By Maxy Magella Abenaitwe
For most Ugandans, the COVID-19 lockdown has been a financially painful time of watch and see. The presidential speeches have been a wave of hope whose flap never settles. Lives have come to a standstill.
For a few, however, it has been a time of growth and development.
Denish Ojok, a second year Social Work student at Uganda Christian University (UCU), is among those few. Being alone since childhood presented him many challenges to sail through storms at their worst. The lockdown with inability to attend UCU classes was yet another to overcome. For Denish, the answers came through food, fitness and market deliveries with a bit of radio inspiration on the side.
Income from his Rock of Ages fitness club helped pay his tuition. When the club was shut down through government orders, he moved workouts online. Clients subscribed at a daily fee of Shs3000, accessing exercise platforms such as Go to Meeting and Face book.
Realizing this wasn’t enough, he thought about how his other skills could be used. Ojok, who is good at boiling a cow hooves, started making door step deliveries of a much-prized dish known as Mulokoni. Most days, this brought Ojok a minimum of Shs30000 profit.
Ojok’s third idea related to helping people obtain food when they weren’t allowed to travel. With the suspension of public and private means of transport but allowance of motorcycle deliveries, he took orders and made deliveries of market goods. Business was so good that he was able to employ a handful of youth to help him.
This voice of hope – one that resonates with biblical scripture – has been echoed by Ojok on Rupiny FM radio. His encouraging words on youth radio talk shows are about growth during a pandemic, thinking “beyond the nose” in a positive way to overcome circumstances, and continuing good sanitation habits after the COVID-19 virus is controlled. Such habits as handwashing will solve other problems such as diarrhea.
“Exercise financial discipline, spend less and learn to cope with any condition that comes your way,” the 24-year-old student entrepreneur said. “Choose to see the good in the bad thing. Stay positive.”
Despite the great work progress, Ojok is dissatisfied with the fact that a large portion of his potential clients are unable to access his services due lack of communications through smart phones and the Internet. This is a circumstance he is working to resolve.
Much as the lockdown has kept him away from people who inspire his spiritual journey, Ojok has disciplined himself to read and understand scriptures. Before he does anything he prays, as inspired by his lecturer, Peter Nareba, who begins every lecture with prayer.
Ojok plans to maintaining his online business after the lockdown. He believes post lockdown will be an error of innovations since it was a shock that left the world with so much to learn, think about and take action.