BRIGHTEN UP YOUR LIFE WITHIN YOUR LIMITATIONS

The lockdown intended to slow down the spread of the COVID-19 virus and to help in saving lives, is likely to continue in most of our countries. In my country, Uganda ,  we have 55 confirmed cases so far of whom 5 have been discharged, Thankfully, we have no associated deaths among the cases and the health care providers. The Lockdown  was extended for another 21 days  as of 15/04/20. We expected the extension which even includes a curfew from 7pm to 7am the question was : for how long?

We brace ourselves for another 21 days; confined in our homes for our own safety and for the safety of others.

  In today’s world, we want to control things to the point of predicting the outcome in a given situation but then this new virus has rendered us all: rich and poor, black and white ,powerless . No one knows when it will end or the overall social and economic effect it will have on our lives. Consequently, we are stressed , anxious and confused . Looking back at Wuhun, China, the first epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, it took 76 days of tight lockdown and testing to relax the restrictions gradually.

What can help us to go through this lockdown with relative ease, is for us not to lose hope and to remain positive. Nothing lasts forever, it will end and each day brings us closer to that eventuality. To remain hopeful and positive , each one of us has the responsibility to be kind and to spread joy other than panic and fear. Having said that, I would advise that you also pay attention to what you experience every day so that you pick the lessons you need to learn to inform the resetting of your life now and in the future. In life, no experience is ever wasted.

Do not throw a grenade, it is already messy,” I have had someone advise.

We should all be striving to brighten up our lives and other people’s lives too.

 In my own simple way, I am trying to bring colour and energy into our lives by sharing some colourful photos from my collection.

I hope they will colour your life too and keep you hopeful and enthusiastic about life.

A plate of fresh tropical fruits

Colourful and inviting to the eyes and to the palate. The yellow colour evokes warmth and comfort while red evokes love and excitement.

 Lush green shrubs and trees- the leaves glistening in the sunlight, remind me that to live is to be really alive: aware of who you are and your surroundings and engaging fully with life. Connecting with Nature helps me find my place in the universe and reminds me of my important duty of  protecting and preserving it for future generations.

The calm blue ocean

 It calms and relaxes my soul. It always reminds me that I have to be calm and peaceful to think rationally.

The iconic, rugged Table Mountains , Cape Town , South Africa.

When it rains long enough, even the desert blooms

The tall coconut tree-  able to survive hurricanes! It belongs to a family of old trees which have evolved over million of years to withstand their harsh environment. They have spongy tissues and root ball systems that spread  over a big surface area to tap nourishment and water.

I agree with the behavioural psychologists that  our true perception of colours is deeply rooted in our experiences and culture.

At the moment, the majority of us are living in confined spaces but each one can make some  effort to go out and simply create the life he/she wants under these difficult  and  unprecedented times. Like the professional artist, little by little , day by day, each one of us can create beauty and significance  in her/his life using her/his gifts, talents and imagination.  Being technology- savvy keeps you kilometers ahead.

Even in this COVID-19 – induced lockdown, the clock has not stopped and life is still an adventure . I am required to apply  some passion, perseverance, patience, a sense of adventure and discipline, to  create the life I want for myself. I have all the colours of the rainbow to choose from as I paint the canvas of my life.  Using bold, bright colours will help me to keep my enthusiasm for life. Every day, I have to motivate myself by believing that I have to go through this experience to rise to another level of mastery. Challenges and struggles make our lives interesting and overcoming them gives us more confidence and power.

Like the coconut trees which evolved to become flexible and adaptable to withstand hurricanes, during this pandemic , we are truly growing, hardening and evolving.  Many of us will still be standing when the COVID-19 pandemic  is over and we shall be stronger, wiser and more adventurous .

One famous quote by Robert H. Schuller has come to my mind: Tough times never last, but tough people do.”

QUESTION:

What kind of routine have you developed to  help you  find optimal well being physically, emotionally and mentally  during this Lockdown period?

STAY SAFE, STAY HEALTHY.

STAYING HOME TO STAY RELATIVELY SAFE

I read my Bible regularly and that Book of the Philosopher known as Ecclesiastes, verse 15 of the third chapter confirms what we all know: Whatever happens or can happen has already happened before. God makes the same things happen again and again.

While I was reading about pandemics under Medical history and Ethics , I found out that influenza pandemics had occurred regularly every 30-40 years since the 16th century and the question that was always on people’s minds was: When is the next one?

The most deadly Influenza Pandemic of modern times was the Spanish one of 1918-1920. It did not originate in Spain but the 1st World War was raging in Europe from July 28th 1914 to November 11th 1918. The influenza pandemic was spreading quickly in war- ravaged Europe and regulations did not allow journalists  to talk about the pandemic  but Spain was a neutral country in that war so its journalists could report freely about the pandemic and its economic effect on Spain. This is why it was called the Spanish Influenza. Investigative research later suggested that it could have originated in Kansas, USA in the spring of 1918. It spread quickly to Europe, North Africa, India and Australia.

The movement of people and the military during the war, the poor food supplies, and the malnourished state of  the people, facilitated the spread of the virus. The Spanish Influenza Pandemic  is believed to have caused 500 million infections and killed 50 million of them. It killed people mainly between 18  and 45 years of age. The death rate of 2% caused great economic disruption and decline. It was declared a global public health problem and guidelines were put in place to contain it.

The main focus was on  Prevention and Control of the spread of the pandemic by :

  1. Identifying the classic symptoms  and alerting the public
  2. Obligatory confinement of suspected cases followed by tracing their contacts and quarantining them.
  3. Symptomatic treatment  of cases – many of the patients died of pneumonia  caused by a bacteria in lungs already weakened by the virus infection.
  4. Closure of all public places and stopping all public gatherings and congregations.
  5. Minimising travel and quarantining travelers from areas where there were outbreaks of the infection.
  6. The people were given the right information and empowered to take on their individual responsibilities of keeping themselves and others safe.

After this unprecedented pandemic, many lessons were learned from the mistakes and what was done right.  Public health was strengthened and Essential guidelines were  developed which are still being used today to fight pandemics

Coronavirus  disease – COVID-19

These are different times ; we are living in  a well-connected world ,connected through quick modes of transportation like aeroplanes, trains, marine, vehicles on connected roadways. We are living in the science and technology –driven 21st century. The Internet allows the generation, analysis  of data and transfer of it over networks. People can easily influence each other.

Since the Spanish flue pandemic, there have been many medical advances in the diagnosis , management  and  control of common diseases and new ones like SARS and Ebola.

By April 1948, the United Nations had established the World Health Organization(WHO) as the co-coordinating and authority on International Public health and one of its main functions is to fight diseases and  to stop them from spreading.

WHO declared COVID- 19 as a public health Emergency on the 30 th January 2020. The Corona virus is a new virus,  it is a respiratory virus, has no treatment or vaccine and no one has immunity to it. The first cases were reported by 27th December  2019 as  mysterious pneumonia cases in the city of Wuhan, China. Available records of last week from Wuhun showed    81,470 confirmed cases, 75,770 recovered and  3,304 deaths. Wuhan Province has been in total shut down for eight weeks in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus to mainland China and other countries of the world.

UGANDA

The first case was confirmed on 21 st March 2020 and immediately, some restrictions to movement and to public gathering and congregation were put in place for at least 32 days.

The Ministry of Health has done a commendable job in educating us about the new disease, how to protect ourselves and others and what to do if you suspect you have the main symptoms and how to boost your immunity to infections.

Daily updates on the progress of the pandemic at home and worldwide keep us on the right path and empower us to do the right things during this period of uncertainty. I only hope that we are being told the truth about the spread of this invisible killer.

