

Poor woman who is always at work by 7 went even earlier and sent for a copy of the newspaper.
She didn’t need to look further as our picture on the front page greeted her.The newspaper was promptly delivered to me🙇
Story on page 2: Apparently, Amama was launching a youth campaign ‘We are the change we want to see’ campaign or something like that (The 4040 tagline is “be the change you want to see”)
My no comment had developed into a paragraph on page 2😐
To be honest, I had expected a lot worse and my dear friends had promised to deny me so..we thank God that didn’t end badly 😉

Advertisements

In the beginning

When Linda dreamt of travelling the world, she figured it would be only for pleasure; to relax, learn about different cultures, meet several people, make friends out of strangers, experiment with various cuisines, write and then live to tell the tale. As with most dreams, the package was considerably different when it arrived.

Her chance at a London experience showed up in form of a scholarship that she never imagined she would get but that is a story for another day.

Linda’s departure was mostly heartwarming with a hint of pain that was safely tucked away for future reference. She spent time with her loved ones, most of whom passed on a word of advice or a gift and lots of laughter. Others shared something even more precious, time. The distractions were quite welcome as she did not have too much time to think about the changes that were yet to come.

At the airport, she shocked herself when her friends left and no tears welled up in her eyes. Progress, she thought.

She took a corner sit and drank a cup of tasteless overpriced coffee. It wasn’t long before her stomach reacted and begged to be released from that misery. It could have been the anxiety, the terrible coffee or both. She did not care. She needed to be physically prepared for the 15 hours ahead. “Will there be enough leg room, will I manage to catch some sleep, shall my neighbour snore?” were some of the questions running through her head.

When she spotted Maureen*, whom she had not seen in years, she smiled to herself. If Ian had been there, he would have started a long speech about how she knows someone in every part of the world. She walked over to Maureen and tapped her shoulder. Maureen turned around and her face could not hide the surprise. They caught up for a while before an announcement was made. Boarding would begin shortly. They exchanged contacts and Linda caught up with the other two Ugandans with whom she was traveling to London.

Helen* was wearing a ‘kitenge‘ dress and open shoes, much to Linda’s surprise. Was this an attempt to bask in the glory of African heritage in the meantime or did she not have any warm clothing? Linda decided to pose the question as she could not imagine how Helen hoped to deal with the winter upon arrival in the UK. Her fears were confirmed when Helen explained that she planned to shop in Doha during the two hour layover. Linda started to spell out that the prices would probably be outrageous but quickly realised that her counterpart was quite unruffled. She then offered what little garments she had in her hand luggage and went on to scroll through the available entertainment.

The intern was an easy choice as she needed something with a simple story line and a chance for laughs. Alas, the laughs came with tears too. It was difficult to tell if the emotions were entirely brought on by the movie or if it was simply the spur that the heart needed to face its imminent situation.

The hours flew by, laced with drama from the little toddlers sitting next to her,some depressing music from Adele and failed attempts at sleep. The minutes before landing at Doha were a complete delight, everything sparkled like a collection of jewels. All she could think of was the vastness of God’s empire and its boundless beauty.

The two hour layover confirmed the fears about airport prices. Helen found a pair of jeans at $200. She settled for a pack of socks at $21. Linda caught herself a little too late when she  started to ask Helen why she had not shopped in Downtown Kampala where things would have been much cheaper. There was really no use crying over spilled milk.

The group grew larger when the Ugandans got to meet the group from Kenya (which is the biggest) and the lone Tanzanian. They were reunited, a year after their first encounter. Odd hugs and handshakes were exchanged as everyone tried to remember each others names and grab a seat pending the connecting flight to Heathrow.

Linda later found a seat further away, prior to boarding. She met Isaac,* a Nigerian who had traveled back home for the holidays and was returning to work in London. He tried to convince her that Uganda had pyramids until they agreed that he must have meant Sudan. He was quick to offer tour guide services when he learnt it was Linda’s first time in London. Mmmhh.

The remaining journey was longer, ‘bumpy’ and did not have enough distractions. Attempts to sleep as late as 3a.m were futile but Linda did not stop trying and frantically looking at the clock. Alas, there was no winning.

