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Jacqueline Asiimwe’s Walk. Talk. Connect.: A growing community of like-minded individuals

By Executive Editor

info@kampalagazette.com

“Every time I walk with someone, I’m lending my ear,” Jacqueline Asiimwe.

Asiimwe is a human rights lawyer, advisor, founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of CivSource Africa, a philanthropy advisory firm.

In June 2023, Jacqueline Asiimwe initiated Walk. Talk. Connect., a platform that gives someone else an opportunity to join her for a walk every Friday. She walked everyday of the week, but dedicated one day – Friday – to walking with someone. During the walk, all she does is listen.

“Again, it is really to connect. Because people are lonely. People are struggling. People are just looking for somebody to talk to. Everyday is a day to discover a new story, a new person and new lessons. So, when I was starting Walk Talk Connect, I was also hoping to show to people that, if you want to connect with people or network, there are so many ways to do it. So, this is doable. If you want to connect with people, you have two feet, you have two ears,” recalls Asiimwe.

Months later, what started as a walk with another every Friday has grown to become a daily walk with someone. So far, Asiimwe has walked with 132 people, many of them strangers and of different nationalities. The platform has also widened to become a community of like-minded individuals. In December 2023, Asiimwe compiled all the stories of the walks into a book.

In an interview by telephone on Tuesday, January 2, 2024, as transcribed in a Q and A below, Asiimwe says she plans to hold a walk (of those she has walked with) to Jinja this June, as the platform marks a year.

Question: Take us through the how and why, Walk. Talk. Connect.

Answer: I am always intrigued by origin stories and what the true beginning of anything is. I have been pondering beginnings as I think about where to start the journey that led to Walk. Talk. Connect.

The roots of my walking were partly woven into how I was raised. Part of my history is the 1980’s Uganda. My family lived in Namirembe. We didn’t have a car so we walked everywhere – to school, to church, to the hospital, to the market and to visit relatives. As the first born child, one of my responsibilities was to go to the market with my mom. We shopped at Owino market. Mom and I would walk from Namirembe to Owino. I would carry a basket on my head and go scurrying after her, as we filled the basket with the food items for the week.

In another time period of my life – 2015 to 2016 – I walked a lot. I was preparing for mountain climbs. Part of the preparation included walking long distances. I convened a group of friends – Joy, Penny, Bernard, Michelle, my brother Peter – and we started walking long distances. We scaled the peak of Mt. Rwenzori together in July of 2015.

In 2022, after having struggled to remain consistent with physical exercise, I joined the Activate Uganda 100 Day Challenge. The challenge requires one to walk or run a minimum of 3 km per day for 100 days straight. I did the first challenge from September 1st to December 9th 2022, and I have continued walking daily since then.

Along the way, I walked with several friends, including Hon Miria Matembe, Florence Butegwa, Hope Chigudu, Hon Rita Atukwasa, Lizza Kawoya, Tracy Ahimuzw and others. I was one of the coaches for the CivSource Africa GROW class of 2022. I did all my Coaching-Sessions as Walks with my Coachees – Eric and Emmanuel.

When 2023 started, I sent out a message to my team at CivSource Africa. The theme of the message was Moving. We were dealing with several moves, the biggest being moving offices, as well as creating a 3rd entity. Both moves had caused quite a level of disruption and I was inviting the team to lean into this change.

I decided to do one-on-one-meetings with my team by walking with each one of them. I used the walks to get to know them a bit better. We spoke about their dreams, their fears, their joys, their aspirations. We spoke about things they were proud of at work and areas they wanted to get better at. I also asked them for feedback and how I could improve how I lead.

During the 2023 Easter Walk Challenge by Activate Uganda, which was from Good Friday to Easter Monday, I decided to dedicate each day to walking with a leader.

After that, I started to seriously ask myself how I could use my walks more purposefully. I had conversations with Professor Bheki Moyo, of the Center for African Philanthropy and Social Investment (CAPSI), and Joseph Beyanga, a media practitioner and road safety activist. Both of these gentlemen use their physical exercise to focus on a cause they are passionate about. Both of them encouraged me to use my walks for a cause close to my heart.

Over the last couple of years, I have come to view my major personal and professional role and contribution as being a relationship weaver. I love connecting with people, listening to people, being present for people. I love adding value to people and processes in any way I can.

So I decided to use my walks as a means to talk to and connect with people. And my, what a journey it’s been! I’ve had amazing conversations, as I meet new people and deepen old friendships. No conversation is scripted. Every day that I walk with someone, we allow the moment to lead us. We allow curiosity to guide us. We use words to shape the path for the connection.

My life and heart are so much richer for having embarked on the journey to walk, talk and connect with people. It’s truly been a gift to walk with people from all sorts of countries and backgrounds.