As of today 30th March, 33 cases have been confirmed  at the Uganda Virus Research Institute, Entebbe. They are all imported cases- people who travelled and returned home from countries like United Arab Emirates. Thankfully, the virus has not yet spread into the Community. This must have dictatated the total lockdown declared by the president last night and  being effective from 10pm. Uganda is a developing country, has limited resources, if the virus spread into our community fast, the numbers of patients would definitely overwhelm our fragile health care system.  The fact that 78% of our population is under the age of 30, could be an advantage to us and so are the lessons learned from having lived through and controlled the Gulu Ebola epidemic of 2000, of the west  in 2007 and the Luwero outbreaks of 2011 and 2012. They say that what does not kill you makes you stronger and wiser.

 We are following the WHO guidelines to the letter: early detection by quick testing and quick isolation followed by contact tracing to limit the spread of the virus together with the provision of Protective  personal equipment to the health workers on the frontline.

The most vulnerable among us like the elderly, those in self –isolation, those on HIV /AIDS treatment will need to be supported by the government through this pandemic. No doubt, the lockdown  will shrink the economy  and family incomes but staying healthy takes the priority for now.

 Being in the high risk age group, I have not left home since the declaration of the first restrictions on 21st March.  I cannot thank God enough for giving me this opportunity to be with my octogenarian mother during this unprecedented situation. It has allayed our anxiety and fears. But as a typical Ugandan family, our close relatives are scattered as far as Australia, Canada, UK, Sweden, Italy, USA, Kenya, and Cape Town, South Africa. We are closely connected on Social Media and mobile phones. We are asking two questions: When will it end? and Will life ever be the same again?

 As a health worker, I find it extremely disheartening to see what is happening in hospitals in Italy. I pray that it does not happen elsewhere.

 South Korea is a notable example of a country which slowed down the spread of the virus without applying the strict lockdown strategies taken elsewhere.   In January, the country quickly confirmed that they had some COVID-19 cases and immediately restricted  movement  while testing widely and  aggressively. They isolated  the cases and quarantined suspects. They used digital technology like mobile phones, ATM cards to trace contacts. It reduced the spread of the virus without lockdown .

The reopening of Wuhun, a  Chinese city of 11 million people  after eight weeks of total lockdown  gives us some hope.

This global pandemic is reminding us of how interconnected we are to each other and that we can only defeat the virus if we engaged and worked collectively. Each one of us has a small role to play that fits in the big picture.The reality is that drugs have to be developed, tested and approved  for use in human beings. A vaccine is likely to take 6-18 months to be developed but life has somehow to go on.

I for one have been reminded of not taking life and loved ones for granted and that I can only live a bigger life if I am connected to others. And that my health is my greatest wealth!

 Life never ceases to surprise; on the 29th March 2020, BBC World service featured Bob Weighton of UK as the oldest man in the world. He was celebrating 112 years on that day. What was most interesting about him is that he had lived through the great Spanish Influenza pandemic of 1919 and was now locked down in his home due to the current CODIV-19 Pandemic!

As they say, it always gets worse before it gets better, we all need to prepare ourselves for the worst and to do everything possible to support each other through the pandemic.

“ May you see sunshine where others see shadows and opportunities where  others see obstacles.- Unknown

QUESTION:

Are you playing your role seriously in protecting yourself and others from this infectious virus?

MY UNSUNG HEROINE

Uganda’s ultimate multitasker

 

In many countries of the world, women  are poorer and are marginalized compared to the men. The earliest Women’s Day was observed in New York in February 1909. On March 8th 1917, a demonstration of the women working in the textile factories  in the then Russian Empire, over food shortages and a weak economy  sparked off the Russian Revolution. A week later, Tsar Nicholas 11 of Russia abdicated and the women won their rights to vote.

At the first UN women’s conference  held in Mexico in 1975, the United Nations declared  1975-1985 as the Women’s decade. It  was to draw attention to the plight of women and  to focus on policies and issues that would  improve their status  in the world. It also adopted 8th March as the International Women’s Day.

The day serves to recognise the women and girls contribution towards the development and progress of society. It also serves to acknowledge the achievements made and how far women still have to go in the battle of equal rights. In Uganda, the day was first officially celebrated in 1984, a year before the end of the UN Decade for women. The conference to mark the end of the UN Women’s Decade and to chart the way forward was held in Nairobi, Kenya July 1985. Women delegations from 160 countries in the world converged in Nairobi. Surprisingly, I was included in the Uganda delegation as a medical doctor at the eleventh hour. Women have been graduating as medical doctors in Uganda, since 1959!

I was the youngest member of our delegation. A military coup occurred in Uganda during the three weeks we were away. The Obote 11 government was overthrown by a faction of the army headed by  Brig Bazilio Okello and six months later, the National Resistance Army commanded by Yoweri Museveni toppled  Okello’s government.

When the dust settled, a few of us lobbied the new National Resistance Movement government for a Ministry of Women in Development to drive the agenda of empowering women to actively participate in the development of Uganda and to fight for their rights. Since women’s health and development feed each other, I organized a group of Women doctors around Kampala to establish the Association of Uganda Women Doctors .Our main objective was  to promote and protect the health of women and children and the general population. We strongly believed that  women had to be healthy to participate fully in development.

I celebrated the International Women’s Day, 8th March 2020 ,  a day early with the young medical students at Makerere University Teaching Hospital, Mulago. The students organized some activities to mark the day under the theme: The Woman Within. The activities included aerobics and Salsa and a panel discussion about the Women Doctors’ Association, etiquette, entrepreneurship and relationships.

Then on Sunday , I chose to attend the Old girls-led worship service at my old school, Gayaza High school. The singing, the praise and thanksgiving was comforting to all of us after last Friday’s fire that gutted Corby house . The Lord of the storm was in our midst.

At home, my octogenarian mother celebrated the day watching the official government celebrations in Mbale,  about 225 kilometres northeast of  Kampala. The activities organized under the theme:  Celebrating 25 years of the 1995 Constitution, were to celebrate the women and their contribution to the development of our country. The 1995 constitution made women and men equal before and under the law and entitled to all the rights and freedoms in it. All in all, some achievements have been made but still there is a huge gap between policy and practice.

 My mother watched in fascination, pausing only to pick water or fresh fruits from the refrigerator or use the bathroom. The degenerative arthritis has slowed down her movements but she still has the will to struggle against it. Currently, among the things she looks out for on the television  are: the consecration of a Catholic bishop,  the church services celebrating the Kabaka’s  coronation anniversary and birthday and the Women’s Day Celebration.  She is one woman who struggled to find her sense of autonomy by committing to her children, work and belief system but still remained feminine.

At 12 noon, I found her glued to the television watching the march -past parade led by the women in the Army and Police. A number of speeches followed while I went in and out of the sitting room doing my usual chores. It did not end until twenty minutes to 4pm! She called me out loud to watch the grand finale of the celebrations: the presentation of medals to honour  82 women for their distinguished service to our nation.

“ Do you know any of these women being recognised today?”she asked.

I laughed, “Mama, I’ve been away for more than two decades, I ‘d not know any of the young officers who have come up through   ranks.’’

I listened more carefully. At least I knew Angelina  Wapakhabulo, Lydia Wanyoto, Tsekooko and Beatrice Namukabya.

A Message  alert signal  led me to check my phone. It was from Faith, a classmate in Gayaza High School. She is an engineer married in Kenya. She was informing me that her mother was among those being honoured .

I sat tight and waited . Mrs. Miriam Lumonya ‘s name  was read out , unfortunately I  did not see her join the group. As the Coronavirus has taken over our lives, there were no handshakes with the President or among the women themselves.

“ Does anyone ever remember to honour in some way the women in the villages? They ‘re the architects of our communities. They give until they can give no more.”

“ I ‘ve no idea but I ‘d think that each district would honour its own heroines.”

I understood my mother’s concern for the women deep in the rural areas of Uganda. 70% of Ugandan women live in the rural areas, starting their day at 5am and ending it 11pm!