At 6.40 a.m, after what seemed like decades, the plane finally landed at Heathrow. This marked the final step, in the beginning of this new journey for 15 East Africans, many of whom are parents, continuing with their Masters’ degree, several miles from home.

In the following weeks, we shall stalk Linda and all her ‘maalo’ as she meets people,discovers places and deals with her very first winter.

Google image

Google image

 

 

Every teardrop is a waterfall

 

Do you have some habits that are ‘okay’ when you are among friends but seem bizarre when you are exposed to a new environment?

I find it difficult to stifle laughter. Loud laughter is widely accepted in my circles. In fact, I have consolation from people with worse laughs than my own :p

One friend (Hi friend) is so ahead of the game, that before a date, the best advice we can share is try not to laugh. It has gone as far as “Princess laugh” lessons. One would argue she should be herself so that the Prince knows what he is signing up for.

During this workshop, I have caught myself bursting into laughter several times,when the room is quiet only to find the others laughing at my laughter and not the joke. I find this trait more pleasant than a grumpy attitude so I have decided to embrace it, unashamedly. “We want more laughs” is the chant the little people in my head have come up with.

However, yesterday I was shaken when I abruptly found a reason to cry rather than attract stares for my outbursts.

For context, the training I am attending has participants from both Uganda and Burundi. Sessions are carried out in English and French.

I had engaged Ambrose* in a conversation about the situation back home over dinner once before. He gave me a summary based on his experience as a journalist talking about the media houses that have been shut down and the incessant censoring. We had moved swiftly to more appropriate dinner conversation.

This time, it was different.

Ambrose had been helping the facilitators to translate during certain sessions. This time after the trainer finished submitting a point, she turned to find a pensive Ambrose. He was lost in thought and did not move until he was called three times.

He was startled back to reality and explained the reason for his distraction.

“Every now and again, my mind drifts off to my people back home. There are several triggers from simple words or actions that constantly take me away from here. I do not know who is safe anymore and that makes me uncomfortable,” he said.
He went on to add, “I am happy to be spending this week in Uganda. At least I am sure that I will safely go to sleep and wake up to a peaceful environment the next day. I cannot say the same for my people.”

Sigh.

I do not know what got into my eyes at this point but it instantly became a waterfall.

We might be helpless in many ways, but depending on who/what you believe in, do spare time and pray for Burundi.

We have more than we can ever be grateful for in one lifetime.

prayer

We came. We fell. We got up.

By this time last week, my situation was ‘a calm state of panic.’ We were at the Uganda Museum for our third edition of croak and rhyme. While many things were going right, an almost equal number of irregularities seemed to come up every now and then.
The funny thing about being a leader is that you have to strike a fine balance between optimism, realism, patience and unwavering determination during the most demanding situations. I do not think I am even half way there. Therein lies the beauty of time, experience and the lessons that come along the way!
The concept of croak and rhyme, like many of 4040’s ideas was random and uncomplicated, during one of our many meetings over two years ago. As one of the group members suggested the name, we laughed and then fell in love. Just like that, it was adopted and here we are. When I saw the bold words ‘croak and rhyme’ in one of our dailies this week, I grinned as I reminisced. Humble beginnings can surprise you!
This year’s edition was quite taxing. We came up with a theme and then needed to figure out how to work around it. Our wish list was loooooonnng (yes for emphasis) In fact, last year we toyed with the idea of bringing Sauti Sol for the event. *mental note to review my sent items folder for good laughs years from today* The irony that this blog post is coming out when they are in Uganda already for tomorrow’s show! Eh! Perhaps I could get a word with them. No? I digress.
We contacted tonnes of artistes. Some said no, others yes, a few said maybe and some simply led us on because they did not know how to articulate their negative response. I can look back and chuckle now but when it was happening, it was far from funny. We had legends with us though :D. This madam made my waist do things, good times!

These were 'our days'

These were ‘our days’

This event comes with a lot of pressure because of the expenses involved in putting it together. It is nothing short of a gamble and I must admit some of the lessons have been learnt the hard way.

