A Life of Service

The unexpected death of Rotarian Sam Frobisher Owori of the Rotary Club of Kampala and President-elect of Rotary International on 13th July 2017, shocked many Ugandans and millions of his friends world-wide. I am not a Rotarian and I cannot claim that I knew him enough but what I know for sure is that in the last twenty-nine years his face had become a symbol of Rotary in Uganda. It is no surprise to me that his death has created an opportunity for me to write about living a life of service to others. Records show that he joined Rotary in 1978 and has served it in many capacities and took on the responsibility of growing the Rotary clubs in Uganda from nine to the current eighty-nine in the last twenty nine years. This is no mean achievement considering that for him it was never about numbers but more to do with quality. We mourn an accomplished man who has lived out what was his own to do and made a unique contribution to the world.

All that he was able to do emerged organically and easily from whom he was: a simple man of integrity, compassionate, passionate and hardworking individual. His concern and compassion for others fired him to become a Rotarian and as he rose through the ranks he was socialized adequately to become effective in his community and country. In Rotary, he was able to express what was in his heart. Rotary transformed him into a better person and he changed Rotary in some aspects. The Rotary community he created in Uganda was able to grow and flourish.

He knew who he was – strengths and weakness, his gifts and talents and used them to find his purpose and meaning in life. He used his life to make a difference and to help others. By doing something good, something useful with his life he made many people happy and found joy in his life.

One of my favourite authors, Khalil Gibran(1883-1931) : the renown  Lebanese-American artist, poet and writer considered Serving others as the key to lasting joy and the actual true meaning of life.

One of his famous quotes says: “I slept and dreamed that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I served and I saw that Service is joy.”

He also said that: “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

Sam Owori gave his love, time, energy and efforts.

Albert Einstein ( 1879-1955)Physicist. He crystallised the importance of service in life in this quote:

“Only life lived in service to others is worth living.’’

As Christians, we are commanded to wear the apron of humility to serve one another. God works through people like Sam Owori and you. Service to others is service to God.

When we love unconditionally, give gladly and humble ourselves to serve others without expecting any rewards: it is the closest we can get to being godly or being perfect. When we connect to people and help them live full lives, our lives will be full too.

Rotarian Sam Owori devoted his time to loving others and creating a community of Rotarians and in doing so, he found purpose and meaning in his life. Once he found what he was created to do and followed it relentlessly he was happy and lived an engaged life. He mentored, sponsored and inspired many Business and professional Ugandans to live meaningful lives and to engage in life fully. No wonder he always looked so alive, confident, open and always had something to look forward to.

Like all professionals of his time: he had many demands on his time but he learned to balance his own good with the good of others. He focused on what was most important in his life: God, family, his health, friends and service to humanity, and profession.Once he got what he wanted, he protected and sustained them.

I salute him for having had the courage and ability to do what he had to do to make a difference in Uganda and the world at large. He never sought his own good but did it for the good of humanity. He left the world a better place than he found it.

His selfless service as a Rotarian that began in 1978, was to serve as a special initiatory experience to prepare him to serve at the highest level as the 108th President of Rotary International from July 2018. He was ready to move with a deeper level of wisdom to access what would have been available to him.He would have been the second African President of this prestigious organization founded by Paul Harris of Chicago in February 1905. It is an international organization found in almost all countries and committed to serve and foster friendships. Many Rotarians in Uganda had already been galvanized for the Montreal meeting next year. Who could not have felt proud of him as a fellow Ugandan? Sadly, he died at the threshold of attaining this highest office in Rotary.

Like Rotary International itself, Sam Owori will be known and remembered by the results he achieved as a Rotarian.

Norah and the three sons may be the unsung heroes who gave Rotarian Sam Owori the secure and stable base to take off and land on. We thank you for this role and mourn with you during this difficult time. God will give you the courage to continue his work of selfless service to humanity. He lives on in you and all that he created with a lot of love and commitment.

Rotarian Sam Frobisher Owori, you have run your race brilliantly. Rest in Eternal Peace.

 

 

 

CONFIDENCE IS REAL POWER

Believing in yourself has incredible power. Before you start believing in yourself you have to know who you really are: your strengths and flaws. You recognize the uniqueness of your own beauty in your body, your mind and your character. You accept them, believe in them and act them. At the same time you have to remember that you can take your strengths to a higher level and improve some of your flaws. You are a Work in progress though you can never be perfect for perfection is for God only.

When you feel good about whom you are, you behave accordingly. You consider yourself worthy and valuable and being yourself other than pretending to be anyone else is the most natural thing for you to do. It is spontaneous and very liberating.