Our patriarchal society has preordained them  to being the primary caregivers- they take care of their husbands, children, the elderly and the sick. They  are so consumed by this role that they forget to take care of themselves. They have little power, authority and they undervalue themselves. They tend to sacrifice their autonomy to relationships.

In this state , they can never find their unique rhythm, their wisdom or their sense of what is uniquely theirs to give. They cannot factor their own needs into the network of caring relationships. They badly need help to find the balance between responsibility for others and responsibility to oneself.

To me, these are the unsung heroines  of the Women’s Day and the best one known to me is my mother!

My mother lost her father at a very tender age , she had one big sister and a younger brother. They grew up with their mother who refused to remarry into the husband’s family as the culture dictated. She instead committed to her children. The elder sister walked about three kilometres to the nearest Catholic school of the area. Recognizing that my mother was too small to walk that journey, my grandmother pleaded with the headmaster of the nearby Protestant school  to take on her daughter. It was done but it was unheard of at that time!

A Catholic priest from the Lugazi Diocese  was on his routine tour of the parish when he was told of a Catholic girl attending a Protestant school. Father Bohn talked to my grandmother( through an interpreter) and persuaded her to allow her daughter to join the Catholic boarding primary school of Mt. Saint Mary’s Namagunga.  The Irish missionary nun , Mother Mary Kevin Kearney ( 1875- 1957)had in February 1942, opened the school to promote the education of girls. She wanted to increase the opportunities and  help them lead better lives in our patriarchal society.  She also believed that if these educated girls grew up and married educated Catholic men , they would bring up Catholic children.

My mother spent six years in Mother Kevin’s school then joined Nsambya Catholic  Nursing and Midwifery school for three years. The school had also been started by Mother Mary Kevin since she believed that  Uganda needed its own teachers and nurses. The midwives would reduce the maternal and infant deaths.

My mother completed midwifery and was planning to take up Nursing after two years but then my father appeared on the scene. Recognizing that my father was much older than my mother,  my grandmother  was reluctant to give away her daughter.

” My daughter needs a cushion to fall back on. No one knows what the future holds.”

My mother worked for three years then out of my father’s persistence, grandmother blessed their union. They had six of us and we were what I would call a happy family.

Then thirteen years later, without any warning, my mother left home and went back to work as a midwife.That is what she wanted for her life. Probably she found her identity in work. My father never understood why she had traded-off her easy life for a working one!

For thirty years she worked in several maternity centres in the central region. She worked with passion, took opportunities to train and grow. She rose through the ranks. She worked for more than ten years at her last station, Nakifuma, 26 kilometres  northeast of Mukono.

At one time , she had delivered most of the children of the village. It earned her a new name :Omuzaalisa we Nakifuma ( the midwife of Nakifuma) and it earned her a lot of respect and free gifts. Her Maternity unit became a teaching centre for the Lugazi area.

Two weeks ago, I met Dr. Adam Kimala, one of her supervisors , he was full of praise for her.

My happiest moment was in 1982 when I was a first  year Postgraduate student in Obstetrics & Gynaecology  at  the  University Teaching hospital, Mulago. A young woman was referred to us  from Nakifuma maternity centre because she was bleeding  in her late pregnancy. We quickly operated on her, delivered a normal baby and saved the mother. I recognised my mother’s handwriting on the referral  form! By then things were operating relatively well,  there was a functional referral system; one ambulance served four clinics in the district. My mother  was extremely proud of being a member of a functional health care system.

I asked her about her concerns at the present time.

She lives near the Kawempe  Referral Women’s hospital and  her niece  works there as a senior midwife. The niece has told her that the patients overwhelm the number of staff.

My mother wonders why many women are being delivered by Caesarian section  and that a number of these mothers and the babies die. The fact that a number of women still deliver unassisted by health workers and  that every day, 16 women die in Uganda from pregnancy  and childbirth –related causes  , nags her conscience.

The teenage pregnancies also concern her. She begs the adults to allow these girls to become adults before they become mothers.

The last time she visited Nakifuma maternity centre, it was a rundown place. She is not likely to go back.

She has a great sense of radical thankfulness and celebration of her life; she mothered seven children, committed to midwifery, saving women’s lives over thirty years and was able to be both true to herself and to commit to the things and people she loves. She has remained a staunch Catholic  and feels that she has in her own way played a role in raising the status of women in society like her teacher:Mother Mary Kevin.                                              

She remains my unsung heroine.

A woman becomes better at multitasking when she becomes a mother.”– Anonymous

QUESTION:

Has this post helped you to see how in your own way you can assist the  woman in the rural area balance her responsibility to others with her responsibility to herself?

THE YOUNG AND THE VIBRANT

The walkway to the school chapel

THE YOUNG AND THE VIBRANT

A few days ago, I was given an opportunity through the Pamela Kadama  Senkatuka Foundation to visit my old school to introduce the Career  Guidance Programme to the Form 1 students. The foundation was set up in June 2015  to carry forward the legacy of a young ,enthusiastic electrical and telecommunication engineer who in her short life played the role of  a change agent wherever she was stationed.  She was an alumnus of Gayaza High School.

Because of the examples set by my father and the young, vibrant church Missionary teachers at my school, giving back to the community I live in is as natural to me as breathing.

As a Christian I am very much aware of what is required of me:  To whom much is given , much will be required. ( Luke 12:48)

We are blessed  not to contain but to bless others through giving and sharing.

Maya Angelou said: “When you learn , teach and when you get, give.”

My fourteen years at Gayaza High School  endowed  me with many remarkable gifts and abilities like Christian values and principles, the Never Give Up spirit  and lifetime friendships. They shaped me into whom I am today. What I learned years ago on the school farm, during the housework period, in the school plays and on the sports teams still has meaning today. My way of giving back to this great school is to uphold its values and principles and become a role model  and create young role models by the way I live my life.

Among the most thrilling words that one can be told are: “ When I grow up , I want to be like you- helping people and enjoying it.”

 I have met many young girls who want to grow up and be like Dr.  Specioza Wandira Kazibwe, a surgeon,  wife, mother,  and the first woman Vice President of Uganda or Julia Sebutinde, a Ugandan judge on the International Court of Justice.

These  ordinary women struggled against all odds  to become extraordinary in  our patriarchal society! They ,changed the mindset and possibilities of young women much more and faster than the policies and laws on paper.

Many times, I have been thrilled to meet young doctors who became doctors out of the desire to be like me and women who became lawyers after seeing Mrs. Sarah  Bagalaaliwo’s voluntary efforts to help women at FIDA- the Uganda chapter of International Federation of Women Lawyers.

On a warm , sunny day , a group of us including grandmothers, mothers and  young women of different professions, spent almost two hours with the 280 newly admitted  Form 1 students in that majestic school chapel. They were seated on the same pews that I  had sat on  decades ago! For some minutes , I was confused whether the school uniform had been changed since they were all wearing white blouses and black skirts. These girls aged between 12-14 years  were the cream of the a thousand or so students who applied for admission to this 115 years old Church-founded school.This admission in itself confers upon  them some form of privilege and burdens them  with  huge  expectations from the school, family and society.

 I hoped that it was not lost on them that privileges are always tagged with responsibilities, more opportunities come with challenges and  that all choices  have consequences.The students of the Class 2020, looked so young, so vibrant  that they reminded me of my teenage years donkey’s years ago.  They are today’s young ones,  full of trust and optimism. In this digital era, they are the igeneration –defined by their technology and media use,  their love for electronical consumerism and their need to multitask.

During my time- the Baby Boomer generation, the school was the epitome of social progress; admitting students from all the districts of Uganda.  Miss Joan Cox(RIP),the headmistress of the time, would take off time to visit all the 35 or so districts, looking for bright, all – round students and encourage them to join the school. For the less fortunate students, bursaries would be arranged from their district education offices. I have to admit and with pride that the Gayaza High School  of my time was  the most integrated community in Uganda. This diversity of tribes would later pay high dividends to the students as they progressed through universities and their working lives.