Our first edition brought in a full house at a small venue. The management expected a small crowd and gave us few chairs that they did not expect to fill. Before long, we were trying to create space for the overwhelming crowd. At the end of the event, after realising the profit from their sales that night-they were asking when our next event was and more than willing to provide the venue.
The second one was taken to a bigger venue to accommodate the growing numbers. While we paid attention to that detail, other factors came into play. The World cup quarter final fell on the same date. Additionally, both traditional and social media were awash with announcements from the police about a terror threat to the city. I cannot count the whatsapp forwards I received on D-day warning me and basically asking that we discontinue our plans. These factors worked against us but we still had a sizeable crowd. The event was well organised and raised the bar for us. Armed with these lessons we set out to do even better this year.
The rain during the day got us on our knees, some of us even started yelling at the skies (yelling at God really) and thankfully the weather behaved. The drizzles during Maddox’s performance were hardly felt as the crowd sang along. Blessings just 🙂

maddox 1

crowd 2

 

 

I realised the ‘power of alcohol’ when I was confronted by a reveller who said he could not stand to look at me, knowing beer had run out at an event I organised. Eh, I took cover immediately. We must admit the crowd overwhelmed us and found us under prepared. We take full responsibility. There were other faults that we have certainly taken note of. Be sure to see changes next time 🙂
Despite the massive turn out at the event, the figures were not as exciting as we anticipated. We found out that an unscrupulous individual stole ‘tags’ from our entrance and started selling them to attendees before they reached our team. As a result, payment was made to him and sadly, it will never reach our dormitory.
That Sunday night as we tried to count, recount and then count the proceeds some more, we silently hoped that some of the coins would morph into notes and the ‘1K’ notes would transform into ‘50K’ notes in the process. This was not to happen. BUT. It could be a lot worse! We could have made an investment and then failed to break even. We could have planned this event for months only to have 50 people attend. That did not happen. Yaay!
The artistes gave energetic performances, moreover at no cost. One of the artists’ managers on our wish list insisted that we were making stuff up. There was no way any Ugandan artists could perform completely for charity. Oh ye of little faith! I hope one day they’ll understand that- *It’s not only about the money*
So, as I type this I am over the ‘we could have done better’ and now onto the ‘we shall do better’ state of mind. Everyone who attended and supported us even when we erred, the artistes who resisted the urge to become ‘divas,’ simply offering their talent and the service providers who have stuck with us, you made it possible.
Special thanks to those individuals who could not make it buts still sent entrance fee or directly contributed to the dormitory.

To the team that was behind the scenes, having pre-event nightmares and fighting then making up, then fighting again because you believe in 40-40 and what it stands for- you are invaluable.
We are now Ugx 11 million away from completing the dormitory. It seems like a little. Or a lot, depending on how you view your glass.

Nonetheless, I will be back here with pictures after we complete that building. Until then, please do not tire of answering our call. We are doing all of this, together for Uganda’s future, for a generation that will outlive us and learn from our dedication.
Till then, keep being the change, even when it hurts!
X

After the dorm

“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream.”

Over a year ago when we did our research to decide which community to work with, we were rather overwhelmed by the fact that our best fit desired infrastructure worth 28 million UGX.
At the time, we did not even have a bank account. After months of relentless campaigns, we achieved our goal and put up a dormitory for 210 children.

dorm complete
I overheard someone ask on that very day when we opened the dormitory “What about beds?”
When you work for an organisation like 40-40, it is easy not only to succumb to pressure from the outside world, but also to slowly realise that almost everyone has an opinion regarding what you can do better, when and how. You may attempt to do everything and end up doing nothing at all. Striking the balance between following your heart and taking advice will often seem like rocket science until such a time when structures are stable, responsibilities are apparent, funding is stable and activities are streamlined. That day is coming soon.
I knew at the back of my mind that eventually, an ideal situation for 40-40 would be one in which; a community identifies a need. They decide on a nursery school for example. They are not in position to raise all the funds necessarily but they realise their children need a firm foundation. We ask them what they can provide. They agree to offer land and man power. We then find resources to make their dream a reality. Along the way, health workers within the area agree to visit weekly to deal with any health conditions the children may suffer. Before you know it, one of them has been employed as an in-house nurse. A single father who long since gave up on his teaching career recognises the need within his community and decided to volunteer time at the school. 40-40 partners with an organisation which focuses on early childhood care especially for disadvantaged children. They come in to give the teachers in this area skills and training specific to their situation. The list goes on. By now I believe you get the drift.
We told and retold the dormitory story. One of my favourite memories of this occurred when an article was published days after we commissioned the dorm. Evelyn was at the salon half paying attention to the music on the radio. The presenters spoke only Luganda and she didn’t even know the frequency. She would soon realise they were speaking about ‘abavubuka a’ba zimbye e’Luweero’ (youth who built in Luweero) She became attentive and contacted me immediately. I was thrilled! Brenda on the other hand stopped asking people “Have you heard of 40-40?” and started to ask “Do you know about the youth who built a dorm?” That should catch your attention! 😀
We stayed in contact with Happy Times Luweero but lent a hand to other projects we thought deserved our time and attention.
Then it started to happen!
Students who belong to AISEC, more specifically from China and Japan visited the school. They fell in love with the kids although they could barely speak any language besides their own. One 16 year old boy got malaria and his Japanese parents told him to catch the next flight home or they were coming. He was adamant. He asked to be treated at the same hospital the kids went to and stayed around for another month during which he recovered completely, feasted on posho and beans and helped with the chores.
The students then purchased beds, mattresses,bedsheets and blankets that filled the dormitory. All the children had to do was carry the other school requirements! What a beautiful sight.

