Commonwealth Point of Light 20. Esther Kalenzi
Esther Kalenzi, representing Uganda, is the 24-year- old founder of ‘40 Days over 40 Smiles’, a youth led organisation which has raised over $150,000 to give 2,000 vulnerable children access to education through career guidance, counselling, and study sessions.
Esther also led an innovative literacy project after realising that the Ugandan children she taught were not reading books that reflected their own experiences. She created four short story books, with contributions from 16 local volunteer writers, which featured local people and their stories. Esther delivered these books to 1,000 disadvantaged primary school pupils across four regions of Uganda.
The award for Esther will be presented on the 28th February by Peter West, UK High Commissioner in Uganda.
“This award came as an absolute surprise for me. I got a call on a day when I was stuck in bed, during a particularly trying time. I thought it was a dream, too good to be true. I am extremely excited, still in a daze really!
“It is an absolute honour for me to receive this recognition. I hope that it will inspire my team of volunteers and our support system to continue sacrificing and going the extra mile for the Ugandan children whose lives have changed because of them. In a special way, I would really like to thank my family, friends, my team and everyone who has supported ’40-40′ since inception. They have given me the strength to carry on. Volunteering is no easy feat. It requires a lot of patience and dedication yet it is often a thankless job.
“I dedicate this award to the wonderful souls who have been part of the ’40-40′ journey and all young dreamers in Uganda and across Africa as a whole. I hope that a young man or woman out there will be inspired to pursue his/her dreams relentlessly, picking themselves up even when the road gets tough, reminding themselves to try again and again and then again.
“I am privileged to be living my dream,with support from friends and strangers alike. I believe that everyone can leverage their networks to make a positive difference in their community. Together with my team, I find people who are willing to share their time, skills and resources which we then use to transform the lives of vulnerable children. Don’t get me wrong, it is not easy and sometimes I have to literally drag myself out of bed to keep trying especially when the storms arise. But, I know that the world won’t change itself if I simply sit back and complain without playing my part towards transformation.
“In 1957, Martin Luther King said “Life’s most persistent question is ‘what are you doing for others?’ I hope that we can all ask ourselves this question and challenge ourselves to do more every single day.”
Peter West, UK High Commissioner in Uganda, said:
“I am delighted to present Esther this award for her work at ’40 Days Over 40 Smiles Foundation’. Her work touches the lives of so many less fortunate children and makes her a worthy recipient of this Points of Light Award.”
HE Peter West: Delighted to present @Estar_K, founder of @40days_40smiles with the @PointsofLight award for service to community. https://t.co/14fM7DeaIl
Well deserved! pic.twitter.com/VxtYZSMddp
— UK in Uganda 🇬🇧 🇺🇬 (@UKinUganda) February 28, 2018