Thursday 29th March 2018 was my forty second birthday. My work colleagues surprised me with a cake and birthday celebrations as early as Monday 26th. The same happened on Tuesday with the Mastermind that I lead as I help people grow in their leadership. My friends had taken to these “birthday guerilla tactics” because they all knew what I had planned for Thursday, the big day.
Beginning last year when I turned forty one, I decided I’d had enough Birthday celebrations that were about me. I needed my life to continue counting for some things, even as I celebrated the passing of every year. I decided to have a dinner and asked all my friends to give a cash gift to the College Fund instead of buying me a Birthday gift.
The College Fund is an initiative to change our communities one college degree at a time. We help college students who are struggling financially to finish their degrees by helping pay their tuition. We started last year and are already currently funding five students through College (University). All it’s taken to change the destinies of these wonderful people are gifts from people that would have otherwise bought me more stuff.
We have worked it out in a way that these students can pay back the money after they graduate and start earning, so that the Fund grows and becomes self sustaining eventually. It’s such a blessing to hear the stories of life change that this small effort is starting to catalyze. Ruth Mirembe, one of the beneficiaries shares her story here below:
Around the beginning of 2014 my father lost his job after a very bad accident. At around the same time he lost his property to con men; at some point we thought he would lose his mind! My mother is a trained primary school teacher who left teaching practice for personal businesses some years back. The money she made was just enough to cover our basic needs since our father always covered tuition fees. After my father’s accident she stepped into his shoes and become the sole provider; starting from father’s medical bills to basic needs for both us and her mother and finally tuition for 6 children.
We thought about quitting school for some good time but my brave mum held on and she got loans so we could stay in school. I surely don’t know anyone close to us that didn’t give us a loan! Loans became like a constant deep thorn in the flesh as we had failed to clear most of the bills here and there. Being the first born I had to look for plans that could help mum but it all didn’t quite work. In 2016 my tuition fees rose from Ugx 2,800,000 to Ugx 3,200,000. That addition was another mountain we couldn’t see ourselves conquering with all the unpaid loans we already had. We had lost most of our relationships due to delayed loans payments.
One Sunday afternoon after Garage (church service), I walked up to Pastor Mosze and inquired about the Harvest Finance loan and its requirements. I didn’t have 50% of the requirements but he did all he could and I was able to get the loan that covered that semester. In 2017, in my last year of clinical medicine, tired of the accumulating loans and the condition in which my mum was (Mum faced many arrest threats, she literally left home at dawn and returned late at night so she could avoid being arrested) I started to lose hope again.
On one of those days when I was feeling really low and beaten Pastor Mosze reached out to me and told me about the College Fund and how he thought I would benefit from it. The College Fund cleared my tuition and I was able to successfully do all my papers. I graduated on 2nd December 2017 with CGPA of 3.5 in Clinical Medicine and Community Health. My Medical license will be out in April and I am hopeful that I will find a job as soon as I receive it so I can start making my payments back to The College Fund and help someone else to also complete school. I also have plans to go back to school; I will study during day time and work night shift. Thank you so much The College Fund for your support towards my education; I am truly grateful!
So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
This is one small action I’ve taken to make my Birthdays, indeed my days count. If we started celebrating our Birthdays in reverse (knowing our departure dates), I believe we’d live much more wisely than we do. My prayer is that you too will figure out how to make your life count for the well being of others. For until we do that, we haven’t started to really live!