As children, it is appropriate to learn to fit in the world around us starting from the family, school, workplace and then the community. We fall into predictable roles which may even come to define us.

As we continue to grow, we become more honest and authentic wherever we are. We learn to assert our desires and wishes. Most times this comes at a cost to us; we may lose friends, jobs or other positions in society.

Studies by psychologists indicate that some of us are naturally confident but the majority is not. They also indicate that being confident can be learned and mastered like any other skill. I think some of us can remember a BBC Prime show about dating run by two relationships psychologists in 2000s. They would coach men and women to become suitable prospective partners who could take on committed intimate relationships or marriage.

It all boiled down to making them feel more confident in whom they were. They simply did it by teaching them to identify the positive things in themselves and focus on them, to be assertive and to present themselves with a positive image to the world.

I was fortunate to be brought up by a father who hardly knew anything about psychology but taught all his children how to be confident from a tender age. Later he had explained to us that confident people normally got what they wanted out of life.

He instilled it in us that we were worthy and valuable and therefore had to look whom we were. When talking to people he advised us look them straight in the eye and boldly say what we wanted to say. He taught us that it was better to admit that you did not know what was being talked about other than to pretend to know.He taught us to give a firm handshake and to hold our heads tall. He always affirmed us but at the same time gave us healthy criticism.

The fourteen years I spent in the Missionary school whose motto is ‘Never Give Up’, sharpened my power of believing in myself.Later when I joined the university as a medical student, my confidence was taken to a higher level. One of my greatest teachers: Professor R.B Kanyerezi, the current Director of Kampala Hospital, demonstrated to us and taught us the true meaning of confidence. I remember vividly what he advised us to do during the presentation of clinical cases to the examiners and to ourselves. He said, “Read the theory thoroughly and during the clinical presentations be so confident that you can convince the examiner that his right hand is his left hand.’’

We had laughed at this but later we clearly understood what he required of us as students and later as doctors: to be well prepared and then be so bold and shameless that we can make the examiner doubt what he thinks he knows. Wow! That is confidence at its best.

It is confidence of this nature that has helped me sail through my life as a whole. I did not know that I had acquired it until I came close to missing my son’s first graduation. It was June 2007 and I was working in Botswana. This was at the peak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the country was trying to get anyone who needed the Antiretroviral Treatment started on it as soon as possible. During this rat race, I had to be in Cape Town for the graduation. While booking for the flight, to my shock and dismay, I realized that my Visitors’ Visa to South Africa was about to expire. That would not have been a problem if it did not require a minimum of ten working days to process a new one. My three children were at the University of Cape Town and I knew the rules very well.

On presenting my application, I was reminded of the ten working days rule. I pleaded, beseeched and cajoled. I admitted my mistake of having been too busy to check my documents: I had assumed I had been given my usual one year Multiple Entries Visitors Visa when actually I had been given only for nine months. When I thought things through, it was clear that I could miss the graduation. As they say: Desperate situations require desperate action; I took one day off to follow things through.

For the umpteenth time I was reminded of the ten days regulation. I surprised myself and them by demanding to see the High Commissioner. They exchanged glances but advised me where to go to make an appointment to see him in the adjacent wing. I literary ran all the way there but unfortunately I found the High Commissioner out of the office. The lady in the office listened to my story, asked me to collect all my documents from the Visa Section for her to peruse through. I only needed one extra document from the faculty of engineering confirming that my son was among those to graduate. I assured her I would get it by 4:00PM.

Immediately, I crossed the road and sat in the Internet café, called my son and instructed him to run as a hare. Thankfully, he faxed the confirmation from the faculty by 2:30PM. Within ten minutes I was in the Visa Office with the officer and I could feel all the eyes on us. There and then, I was given a one year Visitors Visa. My heart was flooded with joy and I did not have the right words to thank that official. Such good people teach all of us to be good to one another.

I was able to attend that graduation simply because I had the confidence to stand up for what I felt was both important and valuable to me and to present my case boldly and shamelessly. The incredible power of believing in myself fired me to ask for what I felt I deserved: a parent supporting three students at that university. I shudder to think of what might have happened if I had just taken ‘no’ for an answer.

All credit goes to the great teachers who demonstrated and inspired me to believe in myself wherever I am. These are: my parents, teachers, lecturers and friends.

I am a Christian and take the Bible as the Book of Wisdom; while writing this post; two life-changing events came to my mind. When God was passing on the responsibility of leading the Israelites into the Promised Land, from Moses to Joshua, he commanded him to be determined and confident and when King David was passing on his responsibility to rule Israel to his young son Solomon, he instructed him to be confident and determined.