Made in Uganda, in fact- in Luweero :)

Made in Uganda, in fact- in Luweero 🙂

beds
One of the reasons we built the dormitory was because the school was taking in many abandoned babies who had nowhere to go yet the space was not enough to accommodate them and the older children.
Looking at the babies’ section, it is difficult to believe that all those children were once squashed in there but then again, there is a time for everything.

Baby Harris (named after a 40/40 team member) was abandoned at 4 days. He has a home now!

Baby Harris (named after a 40/40 team member) was abandoned at 4 days.
He has a home now!

Tunyumila mu pair :D

Tunyumila mu pair 😀

When Hudani Manji Holdings Ltd (Yo Kuku) contacted Brenda about how best to partner with 40-40, we were especially excited to find out that their 64 acre factory was located close to Luweero. The natural option was for their support to be directed to Happy Times.
Since their primary product is chicken, their donation would be in kind. Fresh frozen chicken, for the kids, straight from the factory! When we informed them that the school had no fridge, they replied ‘Let there be a deep freezer that can contain 100kg!’ (not in those words but you get the drift)
Wululu! The excitement! Yes, 50kg of chicken for the children monthly. A meal they only anticipated over the Christmas holiday.
The first batch was delivered on Monday- public holiday just!

yo kuku 2

yo kuku 3

I am hungry!!

I am hungry!!

meal 2

The P7 pupils cut and cooked their own chicken after the exam. No jokes!

The P7 pupils cut and cooked their own chicken after the exam.
No jokes!

One of our findings with people who are looking after vulnerable children in this country is that they want to remain pitiful and show no sign of development in order to attract donors both local and international. Little do they know, it simply makes them ‘less attractive’ candidates for whatever help you have to offer. Sometimes they don’t know better, most times though, they are driven by greed. Like Michael has asked before ‘Can you teach initiative?’

Changing a mindset is certainly a full time job that requires years of patience.

“And sure enough, even waiting will end…if you can just wait long enough.”

The director at Happy Times, Ms. Joyce Namigadde though, tells things as they are and makes it a joy to give. Why? You get to see the developments almost immediately.
In two weeks or so, the school shall be pumping clean water after an Australian family raised $10,000 for construction of a borehole at the school. At the beginning of this year we were working on a proposal to a corporate company whose CSR was directly for water. We soon found out about the Australians who have clearly  kept their word.

borehole
As if this News is not good enough, three of the babies from the home are going to be adopted and given a chance to grow up with a mommy and daddy *clapping incessantly* 🙂
The adoption fees have been used to purchase land near the school that will be used to build a self contained house exclusively for the babies and toddlers.
There is little else to do other than give God the glory.
Hard work, dedication and perseverance pay off. Granted, sometimes it takes a while but your patience will yield fruits.

“It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”

What is your dream today?
#Iam4040

Passion. Pleasure. Pain

It is one year since I made the decision to walk out of what is commonly referred to as  ‘gainful employment.’ When I asked google what it meant, this was the response I got. ‘Employment situation where the employee receives consistent work and payment from the employer’

Never mind that I thought gaining can be in other ways, you know, knowledge, dream chasing, etc? Well, I was wrong-“serving to increase wealth or resources”

wealth, wealth and more wealth. I could argue though that wealth is more than just assets, right? Perhaps,another day.

