Noeline is an author, writer, motivational speaker, life coach, career mentor, trainer, social entrepreneur and business development consultant.
It was a cloudy and threatening-to-rain day when I made my way to Kalerwe to the Kyusa offices. Noeline’s directions were precise to the dot and I got to the right office without any hiccups. Okay well, almost no hiccups. I almost went toward the wrong door until I spotted the Kyusa poster on the first door. Her welcome was warm. She sat next to an open window that showed an overgrown wild bush in the neighbouring plot. I had looked forward with anticipation to chatting with this vibrant young lady. Seated opposite her, I started asking her some questions. Her answers flowed like a river and her joyous laughter was plentiful.
Tell us a bit about your background and early childhood
“I was born in Jinja, then we relocated. I grew up in old Kampala for the biggest part of my life. It was an urban slum community and quite an experience because from a young age I got to see people hustle. I saw the challenges that people go through, the suffering and pain, the vulnerability and young girls becoming pregnant and eloping. That is where my connection comes from when it comes to community work because these are things I’ve seen and experienced. It is not something I read and researched about.
I was very sickly growing up so I had my own dynamic. On one side I was very fragile while on another side I was very adventurous so the combination was a big twist for many people. You either knew one side or the other side so my mum would go to school and argue how her daughter is purely innocent and the teachers would look at her with a you-have-no-idea-what-your-daughter-can-do look. I was quiet and reserved yet quite naughty. You’d walk into class and think ‘it can’t be her’ and yet everything tells you ‘it must be her’.” She laughed.
“Also, because I was sickly, I was exempted from many things such as punishment and the hard work. So at some point I took the same laissez faire attitude with my academics. I knew that even if I flunked, it wouldn’t be such a big deal. This went on until either P.5 or P.6, when I was forced to repeat a class and that was a wake up call for me.
I was taller than most of the people in my class so it was on that basis that my sister insisted I don’t repeat because it would kill my esteem. She advocated for me to change schools. At that time, I was in Mengo primary and I was moved to Bat Valley primary. It was at that point that I woke up and improved my academics. I wanted to prove myself and I realized that if I just put in a little effort, I’d actually get stuff done. I was very good with the Arts. Mathematics was my biggest challenge, (laughs) I guess still is, but I’ve come a long way.
For secondary I was put in Wanyange boarding school and that was a whole other experience because being sickly, away from home and having been pampered all my life, there I was. I had cousins in higher classes who watched out for me but that was my transition into independence, just learning to be able to stand. At first I became a bully then I outgrew it. I would get people to do stuff for me. Then I found my way into a leadership space though sadly at first, I used that to still get people to do stuff for me. Then I think it’s in my A level that I got to really serve and not to just get people to do stuff for me.”
Curious, I ask her what sparked that urge to change and use leadership for real service.
“I’d grown up in church all my life but it’s at that point that I became really serious with God. It was during my senior 4 transition. My mum fell sick and it’s in that moment that my faith meant more to me than anything. By the time I got to A-level I was really grounded and that’s what changed my perspective. I’m now a leader not to get privileges but basically to empower and mentor other people. I was a head girl and head of scripture union fellowship in my A-levels.”
How did your journey proceed after high school?
“After I did my high school, I passed and was admitted to university as a private student. I was super excited. However, I realized I wasn’t able to go to university. Mum was sick and going through chemotherapy. There was no money for university. I was brought to a place where I had to drop out not because I was daft or I didn’t want to study but because of matters out of my control. So that put me on a totally different path. To build my first CV, I did a number of online courses and that’s how I got a job which gave me formal training.”
What inspired you to get up and move forward from that discouragement of not being able to go to university?
“During that time I spent a lot of time with my mum in hospital taking care of her. Cancer, as a disease in Uganda was only starting to get on the rise and the perception toward it was similar to that of AIDS whereby it was assumed that when you get it, you die. But interestingly, my mum refused to die and it is something she verbalized. She said ‘I refuse to die’ and it would annoy me like crazy because I thought that it was her fate due to the general perception. A year later my mum actually pulled through and she is one of those cancer survivors that has no side effects…for me that was a miracle and the fact that she said she refused to die and that she needed to see her grand children, it was proof that her will kept her alive. So that’s where I picked the will to push for my dreams, to know that no matter where you are, you can actually push against the tides. I had seen her practically do it.
I had wanted to be a journalist or lawyer so at that point I asked myself what it was about those two professions that I loved. I realized it was that I wanted to speak for the vulnerable and bring justice in some way. So I started reading very wide and realized I was more interested in humanities and that took shape for me. I hate it when people are marginalized and I want to do my part to make a difference everyday.”
So how and when did you start the different initiatives that you run and what was the progression from one to the other? Did it all happen at once?
“Definitely not all at once. My very first initiative was Kyusa which I started in 2014. I left my last formal employment in 2012 and took a gap year in 2013 where I got a scholarship to go to India and do a course in social entrepreneurship. That helped shape the idea of what I wanted to do and this led to the launch of Kyusa, my first organization that I started from scratch. It’s been an experience and it was my first baby.
In 2015, I started getting offers from people who wanted me to do consultancy or training for them that didn’t fit within the Kyusa framework. This led to the birth of Newen consults, a company I started in partnership with a friend. Newen Consults does personal and business development consulting. Kyusa still remained my main focus though.
Around that time, I was mentoring and coaching young women and there a was period when seven women approached me for personalized coaching and mentoring around the same time. I knew that it would be a stretch for me. I prayed about it and that gave me the idea to do group mentoring. After that group mentoring pilot, there were people on the wait list already. This gave birth to the New Generations Mentoring program. This program was branded under Newen Consults. This has been running since 2016 and now we are in the fifth cohort. It’s been an amazing journey.
While doing business consultation, one of the things that bothered me was how there was little space for faith as a woman within the different business transactions. It was this that led me to read and research about “Kingdom Business” and interestingly there was not so much information about it. I had questions like at what point do I tithe as the business? At what point do I uphold my faith in business? Is there room for it because I can’t be one person and then another when it comes to business. So for a year we had this whatsapp group where we basically discussed business as women. We talked about tithe, prayer in business, sharing the gospel with workmates and so on. The network itself just grew over time. It’s not something that I woke up and decided to do. However, because I had started the initiative, I came on board as the founding president. We structured and registered it as the Christian Women’s Entrepreneurship Network and put in place a committee that runs it. This took effect in 2017.
Next in 2017 when I wanted to do my book launch for Find Your Significance, I published my book under Newen consults and now in addition, we offer this service as well as nurturing and training upcoming young authors and helping them launch their books.”
I had more questions and there is much more wisdom to be gleaned from Noeline. Let’s drink in this knowledge together slowly and fully. The second part of this interview will be published next Sunday on this same blog.
I believe you are looking forward to it too 🙂 .
See you next Sunday.