#TedxYouthLakeBunyonyiThe air was tingly with expectation, or maybe just cold. We trooped into Entusi’s conference hall that had been designed in a bowl shape with a view of the lake and mountains forming a backdrop for our speakers. After a hearty breakfast, Humphrey Nabimanya took the mike and warmed us up with a game or two. He is a funny and engaging fellow with the ability to make a room of adults giggle and hoot. He and Maggie Mutesi introduced our first speaker of the day- Agnes Igoye.
When you use your phone for communication, as a hotspot and as your office, it’s on a constant doze, blacking out more often than pigs in farms around this pork loving city. Peter Eriki called over thrice before he managed to reach me with the great news that I and my business- Fitclique256 had been nominated for a spot on the invitee list to #TedxYouthLakeBunyonyi. Would I be interested in taking an all-expense paid trip to Entusi Resort to network and listen to young change makers speak about leadership in business? Heck yea.
So on the 28th of March, I boarded a bus with 30 other people and we drove to Kabale, stopping for a bland lunch at Baguma’s. This establishment has become popular with hungry travellers to the western part of the country. They make good money. Is it too much to ask that they invest in some spices and friendly staff? The lady who took our order seemed constantly two seconds away from pouring the bad soup over our heads. The food was what we in Acholi call ‘bot’.
On the bus, people had wasted no time in starting to network. Within the first few hours of the drive, people had exchanged cards, pitched their businesses, flirted, argued and found instant friends. That alone should have been a sign of the goodness to come.
When we reached Kabale, we got into a boat that stayed on the water 15 minutes before we got to Entusi Resort. Of course people made 1000 references to the Lake Albert tragedy (it didn’t help that we had no life jackets). Of course some people trailed their hands through the water, putting fear into the hearts of others and attracting loathing.
We were welcomed like royalty with hot tea, delicious dinner, singing and some very vigorous Ekyitaguriro. We had been informed by email that we would be sleeping in tents, but not about the loveliness of the tents or the fact that the duvets we would be provided were heavy enough to make a person sweat in Kabale! After mingling, chatting and dancing for a bit, we called it a night.
On day two, I woke up to much inquisitiveness about Fitclique256. I had not been sleeping on jobo and had informed everybody who could hear about this now tangible dream of mine. Fitclique256 exists to empower women from the inside out. Our first manifestation is a women’s gym at Green Hills Hotel Bukoto where we hold self-defense, strength training, Afrikan yoga and contemporary dance classes. Some ladies demanded that I take them through a session, so I did. I shall forever be thankful to sworkit app for helping me cheat bizamu. It gave us a decent workout and made me look legit (mehn I am not a trainer. I didn’t have a session planned!)
The air was tingly with expectation, or maybe just cold. We trooped into Entusi’s conference hall that had been designed in a bowl shape with a view of the lake and mountains forming a backdrop for our speakers. After a hearty breakfast, Humphrey Nabimanya took the mike and warmed us up with a game or two. He is a funny and engaging fellow with the ability to make a room of adults giggle and hoot. He and Maggie Mutesi introduced our first speaker of the day- Agnes Igoye.
Among a great many other things, Agnes works in the ministry of internal affairs and is involved in migration, peace and security. She is also a member of the Clinton global initiative. She told us about her journey which was began as one of six daughters in a society that pitied her mother for having so many girl children. Now her CV is so heavy that you cannot hold it with one hand and her achievements are so bright. Here are some of her words:
“We fail before we try. We see the magnitude of a task and mentally check out. It is not supposed to be easy.” “Always, even when one candidate is required in a competition, compete because that candidate is you.” “One thing great people have in common is humility.” Agnes Igoye.
Joachim Ewechu is the co-founder and CEO of Unreasonable East Africa, an accelerator for impact enterprises in Uganda. His talk was on the power of social enterprises. He encouraged us to be the kind of people who see a profit making solution where others see and insurmountable problem. He said, “We all have a chance to define progress in our time. The time is now.”
Awel Uwihanganye, the brain behind Young Achiever’s Awards was our third speaker. He said:
“Learn to work with others. You cannot always be scared about people stealing your ideas.”
“Make an impression with what you are able to do. You cannot afford to be anything but anything but excellent. Your character is the biggest defining factor of your success.”
Maggie Mutesi was a speaker as well as one of the emcees. She moved to Kampala in 2008 and has been creating opportunities for herself ever since. The highlights of her talk for me were, “I have so much confidence in myself that if you challenged me to walk on lake Bunyonyi, I’d float.” And “Invest in yourself. Just because you are hustling doesn’t mean you have to look like a hustler.”
Richard Zulu is the founder of outbox, a community led working space that supports start-ups and creatives. He spoke about leadership and the power of conviction, saying, “Lack of conviction can rub off on your workers. As leaders, we need endless reserves of conviction to tide us over the dips and lows.”
Humphrey Nabimanya is the founder of Reach a Hand Uganda and Sauti Plus, an online platform for young people to talk about sex and sexuality. His story is phenomenal. From being a child shunned because his caretakers had HIV, he is now a lead advocate for dialogue, openness and acceptance of all. His most powerful words for me were, “Know that you can do the undone. Scare your dreams.”
After the talks, we were divided into groups and asked to make a two minute presentation each about what we had learnt, after which people had the option of either going on a sunset boat cruise or a trek around Entusi to take a look at some of the community projects like candle making.
After another sumptuous dinner, it was kadanke time. My God. Oh wow. We danced. We danced so hard, for so long, with such incredible energy. We had among us boys who had gone to single schools and I’m sure you can visualize the moves they usually have. Woi! You know, all weekend we had been networking aggressively, talking business and exchanging contacts, basically wearing our adult suits. And then the party came and we all remembered that we were all ambitious twenty-somethings. My lord that dancing. Kika! Eventually the DJ chased us away and we wound the night up by creating an Entusi club.
What a valuable experience. What a diverse network of change makers. Now the hard work of applying all the wisdom we received and tapping into our networks is here and I’m absolutely up for it.