Apart from my immediate family, here are five people who inspire me.
I’m 10 years old and in the final exam of my primary five, I score 09% in mathematics. I’m feeling low, so embarrassed. I’m feeling beaten by that subject. It’s like a monster that devours me every time. My mind registers maths as a suicide bomb. I’m so afraid of it.
My mum looks at my report card. I’ve performed so terribly. She asks what happened. I don’t remember what I told her. At the age of 11, she takes me to a new school. I score 46% in my final maths exam that year.
At 12, I get a new maths teacher, Tr. Cathy. Although I’m not the best in my class, I see a different approach of doing maths. Teacher Cathy builds my confidence and tells me I can do well in maths. She was our neighbour across the road. The weekend practice questions she’d give, her engaging and experiential way of teaching and how she’d relate with me made me feel comfortable about maths.
Teacher Cathy made me see that maths wasn’t as hard as it previously seemed. [This doesn’t mean I didn’t fail the subject a couple of times in high school.] If I’m ever to be a teacher, I want to create the kind of friendly learning environment Tr. Cathy created for me.
I’m 19 years old and I just completed my high school. I apply for a job, make it to the interview stage and I find a long queue up the steps to the office. Many other young men and women are there for the same interview.
I’m called in at about 2:30pm and my interview lasts about 10 minutes. Mr. Bamwine asks me to wait at the reception.
At about 5:00pm, he walks out of the main entrance of the office, then walks back in. I get called back to his office and there he is with two other people. And I’ll never forget what he told me. He said, “Young man, present your case.” So I took my best shot and explained why a guy just out of high school needed a job. I told them what I thought I’d do and what value I could add to the company. I got the job.
Each morning, Mr. Bamwine would speak positively to all his staff. He’d pump them up with so much positive energy that everyone would be so excited to get things going for the day. He was a cheerful guy. But if you messed with his business, he’d punch you in the face. Hehehe.
There were times he’d drive me home after work. He’d teach me about money and family. He once told me, “Don’t ever lose your family because you’re chasing money.” That was my first boss. I was 19 years old.
I’m 25 years old and I’m part of a leadership training program in Nairobi. A survey is sent out for people who might want a mentor. I complete and submit the form.
Bingo! I get an email. I’ve been matched with a very experienced man called Nikhil.
Nikhil becomes like a soundboard for me. He listens to me. He answers my questions about life, career, decision making and anything else. He’s immersed in the mentorship process. Every Friday for three months, we either speak on phone or have an email correspondence on the progress of my life.
In August that year, he comes to Kampala and invites me to the Sheraton Kampala Hotel where he was staying. We sit at one of the restaurants and chat. He passes down age-old wisdom to me, shares his experiences and he helps me to become a more confident man.
I remember something profound he said to me. “You don’t have to be a perfect person. You just need to give it the best that you possibly can.”
Nikhil truly knows what mentorship is about.
I just turned 27 years old and I’m struggling with this thing called writing. I’m undecided on whether to keep doing it or to solely focus on my 8:00-5:00 job. I send emails to a few Ugandan writers I know asking about how they keep doing the craft over and over. I send Facebook messages to some as well. None of them responds to me.
Frustrated, sulking and unsure of what to do, one Friday evening at about 11:00pm, I send an email to Biko. Biko (of the blog bikozulu.co.ke) is probably the most followed blogger in East Africa. I share some of my writing frustrations with him and ask for his thoughts on writing. Biko replies at about 5:00am that Saturday morning. He is the first writer guy to ever respond to my email. I learnt not to ignore people’s emails from how quickly he responded to me.
Biko served me a bowl of encouragement in his reply. And I got the mental strength to keep writing. I later attended the writing masterclass that he facilitates. And that’s how I met Bett. She’s the admin of the masterclass.
I have written about Bett on this blog before. Find the piece here. Everyone needs a Bett.
She gave me a platform to contribute to her blog, (craftit.co.ke.) Do you know what that means? That means someone believes in you, they trust you, they are confident in what you can deliver. Bett helped me to keep sharpening my writing.
I’ll always be grateful to all these people. They inspire me.