One Monday two years ago, I opened something that would change my life-forever. At that point, I did not know this, only the author of life did.

Before I knew it, I was in love with these children who fit perfectly in my heart. It seems like their spot had been there all along.

I found myself spending lunch money on a boda boda ride to visit them, work hours to plan for them and weekends to do all the above with anyone who was willing.

40-40 was quickly becoming my life and although I recognised this, I needed to work, survive and be ‘normal.’

It wasn’t very long before I realised that I was biting more than I could chew. By day, I was keeping the social media pages active, running to hospital to visit a sick child, meeting potential partners and countless things in between. By night, I was writing business plans, editing marketing strategies and looking over proposals for the job that paid my dues.

I always told my boss “I will have it sent to you by end of day and by this I mean midnight.” As a result, my emails to him usually had the 11.58pm time stamp. I felt like superwoman. I was chasing my passion and doing my job, surely it couldn’t be that complex, right? Wrong!

My system began to crash physically and emotionally, relationships quietly crumbled and at any one time, I was under pressure from not one but both ‘entities.’ It was a nightmare!

Crossroads

Most of the people who cared about me expected me to ‘snap out’ of this ‘charity thing.’ Explaining my predicament only proved them right. “Focus on your job,” was the easy response.

Here I was-a journalism graduate writing business plans after failing to find work in ‘my industry,’ a ‘mobile mind’ that jumped at any opportunity to work out of office and ‘multi tasker’ who could not even realise when to ‘give up.’ Something needed to change-fast.

Decisions…decisions

I decided that I would not think about how to survive or what the future held, not too much at least.

I had not consulted anyone before starting the 40-40 journey. I took it then invited people to take it with me. It somehow worked.

I made up my mind to leave the job on my own and hoped that those who mattered would understand my decision and support me.

When I sent that resignation letter, I felt a strong sense of peace and a similarly powerful sense of panic. I am all about the optimism so I had to make sure the positive outweighed all other depressing thoughts. *breathe*

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

What next?

I needed some time to think, take a journey of self discovery and come back ready to do the job I was made for.

That was not to happen, not quite at least.

I no longer had ‘work’ as an excuse so structures had to be set up, plans made and as much as possible and we needed some evidence of progress, right? Okay. *breathe*

The Marathon

The events that followed were mostly miracles and if you believe in signs-these were the ‘loudest’ signs you could find.

I do not take credit for these. Many nights I went to bed and had this to say to God. “Really?”

When I quit, I barely sat for a week, ‘scattered brains,’ as we like to call them were at their best(worst?)

We planned a team building at one of the team member’s homes. While there, we had a speaker who among many things said, “ Why do you keep acting like a small organisation? You have grown, by now you should even have an office.” The irony! When I leave work is when you bring up such things? Thanks!

That night I went home and told mom. She knew someone who was leaving an office just next to theirs and gave me the contact.

Within three weeks, together with my friends and family, I had the ‘millions’ required to pay for 6 months rent. The rate would be ‘good’ because the former tenant put in a good word for us.

That was just the beginning.

Most of our events brought in about 5 million shillings (total) by then, Hoops for Grace that September brought in 5 million UGX as the surplus..

We would then have our most successful online campaign the following month, dubbed #BuyABrick- for a dormitory we were building. It raised 8 million shillings (cash) in 10 days on facebook and twitter. Period.

The following month (November) came with the inaugural social media Awards. 40-40 scooped the award for “Best Campaign” in a category we were certain we would not see light of day in. Why? The household names we were up against-Coca Cola, MTN and Airtel. How??!

As the year came to an end in December, I would be recognised as the “Heroine of the Year 2013” by the Young Achiever’s awards.

In three months,40-40 had had more ‘action,’ than I could contain. If the universe was sending a message, I had received it loud and clear. Wouldn’t you agree?

What lessons can I share? What do I wish I knew? What does this experience mean?

If at least one person can believe with you and go the extra mile, you are onto something

The 40-40 greater family is in thousands and that looks good-on paper.