Career guidance during my time took the form of old students of the school who had become teachers, doctors, physiotherapists, agricultural scientists, lecturers and some professional parents like the late Dr. F.G Sembeguya, being invited  to talk to us about their careers and lives. The talks would be arranged  during some selected Sunday morning chapel services. These exposures helped us to  find our passions, gifts and desires. In between , the teachers would  endeavour to  advance our career prospects. As expected, gifted students who excelled at both Arts and Science subjects  and were not sure of what exactly they wanted to do in life, would find it difficult to make the choices.  Parents and teachers’ pressures prevailed upon them.  Later in life, a few confessed that they  had joined medicine just because they were good at the required entry subjects  of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and others took up law because they were good at English, History and Literature in English and Geography. I know  of a few who took up professions just because their fathers wanted  them to. Of these, a few changed later  to professions or vocations of their choice

That seemed enough at that time but we are now in the 21st century; times have changed and many things have changed. In this science and technology-driven era, students need career guidance much more than any other time in the past.

Why Career Guidance is so important today :

  1. The world is constantly changing and changing fast too. Change is now the new normal. Tomorrow is likely to be too different from today.
  2. Digital technology has radically changed the workplace for ever. Some jobs are disappearing while new ones keep coming up. Automation and the use of Robots have eliminated some jobs while at the same time creating some new ones. The office space has changed too- some people can work on laptops or iphones  from home.
  3. There are no permanent jobs for life and there are no permanent skills in such a fluid  work environment
  4. Since the English scientist Tim  Berners -Lee invented the World Wide Web and released  it to the public in August 1991, the world was reduced to a Global Village.
  5. This technology –driven era is a Solution –orientated: those who innovate and create solutions to the biggest challenges facing their communities like deforestation, plastics recycling and clean energy will build viable businesses and make a lot of money.

Career Guidance offered at the earliest time possible in the life of a student is extremely essential.

It directs the individual on the right path, helps her/him determine the direction of her/his life and to adjust maximally to the environment.

Through career guidance, students  can make mature and informed decisions about their  lives and the future.

At the beginning of my conversation with the students, I asked those who knew what they wanted to do in life to raise their hands, more than half did. I asked those who were not sure of what they wanted to do in life, many hands went up and then I asked those who did not know what they wanted to do, five brave girls raised their hands. I reassured them that at their age it was too early to be sure and it was normal not  to know. Getting to choose a career or occupation is a long process that starts  on the day you get to know who you are deep down but could change at any level in one’s life. What will matter later is for the students to acquire the skills they will need to survive and flourish in times of change; making them useful to themselves and useful and relevant to society.

Most of us know and the psychologists confirm that each individual is unique; having strength and weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Each one has unique gifts and talents if well applied, help each one to be integrated  into society and to make  a social contribution to the development of the country and the world at large. The moment one recognizes the great story that informs her/his life , he/she is liberated to explore ways of creating a life which facilitates the expression of that self. This long process starts at home and later follows through to schools , through university and through working life. Living your own story makes you feel deeply satisfied, feel that there is meaning  in your life- it just feels right to be useful and helpful to others.

No life no matter how successful and exciting it might be, will make you happy if it is not your life. And no life will make you miserable if it is genuinely your own. You live your story day-to-day.

The happiest people in the world are those doing what they love and are being paid well for it. “ I ‘m doing this job because it is something I needed to do and because I wanted to give something of myself to others and I wanted to learn.”

As career Guidance is a process, and the global working environment continues to be dynamic, I have no doubt that I shall be visiting my school many times in the future to follow through our team work.

They say that,“ The hunt isn’t over until both your heart and your belly are full.”

The school still looks safe and peaceful so I would like to thank most sincerely all those teachers, students, parents , old girls and friends who have supported and maintained the school. To the teachers, thank you for helping the students to develop habits, skills and mindsets that build their social, emotional and academic capabilities. The school still promotes a sense of community and through sports, artwork, housework, student –designed projects and student-led conferences develops the “whole” student.

They say that, “ The future comes to us, one second at a time.”

QUESTIONS: Was it easy for you to determine which career you wanted to follow in life?

Do you think that offering Career guidance in schools helps the students to make their own decisions about their future?

The Art of Balancing Yes and No

Man is a social animal; goes about making relationships. In doing so , he looks for acceptance, appreciation, affirmation and acknowledgement. The journey  through life traditionally starts in the family follows through the community , nation and in this Digital era, it extends to the global village.

The psychologists tell us that each one of us needs four basic attributes to go through life:

  • Basic optimism
  • The capacity to band together  for support
  • The courage to fight for yourself and others
  • Compassion and care for yourself and others.

These four together provide us with the basic skills for living in society. At the same time, each one of us needs to develop four abilities: to strive, to let go , to love and to create if we are to express our unique gifts and talents and make a difference in the communities we live in.

Since we are interconnected, what I do has a ripple effect on those around me and what they do affects me  as well. Among the inner guides within our unconscious  is the Caregiver and when it is activated in our lives  and  is dominating  the other inner guides like the Innocent, the Warrior, the Ruler, the Fool, the Sage, we see people in need of our care.  While our thinking and acting is dominated by the Caregiver, we reach out to help and make a difference through love and sacrifice.

Over time, we learn that we cannot be everything or be everything to all. We are then forced to develop a safety mechanism to protect ourselves against the demands of this world.We can only do this by choosing to say “no” or “yes” and accepting the responsibility for that choice.

Failing to say “no” can result in exhaustion; burn out, depression and being physically sick . Each one of us has to learn to make a conscious choice to say “no” to what does not fit in her/his agenda or does not contribute to her/his personal understanding and growth.

And when you say “yes” you have to willingly give fully and completely within your limits and priorities. Look people in the eye and say “No”, do not get caught in the middle of yes and no; it leaves people hanging.  When you say it,mean it otherwise you will not be taken seriously.

“ NO is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone’s request with a simple No.” – Sharon . E. Rainey.

Life is essentially about relationships and the choices we make. Choices have consequences. When faced with options, we end up making a series of YES  and  NO and gradually build up the big picture of our lives. As I said earlier, we are social animals living interdependently. We all start by conforming to please family, friends and peers and continue to ensure success and status doing the same thing. The majority of us will struggle to do what we really want without losing our family and friends. Juggling both family and work, one can find herself taking on too many commitments and too fast. This has resulted in burnout- exhausted and overwhelmed. It is our responsibility to empower the young to avoid and to handle such situations. It goes back to teaching them and supporting them in creating emotional and spiritual balance by simply learning to balance YES and NO.

“Until you  learn how to confidently say No to so many things , you will still always say Yes to many things.’’ Enest Agyemang Yeboah

This is where the 80/20 Rule of Time Management comes in handy. At any one stage in your life, you have to define what is most important to you and focus your time, energy, efforts and resources on that. What you focus on always grows.

You have to prioritize the 20% most important things to you and devote 80% of your time on them. Anything else is regarded as a distraction and should not be allowed to steal your time. We all have 24 hours in a day but the most successful among us are those who have mastered the art of using their time wisely.

 Developing this 80/20 mindset will help you to use your time effectively. The “urgent” will stop drowning out the most important activities that advance your overall purpose in life. You will stay focused on the key stuff in your life. You will be able to beat the stressful lifestyle that puts you under extreme pressure.

As we grow and take on more responsibilities only to retire later, the 20% most important things in life also change. You have to continue setting your priorities, it will lead you into making good choices about what you want to be and do. You will stop wasting time on things that do not matter to you.

I have learned to apply this 80/20 Rule on a daily basis and it has worked wonders. I have been able to do much more in a day and generally I have been able to move the most important things in my life forward. I have been able to do amazing things by reducing the distractions. It continues to help me find more meaning and purpose in my life.