May you be fired up to always believe in yourself by this quote of the late Golda Meir (1898-1978): the fourth Prime minister of Israel (1969-1974). She was a teacher, stateswoman and politician.

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.’’

Thank you for visiting my Blog and reading this post. Please feel free to share it with your network of friends and to leave a comment about it. May this post inspire you always to believe in yourself and to stand up to ask boldly for what you believe you deserve.

Making Sense of The Changes

After being away from home for two decades, I returned to a country changed beyond recognition! I believe that no aspect has been left untouched; some changed for the worse and a few for the better. The old saying: “No Man Is an Island,” rings so true. Uganda is part and parcel of the Global Village and the 3rd Industrial Revolution  known as the Digital Revolution which started in the 1980’s and is ongoing,  has become an integral part of our lives. It has changed our lives: the way we do things, move and communicate. The internet and social media makes us feel so connected to one another globally and yet we are less sensitive to the feelings of others. The 4th industrial Revolution which builds on the 3rd one is steadily ensuring that technology becomes embedded into our societies and even in the human body. We are all really controlled by the environment around us and the more we get to know the environment, the better  we adapt to it and thrive.

I am here struggling to navigate through an uncertain environment  and trying  to find a way to fit in not merely to survive but to flourish as well. I am slowly but surely learning to deal with reality and help others of my kind to do the same.

They say:  “East, west, home is best,” but things as they stand, you can never make enough plans and preparations for the return home. Surprises keep being thrown at you but you just have to learn to keep trusting yourself while at the same time become street smart .You have to make your decisions based on facts other than feelings or emotions. The challenges you keep meeting serve to hone your Warrior skills.  My biggest challenge is finding where I fit in  a country whose moral fiber and values have been radically changed. Each day presents you with opportunities to grow and develop at the same time demand of you to acquire some critical skills like : knowing when to humble yourself and ask for help and when to help others and when to stay back.

As I try to makes sense of the changes around me, I am using it as an opportunity to learn and adapt. Like everybody else I know too well that change is a fact of life and that the earlier I accept it and work  with it, the quicker I would settle down.  When I choose to be like the ostrich and just bury my head in the sand, settling down will be terribly difficult for me. I have chosen to take the philosopher, Alvin Toffler’s advice very seriously. He says: “The illiterates of the 21 st century will be not those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.’’

Living in this era of information overload, every day I consciously choose to learn new things, unlearn what is no longer true or relevant and relearn what is still true and relevant to the times. I have to decipher the information for quality- absorbing what adds value to my life.

I still learn through hearing, seeing and doing things. I have become a keen observer of what is going on around me. I learn from my network of friends and family, colleagues, the young and old whom I have a chance to talk to, and through other returnees. I know for sure that the wise among us learn from the experiences and mistakes of others. I have also had to reassess my strengths and weaknesses, humble myself to ask for help and advice and tried to improve my weaknesses where possible.

This constantly reminds of the quote by an anonymous author: “Blessed are the flexible for they shall never be bent out of shape.’’  It is the same observation that Charles Darwin (1809-1882) the English Biologist and Naturalist made many years ago: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survive. It is the one most adaptable to change.”

I have to remain positive in action and attitude to succeed. My thoughts determine my actions while my attitude determines how far I can go.  By observation, I have come to understand that here people play the game of life along a different set of rules- cheating and exploiting others and a few of them play by no rules at all. After the shock and denial, I am now embracing the change but at the same time holding firmly to my core values and principles. For we are advised that: If a place is changing you to your core values, pack up and leave before you lose yourself.

Having said that, I know that East, west; home is best. I have to trust myself to rise to the challenge of turning home into the place I want it to be. I should start in my house and spread outside. No doubt it takes me out of my comfort zone and it can be scary at times but Charity always begins at home.

I remain hopeful that despite the avalanche of changes around me, I can carve my path through them to grow and develop while at the same time helping and serving others. I have never been the type of person who just sits and watches and I am determined not to start now.

Thank you for visiting my Blog and reading this post. May it help you to embrace and work with the changes at home , at your workplace or wherever you are. Feel free to share the post with your network of friends and family.

One Of the Giants of Our Time

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The Late Sir Ketumile Masire and  Lady  Gladys Olebile Masire at the latter’s  80th Birthday Party in 2012. Standing behind them is Gaone, their eldest child.

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The Late  Gladys Olebile Masire cutting the cake on her 80 th birthday party, surrounded by the grandchildren.