The naysayers are lurking around, perhaps even one in three. To keep the main thing, the main thing amidst life’s hurdles is extremely difficult but NOT impossible.

Two years ago I met Joseph* In fact, he was one of the only people on the team whom I did not know from ‘my past life’ (Everyone else was a friend or at least an acquaintance)

He was dedicated,you could see that. Him and I were (are) also very different.  It took a while for me to get used to him, one of the reasons being >> ‘tasemba na kyo’ (loosely translated to mean, he always has the last word) even when it is obvious he is wrong. (in his defence, I also drive other people mad so…)

Let me even give a ‘real’ example. This one time he knocked a policeman (poor boy was on his way to a 40-40 meeting) and as he narrated the story to us, he seemed to suggest that the policeman (who was on foot) is the one who knocked Joseph’s car 😀 <<< see?

Well, he happens to be one of the most loyal members of my team

For almost two years, he braved Entebbe road traffic and a demanding bank job-to attend our weekly meetings(in Kampala) that often end at 9.00p.m as well as having a key role at all our events.

A couple of months ago when African Hope Network offered to support me and 40-40, my opening request was that they facilitate me to hire an accountant.

The first time I mentioned it in a meeting, a few people nodded, some weren’t sure. Joseph*  on the other hand sent me a message that night saying he would quit his job and join me- full time.

What? how? why? when?

I spent the next fortnight giving him all the reasons why he should not make this drastic decision.

I needed him to be sure. I was living a precarious life and did not want to carry any ‘casualties’ with me.

He did not budge.

Well, as I speak, he is my first real ‘employee’ and we haven’t killed each other…yet.

So you can say I am a boss-ish.

Speaking of bosses…

I do not consider myself a boss, it will take some time before I get the hang of it. When I was younger, I knew I would support a cause like ours, not be at the helm of it. See the universe playing tricks again?

Even with the titles Afande, CEO/ED/KCCA/UPE etc that we joke about, I see my team as equals. Some older, some younger but nonetheless, we are all 40/40.

My friend Gloria introduces me to everyone as ‘My boss Esther.’ The most awkward one was recently when I was at her ‘actual office’ and her ‘actual boss’ walked in. “Meet my other boss, Esther,” she calmly said. The expression on his face-priceless!

It’s all about the money, money, money…NOT

For the past nine or so months I have had interviews on t.v, radio, print and several occasions where I have been invited as a speaker.

This is what always happens when the opportunity avails itself, in this order.
Me: Oh what an honour!
Me: On gosh! What am I going to say?
Me: In front of all those people? I can’t.

Me: I do not have anything to wear.

You would think I would be used by now. I shock myself too. Same nerves, same panic, same fear of falling and stuttering etc.

At the end of all this, I will look at my closet, grab something, head out (almost always on my trusted boba boda) and then present myself and my dream.

I do not like audiences or speaking to them but I do enjoy telling people about 40-40 and hoping for at least one convert.

There is always that person in the audience who asks malicious questions so the poker face must be intact (I struggle)

After one talk, this gentleman asked “So how do you keep your hair looking like that if you are saying you are still growing and thus can’t afford salaries?” Before I could respond he insinuated I had a rich man taking care of me *yawn*

I do not know why  people are so myopic. They barely ask what drives you or how you have come this far. When they do, it is after a snide remark about charity and giving too much of oneself to others. Frankly, it is exhausting, but when you want something badly- you begin to gnore even the greatest humps.

Let us think of a business. You borrow money from friends to start it. You ask your family to let you use the garage because you can’t afford rent. You let your employees know you will pay them when things are good but they may go without salaries sometimes. You also assure them that you will understand if they need to go after ‘greener pastures’ because they have to survive. One day, you catch your lucky break, and the rest is history. Does this make sense?

Okay, now replace business with 40-40 but envision it as non-profit but with possibilities for it to employ the brightest and the best and one day actually pay those salaries. To be honest, my team is already all these things, only difference is they are not doing it for the pay cheque- which makes it that much more awesome. Plus of course, they will be repaid ten fold.

So whereas one might recycle outfits and forego vacations or seemingly incredible employment opportunities, there are few ‘real’ things money can buy, if any..happiness and peace of mind do NOT make that list.

