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Meet Uganda’s Unsung Youthful Charity Hero

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information pills http://conceive.ca/wp-admin/includes/plugin.php geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 115%;”>It was my first time visiting this deeply fashionable though modest restaurant. It is here that members of healing geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 115%;”>40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation gather to brainstorm on how to rebuild lives of the vulnerable children.

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A good time keeper, Kalenzi grins broadly before settling into an armchair.

“Oh, nice to meet you,” she declares.

At just 25 years old, Esther, as she is fondly known by her peers, is the brains behind 40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundationa charity organization that has turned around lives of hundreds of vulnerable children.

A graduate of Mass Communication at Uganda Christian University, Esther recently resigned job at a marketing firm apparently to concentrate on building capacity for the budding charity organization.

“The organization is growing so fast. So many people are embracing our idea of giving to the needy. And this demands that we have a specific address because no one will entrust money or grants with a briefcase office,” says the youthful philanthropist.

Sporting tight jeans, a yellow top and black jacket, Esther is so fresh-faced she looks barely old enough to engage in philanthropy, an area hitherto reserved for the old and wealthy in our society.

But Esther seems to have pulled off the notoriously tricky transition from childhood dreams to serious adult acting with self-confidence and compassion.

Serving the community is a gratifyingly grown-up part for Esther.

Her good-girl persona and unwavering commitment to rebuild shattered lives of the vulnerable, Esther’s life is an intriguing departure from the stubborn and Tomboy childhood days of climbing trees with her three brothers.

I HAVE A DREAM

In February 2012, Esther got an idea of transforming lives of orphans. Like most of Ugandan youth, she was “misusing” Facebook.

With thousands of friends on the social media platform, all Esther could do was post her pictures and chat with buddies about parties.

Esther speaking to Chimp Corp Giles Muhame on Thursday in Kampala

“However, one day I was like let me ask my friends to contribute food and apparels for the needy. Some people embraced the idea and generously contributed several things. So one day I saw a friend who had posted on Facebook that they wanted relief items for God’s Grace Orphanage in Kyebando – and I was like wow, let’s make the kids smile.”

In a week, Esther raised Shs3.1m and several bags of apparels.

She was hugely overwhelmed by Ugandans’ willingness to sacrifice their hard-earned money to charity. The better part of contributions came from the youthful Kampala dwellers.

Perhaps she could do more. Perhaps the social media was a new platform for citizen empowerment and transformation.

That was the turning point in Esther’s life. This was a decisive moment for the youth to refocus their resources, time and energy from worthless life adventures to a great cause – saving and rebuilding lives.

Esther and her colleagues would later travel to God’s Grace Orphanage where they offered apparels and prepared sumptuous meals for the children.

“We enjoyed samosas and cooked porridge for the kids. We played games together. It became a lot fulfilling and worthwhile,” says Esther.

“We have managed to raise funds for the garden and mushroom project to sustain their lives. Long after we have gone we will have built capacity to enable them live on their own and even support others.”

To Esther, orphanages and other homes for the vulnerable should not depend on cash handouts.

To her, empowerment and sustainability is the bedrock for rebuilding lives.

“All we want to see if can they have food for a year without making calls to donors? Can they have medical services at their premises? We have to build capacity so that they can live on their own. We managed to raise funds to help the children establish a garden for food crops and they are now doing well,” says Esther.

Esther (back row holding a baby) is Uganda’s Unsung Youthful Charity Hero

Smiles at Happy Times

At the Luweero-based Happy Times School, which also runs an orphanage, children would use a classroom as their dormitory.

Esther thought the kids could do better. With her colleagues, they managed to raise sh5m at a function at UMA in Kampala thus purchasing a 50—seater tent which now acts as their classroom.

The kids have as well received skills in tailoring courtesy of 40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation.

With time, Esther has realized that while relief items are pivotal in supporting the needy, there is something more substantial – good education.

The Foundation is now “focusing on getting partnerships and bursaries from different education organizations to support the vulnerable kids.”

“We can do a partnership with let’s say top class secondary schools to give bursaries to the vulnerable children who excel with flying colours in Primary Leaving Examinations. Computer training institutes can as well help equip the children with computing skills – that’s the way forward,” says Esther.

Several social functions have since been held to raise funds to build a dormitory wing for the Luweero orphanage.

The Croak and Ryme event at Kampala Sheraton Hotel saw Esther’s Foundation raise Shs3m.

This encouraged the group to prepare for another bigger event held last weekend at Bush Court in Naguru, attracting hundreds of compassionate people.

The charity hero with a colleague at Ceecee’s

Shinning star

At least Shs8, 0444,200 was raised from an investment of Shs2, 840,000 in organizing the Naguru event. “Our surplus was shs5, 204, 200,” says Esther.

The foundation pledged a contribution of shs16m out of the required shs28m for the dormitory’s construction.

“Very soon we shall launch the brick and cement campaign where people will contribute materials for the apartment. We hope that by December, the ground work will be done. People will go there and lay bricks so that builders can take over from there.”

Esther has positioned herself as a shining star and role model for the youth. Her works are a beacon of hope for a generation struggling with alcoholism and promiscuity. Not all hope is lost.

Esther poses for our cameras at the Hoops for Grace event in Naguru last weekend

With the likes of Esther, a strong and united nation is rising from the ashes of Uganda’s destroyed moral fabric.

Esther is ambitious. She not only loves children but also giving back to society.

“I want all Ugandans to know that giving to charity is a good thing. I want us to be our neighbours’ keepers. That how we shall get rid of the selfish mentality” she states, confidently as I enjoy my soda.

Esther’s initiative has brought hope whose feathers have perched in the souls of the vulnerable – and sings the tunes without the words – and will not stop at all.

Her works demystify the myth of a destroyed generation.

“We are proving that the youth of today are not just on sexual networks and drinking and partying but building a better country for ourselves and generations to come,” says Esther, confidently.

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