Sir Ketumile Masire , one of the founding fathers of our great nation: Botswana, has been laid to rest at his humble home in Kanye, south of Gaborone today 29th June 2017. He died almost a month shy of his 92 nd birthday.
Botswana is my second home having worked and lived there for twenty one years as a medical doctor. For all these years, I had the rare privilege of being taken and accepted as a daughter in his family. This happened because my youngest sister, Gladys, went to the then Kianda College of Nairobi , Kenya with Gaone and they became very good friends. Gaone is the oldest of his six children.
When I relocated to Botswana I took over the friendship. So for me this pragmatic and prudent Manager of our country was Rra Gaone and his beautiful wife from Mafeking, Gladys was Mma Gaone.

I remember calling Gaone to advise me of their favourite drink so that I could take it to them on the first visit. By Ugandan culture, an adult cannot visit her parents empty –handed. To my amazement and amusement, Gaone told me that her father’s favourite drink was Rooibos tea served with honey and that is what I used to take with me each time I visited them. I could add things like juice, biscuits, on top. They always received them with so much love and gratitude.

When I was involved in a nearly fatal Road traffic accident in January 1998, Rra Gaone found time to visit me in the intensive care unit of the Gaborone Private Hospital and left a big bouquet of flowers and a Get Well Soon card for me. Later when I was moved back to the surgical ward, Mma Gaone came over several times in the afternoons to watch over me. I later came to know them better as we celebrated weddings and important anniversaries together. On such occasions, Rra Gaone would enjoy freedom and fun by turning into a wise Fool. He could tell funny tales and jokes and throw us into fits of laughter.

I remember one time when he found me without a drink and asked me what I could take. He insisted that I took something so I asked for water. He went inside the house and came back with a jug of water and two glasses. He poured some water and took a sip before filling my glass. He explained to me that was what the Tswana culture demanded. One other story of his that I found extremely interesting was how he had fallen suddenly ill and found himself in a hospital bed on his wedding day in 1957. He insisted that the wedding went ahead in that hospital room and tea was served to a few relatives and hospital staff!

He was a hands on father who always attended PTA meetings at his children’s schools and the Class days to monitor the children’s progress at school and later their graduations. He was in their children’s lives and they were in his too. He strongly supported the newly formed Maru-a-Pula School in Gabarone and the University of Botswana.
In the home, there was order and harmony and each one looked out for the other. There was no ambiguity about the core values and principles; Sunday morning was worship day at the nearest local church followed by the family lunch organized by all. He instilled in all his children discipline and the duty to serve others without expecting any reward and the need to keep improving themselves.
Many of his children especially Gaone have numerous friends but both Rra Gaone and Mma Gaone took great interest in them and got to know them better. Many times they visited London, they would call or look up my sister, Gladys.

In later life, he was happiest with the grandchildren and learned a lot from them especially about the internet and social media. He remained a consistent and principled gentleman.
In May 2013, sadly he lost his beloved wife of fifty six years. It was very tough on him but as the seasoned Warrior, he gradually found it in himself to continue with his life. He immersed himself in beef cattle farming,read many books,travelled to promote his Memoirs and to promote peace worldwide. He was on the board of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation that awards the world’s most valuable individual award: The Mo Ibrahim prize for African leadership.

The last family occasion I attended before returning to Uganda; was the celebration of his 90th Birthday on 23 July 2015. It was a well-organized function by the children and he enjoyed it thoroughly.
Originally he was a teacher then a journalist so throughout his life he taught, he served he mentored and sponsored many and made the world a better place. He always explained, demonstrated but most of all, he inspired us to want to do good and be better people.
I for one learned from him that when you wear the apron of humility and served others without expecting returns,God lifts you up. Rra Gaone was an epitome of humility and service to others.
With beloved Gladys by his side, they were a force to reckon with.
Secondly, I learned that a stable and secure family is the main anchor in life: it gives you wings to fly wherever you want to go but always beckons you for nurturing and refilling your emotional tank.
Gaone and all, Rra Gaone left you an inheritance of principles and core values, an attitude of gratitude and a positive attitude about life to sustain your future. Make the most of it.

As he was being laid to rest, we all celebrated a life so well lived that it earned him a secure place in the annals of our Country’s history. We thank God for he lived long enough to see Botswana rise and shine as a great nation.
Both Rra Gaone and Mma Gaone will live on in their children, in our hearts and in all that they created with a lot of love and commitment.
Last but not least I leave you with this quote by George Martin: “ He was definitely a father figure for all of us. Once you were a giant, you were always a giant.’’
Rra Gaone , Robala ka Kagiso: Rest In Peace.