Now that I mentioned opportunities, I have remembered my ‘excruciating conundrum.’ After reaching the two year mark at my old job, I figured it was time to move on. I decided to apply for this one job. I actually did fit the part to a large extent.

During the interview the interviewer seemed impressed by the fact that I had managed to balance work and 40-40, until she turned it around. Wouldn’t I give her organisation less time because of my dream? I decided that would be the last job interview I would initiate.

 

After I started to do 40-40 full time, the calls started to come in. The weird bit was that most of them were management positions. I leave my ‘baby’ which is what made you think of hiring me in the first place, come and (hopefully) ensure yours succeeds and then what happens to mine? Best believe their response came with more 000,000’s than words. It was then that I would say thanks, but no thanks.

I did actually try to take part in gigs that could be done part time and at my convenience…Hmm, let’s just say it is not them, it’s me.

From my S.6 vacation when I volunteered as a teacher at an international school where most of the children were snobbish and it rubbed off on the teachers too ,(or is it the other way round?) to the internships I did for four months, every year during my holidays at University, to the office where I watched our pay being swindled and realised I can’t keep silent in the face of corruption to the jobs I have done for pay and the life that I live now- I can safely say that I have never before been as comfortable in my skin as I am now. In the past year, I have felt more ‘useful’ than I have my entire life and that is something that has no price tag.

 

 “I like the night. Without the dark, we’d never see the stars.”

Your script is different

I have friends whose lives have escalated quite ‘differently’ from my own. We are the same age, perhaps even come from a similar background. Our stories might be somewhat intertwined but often take different turns. Angella* is married with kids, Emily* is steadily rising up the corporate ladder and drives a car that costs the equivalent of what I spend in three years, Jane is in a new city each month and Brian* just got an international job that promises practically everything we dreamt of when growing up. Is this their story? Yes. Is it exciting? Yes. Is it mine? No

If society decides to judge you, their examples shall be simple and yet close to home. “Why can’t you be like your friend who……?”They will go on to tell you things about this friend whose story you probably shared in the first place. It is now ‘their’ story.

The truth is that everyone has their own story and there are no stories that can be identical, similar-yes, identical not a chance! For every ‘achievement’ {because this is subjective} you ‘should have’ attained by now, you are aware and possibly beating yourself up enough without any room for ‘concerned parties’ to add their voice.

The trouble is, though, that we often pay too much attention to the voices. These voices tell us everything we are NOT instead of reassuring us about everything we ARE.

In the end, we do not even remember our dreams or what we loved to do. We are stuck portraying everyone’s definition of success but our own. This is a cancer that can eat at you for the rest of your life if you let it.

Let your story be yours. No matter how dull, dramatic or painful it is-as long as it is yours, all else is secondary

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.”

lonely

Before I go

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking at our accounts and realised they could be better. You know how when you are broke and you remember all your debtors? It was a bit like that. I remembered that this organisation had made a 1,000,000 ugx pledge that wasn’t fulfilled. When I contacted them they said their boss had been out of the country (never mind that he was in the papers and on t.v (United States of Kololo perhaps?)

24 hours later, the money was miraculously ‘ready.’ All I had to do was pick it up, and give the 3 people who ‘helped process’ it their cut, take the 40-40 share and go. What is 1,000,000 divide by 4? Yeah. Exactly.

I told them to give us all of it or keep all of it because we would rather close shop than lose integrity. After all, dividing it amongst themselves without us, would mean more for them.Their response? “We’ll call you back.” That call has not come through since.

The truth is that so many organisations and people operate like this in this country and many others- from the lowest level to the top. That does not mean that we should condone this nonsense because it is the ‘done thing.’

On the other hand, we can’t use blanket statements like “That is why I will never help people, they are all crooks.” There is always an exception to the rule.

Change does not have to happen at once. No amount of change is insignificant.

We need to support each other and help those around us grow.

There are some bits of African culture that do not sit well with me.  I will illustrate.

A woman is beaten by her husband for years and never lets the children know, she is the best mother but most depressed human being. Very soon her daughter is 25 and engaged to be married. It is a huge celebration. After the ‘honeymoon phase,’ daughter returns home. She explains that her husband is a monster. He beats her up like he is trying to kill her. Mommy raises her dress and shows her scars. “My child, guma” (hang in there). She goes on to share the stories of what she went through.