 Each day throws you many options all day long and saying YES or NO to these options points you into a different direction.  Over time, your personal growth comes in a series of small, incremental changes resulting from the choices you made and your commitment to follow things through. Later in life, the strong urge to please, to fit in, to satisfy the demands of family and peer groups wears off and you want to live a life of more significance and depth. You consider what adds value to your life: what makes your heart resonate with your soul and what makes you feel good about yourself and brings fun in your life.

As learning is for life, I am still learning and trying to master the art of balancing YES and NO. As they say: Practice makes perfect.

One last quote: “When you say no to the wrong people, it opens up the space for the right people to come in.’’ Joe Calloway.

 QUESTION: Are you one of those people who find it hard to say NO?

Has this post helped you to see the need to take courage and to develop the discipline to say NO?

GRADUATION 11: What’s next?

A motorcycle shelter made from plastic bottles by Susan Suubi of Uganda

   You graduated two weeks ago; you celebrated your accomplishment with family and friends. You look to a future full of possibilities and fulfillment. I think by now the euphoria has worn off and reality has set in. You have to work within these sobering and haunting facts: Uganda has the highest youth population in the world. The youth make up 78% of the total population of 42 million. Youth unemployment in Uganda ranges from 60-80 %, the highest rate in youths in Sub-Saharan Africa. The rate is highest in degree holders in the urban areas. A total of 400,000 students graduate from all the universities in Uganda to compete for the 90,000-100,000 jobs available in the formal sector. Automation in the banks and offices continues to reduce the available jobs further.

 The agricultural sector still remains the back bone of Uganda’s economy, 70% of the population depend on it for their livelihood and employment. But the majority is practicing the subsistence type of farming in this day and age.

 Most of what is happening around you is beyond your control because these are challenges of your generation. As times change, things change. Over time you will learn as we all did at one time, what is in your control: your thoughts and attitude towards what happens to you.  Focus on that to help you survive and thrive.

   For the lucky few who have already found employment, make the most of it by :

  • Fitting in- you have to adapt to fit in. You have to make a positive impact on your employers. Take the initiative to know your place of work well, the company itself and it culture. Know the dress code and social program.

Be friendly- Smile, ask questions about what you do not know, be interested.

  • Be agreeable- Learn your environment, the people and place before you start complaining or making suggestions.
  • Respect- Respect everyone. What you give out will be returned to you. Everyone wants to be appreciated, respected and recognized.
  • Give 110%- my late father always advised me so. Work harder than anyone else to prove that you want to be in that place. Keep time, be responsible and reliable.

                   Work hard at getting integrated- Look for the company’s Standard Operation Procedures and learn it and live it. Offer to help at anything; this will help you to become part of the team. As a team player, do your part perfectly to fit in the company’s big picture. You will gradually learn to become an aggressive player.

 The English say that: ” A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.”

   I cannot emphasize enough the need to keep learning every day. The 21st century is a science and technology – driven era, constantly changing and fast too. It is highly competitive and there are no permanent skills anymore. Skills have to be continually upgraded and enhanced to enable the worker to have the right skills at the right time for the right purpose.

Seize all the opportunities for training that become available for you. I would advise you to consider taking up Online courses or evening courses between 5pm and bedtime and weekends. This is an investment into yourself and for the future. Be guided by your vision to get focus and clarity. But never compromise on your value system; it always catches up with you in the future.

 For the self-employed- I take off my hat to you for taking the courage to leap into the unknown. Choosing to become your own boss at your age in your environment is taking a real leap of faith! It is tough -going but will become easier especially if you are turning your hobby or passion into a business.

    In this Solution-oriented century, if your business is trying to solve one of our country’s biggest problems like supplying clean energy, recycling the heaps of plastics then money will come chasing you.

       You need to participate in available entrepreneurship training programmes to acquire the business skills you need to start, run and sustain an enterprise successfully. Visit other people providing competing products or services. Embrace the Digital technology, it will help you to advertise yourself, form networks and collaborate with fellow entrepreneurs. Start small and move up but work smart.

 It is hard work that requires a lot of patience, resilience and support but when you succeed, you will be proud of yourself and you will be a free person.

  “It always seems impossible until it is done.”– Nelson Mandela

Believe in yourself and your capabilities and your brain will find a way of making it work.

For the unemployed – You feel energetic, vibrant and want to channel this energy into something useful to you and others. The high rate of unemployment and the fact that many of the graduates do not have the skills that employers want may be playing a big role in your current state. You definitely need to add some skills to your Academic knowledge to make yourself more employable.

 Right now, I have just remembered the final sermon that the late Pastor Myles Munroe of Bahamas Faith Ministries International, gave to a congregation many of whom had just lost their jobs due to the recession of 2014

Sadly, on the 9th November 2014, he died in a plane crash along with his wife, son and six others. I remember very clearly the life- saving advice he gave to those men and women in total despair.

 I am just giving you what I picked out as the most important inspiring ideas from his sermon on The Power of Self-government. I think it will help you move forward.

  • He reminded the members of the congregation that each one of them was created to solve a problem on earth. God equips you with talent and gifts to help you find the problem you were born to solve. Education helps to refine your gifts and talents by giving you knowledge and sometimes the skills. He defined the job as what you are paid to do but work as what you were born to do. So your job is your skill while your work is your gift. When you find yourself, you find your gift( the seed inside you) Unlike the job, the gift cannot be learned or taken away. It can only be refined. You should use your God-given gift to solve a community problem. Any problem around us can be turned into a business as people are paid for the problems they solve.
  • He reminded them that success was 90% brain and 10% hands.

One example he gave of turning a problem into a business was Bill Gates, a computer programmer, and his childhood friend, Paul Allen who innovated with microchip technology and developed new software products which are used in all computers. They solved the problem of data collection, data analysis, storage and sharing. They built Microsoft, the multinational company which has made Bill Gates one of the richest men in the world.

As for you, you only have to identify the biggest problems in your community like deforestation, frequent droughts, youth unemployment, poor garbage disposal especially the plastics and you come up with a locally appropriate and affordable solution.

Once you find the solution to a common problem you will have found your wealth.

I would also advise you to add skills to your academic knowledge by undergoing vocational training. It will equip you with practical experience and technical skills in a specific field. Employers look for people who bring something to the company-necessary skills and practical experience. You will meet the demands of a working environment, deliver quality performance and good results.

I would also like to remind you that we are living in a science-technology-driven century. Technology touches and continues to permeate all areas of our lives. You need to invest in Information, Communication Technology. There are some ICT and Software jobs from some leading companies in Uganda and worldwide.

After preparing yourself, you could try Online Freelance jobs in Typing, Writing and Designing. Believe in yourself and others will begin to believe in you. Whatever you choose to do or be, do not forget to be human and to look for inspiration.

Mark Zuckerberg, the main co- founder of Facebook: the Social media and technology company started off small. In 2004, in his Harvard dormitory room, he and a few of his Harvard roommates started this company. Gradually it expanded to include students from other universities. Currently, Facebook is the most downloaded mobile app of the decade(2010-2019)

All in all there are few jobs out there and you have to position yourself to get one of them. It is a long way to go; start from the beginning, perform and become a team player while being guided by your vision and value system.  When you do what you love and enjoy it and you are paid reasonably for it, it ceases to be work. It becomes fun.                       

  “The world needs problem solvers.” – Anonymous.

The future belongs to the Risk takers not to the Comfort seekers. Prepare yourself for this role. 

QUESTION: Has this post helped you to identify a big problem in your community to solve and get paid for your services?

IT IS GRADUATION WEEK AT MAKERERE,UGANDA

Three of the eight young women who graduated as medical doctors at Makerere University in March 1977.
My second son(L) graduated as a civil engineer from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, 30 years after my graduation.

