Nyana Kakoma is the founder of Sooo Many Stories, a publishing house and online platform which allows Ugandan writers to express their creativity. To date, Sooo Many Stories has published two books: The Headline That Morning and Other Stories by Peter Kagayi and Flame and Song by Philippa Namutebi, along with several other short stories.
The blog she started in 2014 with the support of her husband has now morphed into a publishing house with a dedicated staff of four, and a wealth of Ugandan literal content in short stories, poems and book reviews.
After several years in the journalism and communications industry, Nyana quit her job and dedicated herself to creating this space that would show be home to Ugandan writers and an outlet for so many stories.
Her inspiration to start the blog was rooted in the fact that not many people knew about Ugandan literature. While an editor for the in-house Magazine and other publications at Madhivani group, she horned her writing skills and got to interact with other people in the African literary space.
“it was during this time that I started travelling for workshops outside Uganda and people were talking about publishers… writers and editors in their countries, but there were not so many from Uganda… I started getting a hunger for a platform that would talk about Ugandan writers.” she says.
When she took the plunge into the publishing world, she attended several trainings and an editorial internship with Modjaji books in Cape town where she learnt from the extra ordinary Colleen Higgs, who still remains one of her biggest influences alongside Ella Alfrey, Jennifer Makumbi and Goretti Kyomuhendo (Founder of African Writers Trust). Through this internship, she learnt the ins and outs of publishing and got the necessary tools and motivation to expand her blog into a publishing for Ugandan literature.
“I wanted people to take me seriously, to take the blog seriously… I was doing this for real, not as a part time job. That meant that I put in a lot. I would do interviews, book reviews and attend all these events. No one was paying me but the sheer joy of doing what I love made it worth it.” Nyana explains.
Sooo Many Stories has taken on the responsibility of cultivating a reading culture in Uganda through book clubs for adults, teenagers and children. The Fireplace: Tot tales is where children from the ages of 4 to 12 gather to read books. Divided into groups of 4 – 6, 7 – 9 and 10 – 12 years, these books clubs see up to 45 children at every session.
These sessions are held in Ntinda at the Innovation Village and in Bugolobi. Two more chapters will be opened next year in Muyenga and Entebbe. This initiative has gone a long way in nurturing a keen interest in books both for children and adults.
“People throw around the phrase “reading culture is Uganda so bad” but you don’t know how quite terrible it is that is until you try to sell a book, until you try to convince someone to buy a book. It was terrible, we started thinking… So we decided to start book clubs, which are called fireplaces… To boost the reading culture, it has to be done from the grass roots. If we are to promote Ugandan literature, it has to be through a holistic approach by making books available for children to read.” She says.
This brilliant concept has had visible transformational effect on the children.
“The book clubs have created an explosion of reading. We’ve seen results… We’ve seen parents say “watch out for my kid he doesn’t talk to anyone” but that kid will be the first one to speak when we ask for volunteers to read. We’ve seen parents tell us that my kid is interested in books now. We are approaching reading from a fun side showing these kids that books are fun. They don’t have to be academic.” Nana explains.
Nyana envisions a time in Uganda when reading will become a thing. For people to stay in doors on weekends just to read without having people ask “Do you have a paper?” With the state of the economy, buying a book may not necessarily be a priority like soap and food but just like food, when you do not read you die too. It may not be a physical death, but lack of knowledge kills.
The Soroti Cricket Academy: Transforming Young Lives Through Sport
The Soroti Cricket Academy was founded in 2014 with five pioneer cricketers and has since grown to a membership of over 500 players. Founded by Felix Musana, a Certified Public Accountant and passionate cricketer, the academy has supported over 600 young people in Eastern Uganda through cricket, education and youth empowerment programs.
How it started
“I was working in Soroti and one day while I was jogging at a public field, I saw five kids playing cricket, 4 girls and 1 boy. They did not have gear and I worried they would get hurt. They had no one to guide them but they were playing anyway. I was impressed, I could not go forward without supporting them. I got them some gear and that made a very big difference for them. That is how it began,” says Musana. “They told their friends who joined the game and within no time, the numbers had increased.”
Having gained an appreciation for the sport at an early age and playing throughout secondary and university, Musana’s passion and love for the game pushed him to start this academy along with three friends, with a dream of harnessing young people’s talent and using the game to empower them to become changemakers. He currently plays for the Soroti Blazers.
To increase its sustainability and recruit more players, the academy works with ten primary schools and six secondary schools in Soroti, Mbale and Lira. They have two professional coaches who take turns training the players in schools. So far, three clubs have been established; Soroti Challengers, Olila girls club and Soroti Blazers and are now competing on the national level.
“We try to introduce cricket at the youngest level in primary and follow through with the players up to university. The youngest players are 8 years old in primary 3.”
Whereas cricket is the backbone of the academy, Musana puts much emphasis on education and youth empowerment as well to ensure a better life for its players who are mostly from rural eastern Uganda.
“We go beyond cricket,” he says. “Most of the young people we work with come from backgrounds with parents that do not believe in education, especially for girls. We mitigate this by talking to the parents to get them an appreciation for education and the opportunities it brings. The people we work with are from rural communities with challenged backgrounds. We realized that if we do not take that extra step, they wouldn’t get much value from playing cricket because many of the players were dropping out of school due to early marriages, drug abuse, pregnancy…”
Through cricket, the academy is empowering young people in rural communities in Eastern Uganda to become change agents. They do radio shows and conduct community programs during school holidays to show how cricket and education are linked.