We need to speak up..!! NOW not tomorrow.
This year has been an incredible experience for me mostly because it has opened my eyes. It has not been easy and I acknowledge that. That does not take the beauty from it, in fact, it makes it that much more worthwhile.

If I am blessed with children or people to mentor, I would like to tell them things as they are, no sugar coating- only facts!

I would like to illustrate that it is not always black or white, it can be grey.

I hope that I will teach them to understand that passion is a beautiful thing and whether you find it at 13, 24 or 60- the best gift you can give yourself is to harness every last inch of it.

discover you

God has been good. I have no doubt he put me here and gave me amazing people to ensure his work gets done. I will serve him for as long as I live.

Thank you for reading up to this point! I know just typing all this out has exhausted me.

Just remember;

winner

To dreams and more, xoxo

passion

Plan A is always…YOU

“You should not bite the hand that feeds you.’ But maybe you should, if it prevents you from feeding yourself.”

I received a call recently. The lady spoke so fast and I could barely make out what she was saying. Whatever it was, she needed it fast.I told her to slow down so I could actually listen.

She finally introduced herself and  I realised she was someone much older,Maggie,* whom I struck up an acquaintance with in the past. I also eventually managed to make out the ’emergency.’

There were some foreigners in the country who were leaving soon and needed to visit an orphanage ‘ASAP.’ She asked me to be available the next morning to pick them from their hotel, take them around and then safely return them in time for their workshop.

I explained that I had plans and it was short notice so the best I could do was offer them an hour and a half. “What could be more important?” she asked. “Well, I have a team building with the people who actually ensure work is done so yes, they are more important. I have to be on time” “No, you can be late for that, these people will get you funds.” Maggie responded, completely oblivious of the weight in her words.

Fast forward to that morning with the said ‘visitors.’ They were not only impatient and arrogant but also very unpleasant. Almost every sentence  they uttered was said to shame Ugandans oh plus a few condescending remarks.  I was quite agitated but made sure to respond as calmly as possible. There was no way I would stoop down to their level. (Although I must admit I inwardly counted to ten several times before responding)

When I returned to pick them up, they asked something that caught me off-guard. “How come the administration of the home says they do not know Maggie and have not received support from her?” I probed further. It turned out Maggie had made it seem like she had been giving aid to the children through 40-40. Never mind that she can’t even pronounce it in full.

Sadly, I have reached that point where this scenario is neither new nor shocking. My only issue now is that people have so little tact. Okay, that isn’t my only issue but, moving on…

Since when did it become anyone else’ responsibility to find solutions to our problems? Why is it exciting to hear that someone of fair skin is interested in your enterprise yet you can neither sell it to your own people nor hire them?

One in two people shall ask me”Why aren’t you targeting international organisations?” before I have even fully explained what we do.

When I mention that up till now we have achieved some milestones with limited resources from young people in Uganda who are far from wealthy, it isn’t because it is something to brag about. It is something that should be a challenge to the listener but more importantly bring a sense of pride, knowing that homegrown solutions are not simply a myth.

In the event that foreign donors come along, (as they shall), wouldn’t it be much more meaningful if they found strong structures that already exist?

If you haven’t already, please read up on Fitclique256, a women’s only gym in Bukoto that allows women to freely express themselves and love their bodies while having some fun along the way.  It offers different classes from yoga to dance to encourage a healthy lifestyle in a comfortable environment.

Before Mildred Apenyo began this gym, she had gone to gyms which were mostly filled with men who weren’t always pleasant to the fairer sex. Why not have a space free of distraction and judgement, she thought? Voila, the dream was born. It has also taken her places I might add.

The Medical Concierge Group is another great example of a company addressing local needs. They provide accessible and affordable health care using seemingly effortless methods that were hitherto not applied.

If these enterprises get international recognition, (as they have) it is obviously great. However, the onus is on us to appreciate and support them even more because we are the ‘real’ beneficiaries.

A few minutes ago,I looked at a list of all the things our office needs. Some are out of reach at the moment, others quite attainable.

Instead of looking for solutions outside, I decided to ;

1. Write this blog

2. Start finding solutions after writing this blog.

Okay bye.

“You cannot build character and courage by taking away people’s initiative and independence”

we can do it