Makerere University, Kampala, was established by the then British Colonial government, in 1922 as a vocational training school; carpentry, building and motor mechanics. Since then it has grown to become the oldest and one of the most prestigious Universities in Africa.

Forty three years ago, I graduated from the faculty of medicine of the only public university of the time!

Currently there are 11 public universities and 38 registered private universities in Uganda with 12 medical schools between them!

On the 14th January 1945, Makerere College admitted the first batch of Ugandan women students, they were six of them. From 14th to 17 th January 2020,  a total of 13,509 students will be graduating from Makerere Univesrsity, Kampala, in the 70th graduation ceremony. Of these, 50.5 percent are females. We have come a long way considering that in my Graduate Class of 1977, of the 120 graduands only 8 were women, including one from Malawi.  By then, the total population of Uganda was  11.3 millions: 5.6 males and 5.7 females.

Indeed, Makerere University has lived up to its motto: We Build for The future.

Nelson Mandela( 1918-2013) , the most iconic leader of  the 20th Century highly valued education and expressed it in these two quotes:

“ Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

A good heart and a good mind are always a formidable combination.”

Undoubtedly, we believe that Education is a gift for a lifetime.

To the parents of the graduands, I thank you for the nurturance, guidance and the sacrifices.

To the teachers, mentors and sponsors, I thank you for your willingness to share your skills, knowledge and expertise to empower the young generation.

To the graduands, I congratulate you on this great achievement. I admire and respect you for your determination, your perseverance and tenacity. This is the first key you needed to unlock your success in life. You have climbed to the top of the mountain only to discover like the icon Nelson Mandela did: “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that  there are many more hills to climb.’’

This graduation marks the beginning of the rest of your life.

You will wake up tomorrow to the sobering and haunting reality on theground:

  • Uganda has a population of 42 million people and the youths under the age of 30 make up 78% of this population. Uganda has the highest youth population in the world.
  • Youth unemployment in Uganda ranges from 60-80%, the highest rate in youths in Sub-Saharan Africa. In Uganda, the rate is highest among degree holders in the urban area.
  • Each year, 400,000 students graduate from all these universities to compete for only the 90,000-100,000 jobs in the formal sector.
  • The agricultural sector still remains the backbone of Uganda’s economy, 70% of the population depend on it for their livelihood and employment.
  • The 21st century is the Information Revolution and most innovative age of our time. It is Science and technologically – driven. It is constantly changing and fast too. It demands that each graduate keeps learning, improving, growing to become better at what he/she chooses to do. It is mandatory that you keep improving your personal best.  Digital technology has shrunk the world to a global Village and made it highly competitive. There are no permanent skills in this 21st century; skills have to be continually upgraded and enhanced to enable the worker to have the right skills at the right time for the right purpose.

Alvin Toffler ( 1928- 2016) an American writer and business man, spelt this out years back in this quote: “ The illiterates of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write , but those who cannot learn ,  unlearn and relearn.”

The education you received should have helped to shine your unique gifts, talents and skills and led you into the vision of your life.  Your vision –  the big picture of your life should inspire and inform your plan for each subsequent year for the rest of your life.

There are no permanent jobs anymore in this digital technology- driven era!

Working on desks in the office is being replaced by working online from your home.

Human beings are being replaced by automated machines and systems.

In countries like Japan many jobs  in the industries are being taken over by industrial robots.

To survive in such a changing environment, one has to become flexible and adaptable to remain useful and relevant to yourself and others.

You have to learn to think for yourself, look for skills you need to create your own job. Job seekers may have to walk the streets for a long time.

The world is now Solution –orientated so the best way to create a job for yourself and others is to critically look at the most burning problems of your community and find a locally appropriate solution to any one of them. The solution should become your business –making you money while at the same time serving others.

Uganda’s biggest challenges are: Climate Change and its effects on food security, deforestation, a high population growth rate of 3.2% , Land ownership and Youth Unemployment.

At this moment in time you may not know the following:

  1. You are among the privileged few to reach this education level- it gives you the burden to lift up others in your community.
  2. You can only turn your qualification into real power if you apply it to improve your life and the lives of others.
  3. You have some hobbies which you can exploit to your benefit. Choose one of them and use it to find a solution to anyone of the biggest challenges of our country. When you do, it could turn you into a successful business man/woman. As long as you believe in yourself, you can be anything and do everything.
  4. The network of friends you have built so far will over time become part of your family. Together you have formed a community that protects each other and makes each other resilient to the rapid changes around you. Stay connected.
  5.  You have been handed a blank writing book to write your own story for a lifetime. Keep striving to know who you are deep down so that when you write the story of your life every day, it is  expressing your authenticity. Remember to embrace honesty and compassion. You also have to develop the discipline to balance competitiveness with co-operation in the current highly competitive world.

 At my age, I have learned that life is not a sprint race but a marathon. As an endurance race, it demands that you start off with the end in mind then plan meticulously how to get there at your own pace and rhythm. You have always to be aware that you are surrounded by other runners, you can use them to your advantage to achieve your personal best.

To become the best, you must have the best role models to stretch your mind, imaginations and abilities.

To stay or not to stay– No one has the answer to this question because it is an individual decision based on many factors. I had chosen to stay on and work in my country until it came to the point where I could not be paid a decent salary as a medical doctor and the tools that I needed to perform my work proved to be inadequate. I could not achieve what I wanted in life in such a limiting environment. I had to look for opportunities elsewhere to realize my full potential. I willed myself to start afresh and I left for greener pastures. I am now back in Uganda and carving a new path in a radically changed environment. I learn something new every day, unlearn what is no longer true or relevant and relearn what is still true and relevant. Little by little, I am finding a new comfort zone.

You will be in the game for a long time. My advice would be for you to believe in yourself, stay in the game and show up every day. At times you will be stuck in a rut but summon all your courage and energy , ask for help and keep moving forward. Gradually you will learn to take risks, be aggressive and smart. You are allowed to break a few rules as long as you cling to your integrity and compassion. This is good for you since you can never get the extraordinary if you do not do something extraordinary. Keep skilling yourself for the jobs of the future.

It is your life, make the most of it.

Congratulations on your graduation and best wishes for the future.

NEW POSSIBILITIES

A feast for the eyes and the palate to welcome you into 2020

The New Year gives each one of us an opportunity to start afresh while at the same time aiming at doing more and doing better.

Oprah Winfrey once said: “Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.”

 The big picture of your life and mine comes to us piecemeal year by year. This explains why we have to look at the passing year closely before planning for the New Year. I have had to assess whether I was able to achieve the goals that I set for myself for this year and the progress I made towards advancing my overall purpose in life. I know that I should have done better in some areas and in others; things were beyond my control. I am now determined to use the lessons I have learned from my failures to improve my future, as for the achievements, they point me toward bigger goals in the years to come. They say that Experience is the best teacher.

As I write this post, a quote by an unknown author keeps coming to me: “Set your goals high enough to inspire you and low enough to encourage you.”
Unrealistic goals put you on pressure and lead to frustration.
For the last seven years, I have been a keen Follower of Michael Hyatt, the renowned American life coach and Virtual mentor. He advises each one of us to plan for the year as planning gives us clarity and helps us to make progress to achieving the goals. The three elements of the plan are:


1. The Vision- this is the big picture of your life and it should inspire and inform your plan. Each one of us is born with the power to create, transform and heal. What is most critical is that your vision conforms to who you are at a deep level and what your life, at best, should really be about. Look within yourself to identify your unique gifts, talents and skills and then use them to create your own ideal life. Having a vision of the future stretches your sense of possibilities and brings you closer to achieving your own ideal life. A positive but realistic projection of the future frees us to enjoy the present and to make our dreams come true. The vision should be very concrete so that it becomes real to us. You are free to fake it until you make it.

