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Desire Lavigne’s Birthday Giveback!

There was a period during my time in school when I almost failed. For financial reasons and for adolescent misdirection. Sitting in the neat office of Mr. Lawrence Mulindwa at St. Mary’s Kitende, we spoke about life as a father and daughter would. A short while later, Mr. Mulindwa picked up his chequebook off of his desk and signed to me the full amount of my outstanding school dues. It was a lot of money.

Mr. Mulindwa does not know my name. As I write this, I’m humbled all over again by his selfless generosity and the unmistakable expectation of nothing in return for it — not praise, not a refund.

There was a time I needed to start my organisation, Breakthrough Initiative Africa, to help more meaningfully the young people who had for a while taken shelter in my living room, all of us without a plan for how we would forge through the next days when I extended my hand to them and they accepted it. All of us getting by on faith alone, and now realizing we couldn’t do it alone; we needed to formalize under a legal structure of an organization so we could take in legitimate outside support.

Sitting in the surprisingly modest office of the then UPDF CDF, Gen. Katumba Wamala, we spoke about life as a father and daughter would and I told him about the venture that was surviving barely in my living room at home. He picked up from inside his desk an envelope and counted off to me the full amount of how much I needed to step out and get started. It was a lot of money. With it, we launched our fresh juice project which got me onto Vision Group’s 2016 list of 30 Top Women Under 30.

A couple of months later, when Gen. Katumba learned about my deployment with the UN and the African Union in Somalia, he left me another envelope at his office with my name on top and $200 inside. This money was to help me get started into my new job. Having been struggling to keep anything in my pocket while trying to meet the fatal financial demands of a startup, I might not have managed to clear all my bills in time to deploy had this money not come.

Today I sit at my own neat desk typing this, appreciating life in all its complexity and gloriousness. I know I did not get here on my own. I got here because of the generosity of not only family and close relatives and friends, but also that of complete strangers who saw my potential and believed that making an investment in me would not be in vain to the world.

With Breakthrough Initiative Africa, if there are two virtues that I cannot emphasize enough to everyone who encounters our work, they are the inherent benefits of “community” and the heart of “paying it forward” — whatever it is the universe gave (gives) to you.

The universe gave me generosity and belief from strangers when both were what stood between the determinant point of my success and failure. This year, following a tradition I started for my birthday last year where I do something incredibly meaningful for other people, I’m starting a school fees fund for 200 underprivileged children under the age of 13. But not just that. I’m also announcing how you can do this with me — read on.

To these 200 little stars in the making, I will contribute, through my organisation Breakthrough Initiative Africa, Shs.100,000 each per school term. During holidays, we will go a step further and design for them programs to keep them meaningfully engaged and constantly growing and thriving, to give them a fair shot at competing favorably with the rest of the more privileged world once they reach adulthood.

On my own, I can afford the first one year of this project. And this is where I need your help. If 5,000 of us gave a modest sum of Shs.1,000 every month, we could keep this project going for many more years. Why should we bother? Because the next great African president, nurse, artist, chemist… could be sitting at home right now missing out on school because they can’t afford it or the requirements to go with it. A fund like this could make all the difference in their lives at a modest cost to us individually. The amount to give will not be capped — you can give as much as you want.

All of us are where we are today because someone strived and someone gave and someone believed in us. I do not have the next ten years of how I hope to pull this venture off figured out at this time. Just as I didn’t when I opened up my one-bedroomed house two years ago for kids hustling on no budget in Kampala to crash at as they chased their dreams. But more than I believe in the power of the universe to provide, I believe in people. And that’s why I invest in people. That’s also why I am calling on your generosity.

Here I stand as one, calling on 5,000. I implore you to stand up and have your contribution counted. My birthday will be this October. I will be 25 years old. I will launch this project then and begin vetting children who will start with us as early as the beginning of next year. In your honor, I will also start a special Facebook page where I will tell you the stories of all the wonderful children whose lives you will be changing with me every day and the exciting story of this next journey.

If you would like to join me, please reach out and also tell ten friends. In fact, tell your whole clan. Scratch that — stop even the random strangers you meet on the street tomorrow and tell them. Also, if you’ve got any children in your community whom you feel would benefit from the boost of a fund like this in their lives, please get in touch and begin recommending them.

You can reach me here via my inbox, or drop me an email at [email protected]. How can you contribute this very minute? Share this post with your community and spread the word. Thank you!


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The Night Rider