A lot of people believe humanity is about loving, accepting people for who they are and making a difference in the lives of others, but only a few are driven by that belief, and Noreen Ebotiait Asekenye is one of the few; she is impacting lives through storytelling. When I heard her story, I was awed. This young lady had a dream and she took bold steps to realize it for greater good.
Noreen is a young Ugandan who is extremely excited about telling stories, developing communities (with a focus on women and children), and impacting lives.
She is the Founder and Team Leader of Tell a Story Foundation, Uganda, a non-profit organization aimed at touching the lives of people everywhere by showing them love, compassion, and above all, appreciating the gift of their lives and stories.
Tell a Story Foundation believes everyone matters and so does every story, thus, their focus is on using stories to connect lives irrespective of age, gender, nationality or status. Because of the foundation’s core in stories, they have an event called Nights & Stories.
Nights and Stories has been birthed due to the love for stories and humanity. It is a reflection of the African Traditional way of story telling, drawing examples of our fore fathers that told stories around fire places or at gatherings.
On such nights, people sit around a fire and tell or listen to stories on a particular theme. They have a cup of African tea as they listen to tones of live music performances.
Nights and Stories is a safe avenue for people to tell their stories without fear or shame but rather own and take pride in them. It also creates a sense of belonging through bonding.
They also believe that, the answers to our predicaments are always within us as humans and so, they use their own stories to carry out fundraising. And so far, they have done a sandal campaign and charity walk for education for children with autism, Watch and Dine for Bena and Hajjarah in School to support the education of little girls. They are also equipping rural women with skills so that they can be independent and have a source of livelihood.
When asked what inspired her to start her own foundation, she had this say:
“My inspiration came from two words; love and purpose. I found meaning from a broken place when I was internally hurt by someone so close to me. It was at that point that I realized that I was endowed with the gift of love. So, following my Christian faith teaching of loving people, I made a decision to use the gift of love to touch the lives of people that the world would call undeserving. I wanted to live a life of purpose, living for something beyond myself, knowing that my life would be a reminder to countless people to believe that good people still exist.”
According to her, whenever she meets new people in her community, at work places, at events or in taxis, she imagines what their stories are, what is going on their minds at that time, their histories and present. And so, she thought to herself, “Noreen, you love writing, you love stories, you have the belief that every life matters, so why don’t you create a safe space for people to own their stories, to love, inspire other people, and later on use their stories for social change. And that was what led to the birth of Tell a story Foundation Uganda.
Just like any other dreamer, she has had her own share of challenges but she has dealt with them one after the other; coming out stronger than ever each time. She revealed that, the foundation was started with zero shillings even though there was a lot they had to do in that year, including, payment of registration fees, getting branding materials and so much more. She also recounted how she was told by someone she had hoped to walk this journey with that ‘she had a divided vision that was not standing on a strong ground’ , while others also said she was interested in benefiting financially from their stories. “The foundation was even given a few months to collapse, but guess what, we have been increasing, activity after activity, new entrants, open doors for opportunities.” She said.
Irrespective of the challenges she faced, she refused to allow her fire to be quenched. Instead, she has learned from her challenges and used the lessons as transformational tools. Some of the lessons are:
- Start from where you are, with what you have and what you can do. Your idea is your capital.
- Believe that where there is vision, there is provision.
- Always work for God and not for men.
- Some people can tend to be manipulative; so, be assertive, and live by your principles.
- Your experiences are not yours until you have finally accepted, thought about them and finally understood them. You should not be used by them but instead use them. You’re the designer and not the design; use your experiences to be empowered, take time to study every bit of your story.
Noreen dreams of a world (and an era) where young people will own up their stories, discover it’s impact on others and harness that power to impact lives. To the people out there who are resistant to sharing your story, she has this to say to you:
“You matter and so does your story. You cannot give what you don’t have, but you have a story; give it to the world. You will be shocked how many people will see small bits of themselves in your story. And that is why you are on planet earth, to give the world the best you and what better way could it be than telling your story and knowing that even in the simplest way it has contributed to the better good of someone else.”
You can connect with Noreen or her foundation on Facebook: Noreen Ebotiait and Tell a Story Foundation, Uganda.