2.The Priorities- the most important things in your life that advance your personal development and fulfillment.
We live in a fast-paced, competitive world and many demands are made on us. It is vital that we consistently apply the 80/20 Rule of Time Management: prioritize the 20% most important things in your life and devote 80% of your time, energy, efforts and resources on them. It is the only way to stop the ‘Urgent’ from drowning out the most important activities that advance your overall purpose in life.

Life is too short. Do stuff that matters.”-  Siqi Chen

The priorities change as we grow but essentially they are: family, career, health, finances and relationships.

3. The Actions- the steps to be taken to fulfill your priorities.

Dante Alighieri rightly said: “The secret of getting things done is to act.”

 These are the goals and are better laid out using the SMART acronym:
S- Our goals should be Specific
M- should be Measurable( year-long)
A- should be Actionable
R- should be Realistic.
T- should be Time bound.

The above three elements of the year plan should be aligned together.

I have always had to remind myself that I am in control of my life. It fuels my determination to follow things through to achieve my vision and stay motivated to reach my goals. I must admit that this year my greatest weakness has been procrastination- the Thief of Dreams. I have had to fight fiercely to beat it. I had to encourage myself to stick to the deadlines and to ask my eldest son to hold me accountable.
I would urge you to believe in yourself and encourage yourself by rewarding yourself for the achievements. Be smart to let go of what no longer serves you and pick what really fits who you now are. This is the only way you can be yourself and let yourself have what you truly want.

Interestingly, I have had to take off my hat many times to Vuvu Mpofu, the newest opera singer star at the annual Glyndebourne Festival Opera of UK. She comes from a small town in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. She first heard of opera at the age of fifteen when she watched a Mozart aria at a school concert. It cast such a strong spell on her that she bought two opera DVDs and taught herself to sing by mimicking singers in the DVDs. She did it over and over again until she became confident and competent to be noticed by a voice coach. Last August, she was chosen to participate in this traditional summer event. At twenty eight years of age, she became the first non-British artist to win the John Christie Award for the most promising young singer of the year.

I have watched her videos on YouTube and I have been blown away!

 With her vocal extraordinary talent, she is really going places.

This is what I call faking it until you become it.

I hope that reading this post has given you the confidence to make Smarter goals for 2020 , making it different from 2019. I wish you happiness, good health and prosperity in the New Year.

QUESTION:

Were you able to accomplish the goals you set for yourself for 2019?

What was your biggest hurdle? How did you overcome it?

I THOUGHT I NEEDED LESS TO BE HAPPY AND CONTENT UNTIL………..

Being surrounded by loved ones often, gives long term fulfillment.


I thought that as I grew older, I needed less to be more happy and content. I had come to believe like Architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe that less is more: less decoration properly deployed , has more impact than a lot of it. The same way a makeup artist  believes that light make up makes the individual features more prominent. I have been reading widely about happiness and life satisfaction and to my shock and amazement,the psychologists are telling me that I am wrong: what makes one happy and content does not vary much with age but some of the contributing factors to life satisfaction may change with age.

Kahlil Gibran once said: “To be able to look back upon one’s life in satisfaction , is to live twice.” 

According to the psychologists, happiness is  a state of living an enjoyable, meaningful , rewarding and exciting life. It is born out of a deep satisfaction with one’s relationships with others, surroundings, accomplishments and oneself.

Some psychologists like Martin Seligman of USA think that happiness has 3 distinct elements:

  1. The pleasant life- having fun, joy and excitement in life. Having as many as positive emotions as you can as you go through your day- to- day activities.
  2. The good life – achieved by  identifying your unique skills and abilities and applying them to enhance your life and others. You cannot engage fully with life until you find out who you are- your strengths and flaws. You then apply this knowledge to find the great story of your life.Secure in this knowledge you are less likely to be confused by the inessentials or be pulled down or manipulated by others.
  3. The meaningful life-  involves a deep sense of fulfillment that comes from using your talents to make a difference in the world around you.Living your genuine story makes you feel deeply satisfied  and gives meaning to your life. No life no matter how successful and exciting it might be, will make you happy , if it is not really your life. No life will make you miserable if it is genuinely your own.

The happiest people tend to pursue a full life encompassing these 3 elements.

It should be noted that each of our individual journeys is  intimately interwoven with the journeys of family members, friends and co-workers. The steps I take toward becoming truly myself affect them in the same way the steps they take affect me.

Mahatma Gandhi once said:  Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”

Extensive research done over the years has shown that age is related to happiness but  happiness is not related to gender. Life satisfaction tends to increase as people get older.

A growing child needs to feel safe and secure in a home, loved and valued by the parents. He/she needs to be surrounded by happy loving parents and people. As emotions are contagious, children who are given much love and care in their childhood learn to be kind to  themselves and then go out to love other people and animals.They grow up very optimistic ; resilient and can face life’s bigger challenges better.

The teenagers in any given population, are going through a period of rapid changes and transformation towards becoming  adults. During this transitional period, the part of the brain that controls emotions and motivation  and directs behavior to meet the challenges of their environment or weigh risks and rewards is not yet fully developed. Therefore, the teenagers cannot  direct and control their behavior and they feel happy if they are able to fit in with their peers and be accepted by them. Any rejection by their peers can push a teenager into terrible misery or even mental illness. Available scientific reports show that 50% of all mental illnesses in the USA begin by the age of 14 and 75% occur by mid 20s. Teenagers need affirmation , approval and acknowledgement. They need to feel loved and valued. If a child is good at something, he/she needs appreciation. This demands that parents, teachers should assist children to develop positive emotions.

The psychologists  who have studied positive psychology- the study of happiness and well being have identified a number of factors that consistently relate to happiness and fulfillment  in young adults and and older adults. They include:

  • Positive affect-  focusing on your individual positive traits: your strengths and virtues.

Optimism- expecting the best outcome in any situation. This positive frame of mind helps you see new opportunities, learn from different situations and keep  moving forward.

  •   Flow-  A mental state of well being achieved by being involved in an activity to the point where you feel you lose yourself in the activity, effortlessly maintain concentration and focus and feel in complete control of your action and time seems to pass more quickly than usual. 

No one is completely happy all the time, encouraging one to experience these three contributes to life satisfaction.

For the older adults,the psychologists have identified  six main factors related to happiness and contentment:

  1. Strong healthy relationships with loved ones- you learn relationship skills that help you make responsible decision making.
  2. Fulfillment from work- It pushes you to want to be more and do much more.
  3. Satisfaction with physical health- exercises optimises your brain’s ability to learn. It helps you  regulate your emotions.
  4.  Happiness with your romantic life
  5. Content with your personal growth
  6.  6. Secure in spirituality or religion

Greater life satisfaction makes us feel happier and helps us to enjoy life more. All in all, it has a positive impact on our health and well-being.

In the elderly, the need for life satisfaction remains relatively high though the illnesses associated with old age; aches and pains may reduce one’s engagement in life. Older adults  have weathered many storms of life and tend not to place more value on things and status like the young people. Instead, they place more value on family relationships and other genuine relationships which give them long-term fulfillment in their lives. It has been observed that happy people tend to have more friends, more high -quality social relationships and strong social support networks than less happy people.

 The illusion that I needed less to be happy and content developed after my sixtieth birthday. I had observed that I derived more joy and fulfillment by just spending time with family and genuine , old friends. I also observed that I could get a natural high by simply immersing myself into creative writing. I could effortlessly maintain my concentration and focus, felt in control of the action and time seemed to be passing quickly. It is a pleasant experience which requires me to use my skills, knowledge and passion. At that moment in time, I feel happy and fulfilled.

Digging deeper into the psychology of happiness and contentment  has helped me understand that the main factors contributing to my happiness and contentment have more or less remained the same but it is the value that I attach to each of those factors that have changed as I grew older!

