Emmanuel is a 24 year old visual artist and founder of FacesUp Uganda.
Emmanuel was raised by a single mum who loved and cared for everyone in the community, making their problems her problems, this shaped his dreams, wanting to help other people live to their full potential. But also, as the years went on he had questions he knew she would not be in a position to answer, so many questions with no one to ask. He had so many interests; football, art, acrobatics, dance and yet no one guide him. So he hopped from one thing to another, today it would be dancing and tomorrow football. He was confused. Had he got a person to tell him to focus his strengths on a particular thing, maybe he would have realized his dream at an even earlier age.
Even after joining University, he found other ‘confused’ young people such as himself. Many of them did not know where or what they wanted to do, they were troubled about their dreams; say how aligned their courses were to these dreams. Others joined with clear dreams but got distracted or discouraged as the semesters went by. It is then that he realized that young people need mentors, someone to guide them into better and informed decision making.
In 3rd year, as an Arts student, he was tasked to come up with an end of a course project. So he came up with a project to help children that had no toys learn how to make their own toys. However, his lecturers were not very welcoming of his idea. Nevertheless, he went ahead and carried clay for the children of Kalerwe to create their own toys. To his disappointment, not all the children were interested in molding and creating with the clay, some wanted to play football and others dance. It then hit him that everyone had their own individual interests and that should be respected.
In 2016 following his interaction with the children of Kalerwe, he wanted to establish a platform for them to meet their role models and mentors. Unfortunately, there was no real impact. The so what to the equation was missing. And this so what became louder after the FacesUp campaign in 2016 where he had different celebrities meet these children. And that was it, he decided that there should be more to this initiative than just meet and greet and that is how and why he decided to build the skills of these children too, so that if a child looks up to Farouk Miya and loved football, maybe give them a chance to grow their talent and create the connection with his role model.
Emmanuel’s first inspiration is his mother. He is always in awe of how she managed to raise eight children. He also finds Malala Yousafzai an inspiration because she has defied the odds. The children he works with under the FacesUp programs also inspire him, their resilience and focus. For example the 11 year old Juliana, a girl that does whatever she sets her mind on regardless of how difficult others tell her it is.
When asked if he was living his dream, Emmanuel smilingly said yes. It is his dream that through his effort young people can do what they want, using his skills to help others. He finds it so fulfilling when he sees a young person get the opportunities they deserve.
"To the young people, identify your interest first because that is the starting point for you to explore. Let your interests inform your behavior and the things you engage in"