“While cricket may not be a long-term career, it is a means to a better life for our players. Some have gone up to university level because their tuition is being paid by their patron clubs.”
Many players have received bursaries for secondary education and some university scholarships.
“Nine of our players have gotten call ups on the national team and four have represented the country in international games in international games in South Africa, Dubai, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Kenya and Kigali. We have 15 girls who have gotten bursaries in Olila Secondary School, 13 boys at Light SS, four boys in Mukono High School and another at Jinja S.S.”
Challenges they face
Being a voluntary project, Soroti Cricket Academy faces a multitude of challenges, most associated with resource mobilization. Without governmental support and limited support from the cricket federation of Uganda, there are very many limitations to how much they can do.
“In the beginning, it was only about getting the players equipment, but now we have 2 permanent coaches who scout train all the teams in the schools. Paying them sufficiently and on time is a challenge.”
Because there aren’t any cricket facilities in Soroti, the games can only take place in Entebbe, Jinja and Kampala where cricket ovals are. This excludes most of the players who may not afford transport and accommodation to participate.
Working with the schools too presents a challenge as they are more focused on academic work than sports so convincing the administration to let the students participate becomes difficult. However, inspired by the young player’s talent, he does not give up.
“I am impressed whenever I visit the players and see how talented they are. That keeps me going. Every time we get a chance to play at the national level, they play at their best. The talent, commitment and hard work these young people exhibit and the success they attain keeps me going. All the accolades we win lift my spirit. I can only consider quitting when I know Soroti has a cricket oval. When teams in Kampala come to play in Soroti.”
The future for Soroti Cricket Academy
In its five years of existence, the academy has produced some of the best cricketers in Uganda at the moment such as Joyce Mary Apio, Eloku Esther, Kevin Auro, Alongat Eunice and Apollo Joseph who have received national and inter-school accolades.
“The overall goal is to make Soroti a cricket powerhouse and empower athletes to become community leaders by staying in school.” Says Musana. “Already, one of the clubs, Olila cricket club has claimed its position as one of the best in the country.”
This Organisation is continuously tailoring projects to save the girl child and support needy women in the Community
Started a few years ago, local tailoring entrepreneur Harry Patel under his company Tengi Styles has over the years joined the helping hand supporting local communities with emphasis to the girl child and women in the rural areas of Jinja District.
This is all done under the ‘Abaana Abaidho’ Organisation that runs on the ‘Changing a life’ tagline. Through numerous tailored projects, the Foundation is changing the lives of very many young girls, and women in local communities especially in Jinja.
Apart from selling some of the best custom made ‘Bitengi’ that they also deliver in Kampala, Tengi Styles has taken up the mantle to deliver and train girls and women in hands on tailoring skills.
With this initiative, the Company and foundation have not only supported girls and women in tailoring but have also donated sewing machines to these people to enable them utilise the skills they have gained thus offering them an opportunity of earning a living through tailoring and through Tengi Styles that already has a functional client base.
The Foundation also engages young children under the school’s kids & community gala where they come together to play soccer/football as well as giving them scholastic materials to enable them go through school smoothly.
Together with local celebrities like Maro and the Brian Umony Foundation, who inspire young people to follow their dreams and use all available resources to better their lives have changed the course of life in rural Jinja
Through the use of fashion to change the lives of the needy and to empower the local person, Abaana Abaidho Foundation is continuously looking forward to create and tailor make programs and projects to better the life of the rural and ultra-poor person.
Who is Harry Patel?
Source: Proud to be a Musoga
Hari Patel aka ‘Waiswa’, from Buwenge, Jinja District, is ‘Proud to be a Musoga’. Hari qualifies as a ‘true’ Musoga, having been born, schooled and still lives in Buwenge. He is fluent in spoken and written Lusoga and loves Jinja.
He is very passionate and active about Busoga and owns a local charity, Abaana Abaidho, that uses football/sport to build confidence and unite the youth, and teaches vocational skills like tailoring.
Disability is not inability: Meet Aisha, a blind hair dresser
In a world full of uncertainties, Malengo Foundation is a living testimony through its Girl 50 50 project that no form of adversity or discrimination is enough to keep a strong woman from achieving her goals.
Being blind never stopped Bahati Aisha’s passion for beauty, business and style to blossom. The amazingly talented Aisha has broken barriers to run a successful hair and beauty salon in Kampala and is rising fast to rank among the stylists and fashion influencers despite being blind.
Aisha stood out as Miss Tourism Independent 2015-2016. She is also a makeup artist and cat walked for Malengo Foundation during the Hot Pink fashion show
Girl 50 50 is a Malengo Foundation Campaign mainstreaming the disability normative in gender empowerment. The project decided to honour all the vulnerable ladies who chose to thrive and didn’t let their disability to hinder them from pursuing their dreams.
Aisha was among the 6 remarkable girls and women with disabilities in various fields from Para sports to entrepreneurship that were recognized by Malengo Foundation.
Speaking during the Girl 50- 50 Forum and project launch at Mestil Hotel, Aisha shared her experiences about how blindness has impacted her life and career. The project will encompass a multitude of activities and interventions throughout the year focusing on the girl child disability rights in an effort to mainstream gender within disability rights.
Aisha was crowned the stylist honoree of 2019 and her award was presented to her by Lady Justice Margeret Oguli Oumo.
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