I have to admit that it has indeed been a rude awakening! It has helped me to appreciate more that learning is a lifelong process. The more I learn the more I get to understand myself , the people around me and my environment. The wisdom of old age is pushing me to search for the reality behind appearances and  is opening me to the deeper truth about life.

QUESTION:

What activity is giving you the flow experience at this moment in time? How has this experience changed over the years?

FINDING MY LOCAL WRITERS COMMUNITY

Prof.Okey Ndibe with Goretti Kyomuhendo , the Director of AWT and two members of her passionate team at the opening of the Training Workshop. The photo was taken by me as one of the participants.

For a person like me who has been away for more than two decades, I find the radically changed economic, cultural and social landscape frightening and overwhelming. Since home is best, I have had to swim vigorously to find my own level.

This is happening against a back drop of a highly Digital technology- driven world which has turned the world into a global village. We are connected to each other instantaneously and an avalanche of information is accessible to anyone who wants it from anywhere in the world.

Early on, I realized that if I wanted to turn myself into an outstanding writer, I had to connect with other writers- a community of like-minded people to help me follow things through and to help me understand the joys and challenges of publishing one’s creative works.

I belong to the Online Africa Book Club, The Write Practice, Go Blog  Your Passion and  Two Drops of Ink.

Like any investment of high returns, it carries some risks.

However, I have found these communities of writers or writing cartels extremely beneficial to me .

They support and encourage me through the process of writing and publishing.

  • They read and critique my writings. They help me improve even my best piece of writing and  I become a better writer and more professional
  • They encourage me to keep walking along this mysterious journey and to be accountable.
  • They promote my work by sharing it among family and friends.
  • They are willing to offer any help that I dare to ask of them as long as it is related to my journey of becoming an outstanding writer of my time.
  • Being part of a bigger community which includes many other writers already ahead in their career, makes me more ambitious.

 Being a private person by nature, initially, I found it hard to share my writing to people unknown to me, but I have realized that the more I do it, the easier it becomes and the more I grow and develop as a writer. I consider any written story a work in progress that can be improved and refined from ideas generated from the invaluable feedback.

One of my favourite authors , Maya Angelou said: “ I believe that the most important single thing, beyond discipline and creativity is daring to dare.”

Armed with great enthusiasm and anticipation plus an open mind and trusting myself enough to learn from others, I set out to find my Local Writing Community /cartel in Kampala, Uganda.

I made time to attend The African Writers Trust Professional Training Workshop For Creative Writers.

The theme was: Mastering The Challenges of Fiction. It ran from the 9th-10th September 2019 at Fairway Hotel in Kampala.

It did not disappoint; I got much more than I bargained for!

It was organized by Goretti Kyomuhendo and her team at African Writers Trust. Goretti is one of Uganda’s renown novelist, a founder member of African Writers Trust in 2009 and FEMRITE- the Association of Ugandan Women Writers. She founded AWT to coordinate and bring together African writers in the Diaspora and writers in the continent to share skills , knowledge and available opportunities. She has a number books and short stories under her belt. They include the First Daughter (1996) Secrets No More (1999) and Whispers From Vera.

 The tutor was Prof. Okey Ndibe, a natural born story teller and a journalist from Nigeria who went to USA in 1988. He perfected his art of Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, USA. Currently, he teaches African and African Diaspora Literature at Brown University in USA.

He is fiercely committed to helping African writers to tell their unique stories to the world just as Maya Angelou said: “ When you learn , teach, when you get , give.”

He has had the rare privilege of being closely associated with Africa’s best known writer and celebrated poet and professor sometimes called the father of modern African writing, Chinua Achebe(1930-2013). Chinua Achebe happens to be my own hero whose first novel, Things Fall Apart(1958) was one of my set books  for Literature in English at Ordinary Level in 1969, Gayaza High School, Uganda.The navy blue beret that Prof. Okey Ndibe wears is the symbol of the close association with the late Chinua Achebe and seals the bond between the two Nigerian writers.

This simple, down to-earth story teller and teacher seduced the participants from the onset to the end. I could take him as a consultant on the challenges faced by an Africa writer anywhere in the world for he is truly one of us. He knows it too well that African writers lack the structures that that support writers in USA or Europe. There are neither literary agents in Africa nor essential structures for editing and publishing and the readership is extremely low and yet African stories have to be told to the world by the Africans themselves. The African writers’ biggest challenge is that Africa is their audience and yet Europe and the USA is their market. As they write, they have to balance precariously these two factors.

 Reading engages our minds and if done consistently, it turns the reader into a critical thinker. All big companies are looking out to recruit great minds that will sustain the companies and make them shine in this vibrant and competitive 21st century.

Prof. Okey Ndibe is a renown novelist, having written and published his first novel Arrows of Rain in 2000, Foreign Gods Inc (2014) and his humorous Memoirs: Never Look an American in the Eye(2016)

He was humble enough to tell us that it took him seven years to write and perfect Arrows of Rain, proving Terry Pratchett’s words, “The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.”

Goretti Kyomuhendo is still perfecting her first novel, The First Daughter, written twenty two years ago!

It just goes to prove that all artworks are Works in Progress. Leonardo da Vinci took more than twelve years to paint and finish the Mona Lisa which became the most famous of his works after his death.

 Prof Ndibe advised us to form networks as writers, to support and guide one another by reading, editing, critiquing and promoting each others’ work and sharing available opportunities. He encouraged us to cautiously take advantage of the Digital revolution opportunities like Online publishing.

Any good professional training workshop is made or broken by its three components: the organizing team, the tutor and the participants and for this particular one, it was a perfect blend. Goretti Kyomuhendo’s team of young, energetic and passionate organizers was superb; paying attention to detail in a tightly packed workshop that would have lasted for five days at its best.

As for the tutor, I could not have had a better one and for the participants, who were of different age groups, backgrounds but with the sole aim of becoming great writers of their own stories, were provocative and attentive. The discussions were frank, relevant and useful to all of us.

The public debate about whether Literature is useless was the real climax of the training.Among the panelists were Prof. Timothy Wangusa, a Professor of Literature  at Makerere University since 1981. He is a poet and a writer.

Mrs. Victoria Kisarale, a seasoned literature teacher and former headmistress of our school, Gayaza High school and two vibrant young women from the corporate world.

At the end of it all, it was crystal clear that Literature as an integral part of our culture, makes us who we are- values and principles and visions. It enlarges our minds and turns us into critical thinkers.

Any country that chooses to pay little attention to Literature during the formal years of education of its citizens, is doing so at its own peril.

I am a medical doctor but my obsessive fascination with books turned me into a doctor with a difference more so in the way I relate to the people around me and how I respond to the daily challenges of life.

After my unique parental upbringing and excellent formal education, my consistent reading of books shaped my values and character. This is why I am writing short stories and fiction novels to make a difference to the lives of the readers. It is my simple way of giving back to the literary world which has given me so much joy, knowledge and self-esteem all these years.

From this highly engaging two days workshop, I walked away with knowledge,skills, renewed vigour, new opportunities and new friends including Prof. Okey Ndibe and a writing cartel that will support, guide and make me accountable along my long journey of becoming an outstanding writer of my time.

As expected, I also walked away with a number of books by Ugandan writers, adding to my treasure trove of books. Among them were several anthologies of short stories by Ugandan women, an anthology of poetry and short stories by inmates in Uganda’s oldest and biggest prison at Luzira and two books by none other than Prof. Okey Ndibe: Arrows of Rain and Never Look An American In The Eye.

I cannot wait to devour them!

“Fiction comes from what is around us; our own experiences and experiences of other people.” – Prof. Okey Ndibe.

All writers, the well established and the emerging ones are supposed to be keen observers of people and their surroundings. We should consistently write and read since it is only through practice that we are turned into outstanding writers. We have to always remember that connecting with other writers brings out the best creative works within us.

QUESTION:

Has this post helped you understand the need to look out for other like-minded people of your profession in your quest to become the best person you want to be?