Thank you to all who have walked with me. Thank you to all who have read the stories that I post on social media. Thank you to all who have suggested friends or relatives that I should walk with.

At the end of the day – this is about what we can give. It is a generosity movement. What will you do with what you have?

Question: Looking back, what would you say you have achieved in terms of experiences, opportunities and lessons learnt?

Answer: I was not even looking for achievements. This is a woman who was just walking, and i just thought to myself: How can i lend part of what i am doing to others, an act of compassion, generosity, whatever, and it has become this. I have listened to 132 people so far. Everyday, people go to the gym, people run, walk, mind was: How can i add meaning to a physical activity that i engage in everyday? And so that’s how i came up with Walk. Talk. Connect. So, if i were to count my achievements, yes, everyday that i walk with someone, i am lending my ear. After that, i write a short story and share the lessons that i have learnt, because you just never know who needs to listen to that lesson, encouragement for that day. So i started posting a story every time that i walk. Again, if we are to talk about achievements in that sense, it’s not like i was going in to achieve anything. I go in to listen, provide a big sister ear, a colleague, whatever it was. Two people in particular expressed, that they had been going through depression. Reaching out to walk with a stranger and having them tell their story is what I found very beneficial to them, and that helped them to get out of the depression. One lady reached out and said, she had just lost her father in November and was looking for something to do in memory of her father, and so she reached out and said, would you walk with me. Another lady (who hugged a tree recently) reached out and said: Would you walk with me before my big day? Another lady reached out and it was her daughter’s 21st birthday. She said, I want to give my daughter a gift on her 21st birthday, and I thought, it should be a walk with you. However, people would like to use the platform I have provided to be listened to…What people are going through, questions people might have to ..the one i walked with on December 31, 2023, said to me that his birthday was on 1st, and he said, as we end the year, i would love to walk with you to close the year. One of the Gentlemen that I walked with has a Foundation that does Chess in Slums in Kampala. After walking with him, he asked if i can team up with him and some of the people that i have walked with to do an intervention in some of the slums that he has contact with. So, that I am looking forward to. Again, was I ever looking for it? No. When you go out to have a conversation, you are not looking for an achievement, right. When I walked with David, who later hosted TEDx Entebbe, was I ever looking for: I will walk with him in order to be ..No. But I walk with him and an opportunity opens up, and I have an opportunity to be one of the Speakers at TEDx Entebbe, which happened late last year. I think that’s also the beauty of not tying oneself to an achievement: You allow the process to be it’s own thing.
We are connected in so many ways that you can never know until you walk with a person. Recently, a lady reached out to me. She is Kenyan, working in Rwanda, and was in Uganda for a few days over the Christmas holiday when she reached out. In the beginning of our conversation, she told me, that she had two daughters, 19 and 21. I have two sons, 19 and 21. That led us to an interesting conversation and I told her: You see, who would have thought that a Kenyan working in Rwanda has anything in common to do with a Ugandan. So, it has been interesting to discover some of these. Because, some of the people I know, some have been absolute total strangers. But by the end of the walk, you find points of convergence: Either you are interested in the same thing, you like the same thing, have a similar thought, are going through a similar challenge. That’s the beauty of it. Everyday is a day to discover a new story, a new person and new lessons, which I share once we are done with the walk. The walks have also been one of the avenues to ‘minister’ to people.


Question: What’s there to look forward to this year?
Answer: What I am planning to do is the 1st year anniversary of the Walk. Talk. Connect. It will be in June and we hope to go to Jinja. That one is something that i have planned. Hopefully we can walk in a community. Again, it is really to connect. Because people are lonely. People are struggling. People are just looking for somebody to talk to. So, truly, as you hear the name, Walk Talk Connect.

Question: For purposes of a reminder, how does one get to walk with you?

Answer: People reach out to my DM on social media (X, Instagram, LinkedIn) and others are recommended by friends. To book an appointment for the walk, people should reach me through direct message on any of my social media handles. I walk with both men and women. Young and old. My passion is to connect with people and listen, provide an opportunity to brainstorm.

Question: How do you get to know that this person is authentic and has good intentions?

Answer: When a person reaches out, mostly on social media, I do look at their handle. What is this person about, what do they post about, what are their likes and interest. For LinkedIn, you know, this is a professional space and they are not trying to be funny. When you reach out on social media, you have a history. Are there people, you know, that I know. Yes, some are total strangers, but so far, and like I said, some of them are total strangers. Most of those, that i am not sure, i probe a bit: Why do you want to walk, what are you going through, what do you want to achieve, just to know, are we real or are we playing. So far, there is no one yet for whom i have had to cancel because i am not sure what they are about. And towards the end, especially for those that don’t know me, once we have agreed on the date, i then ask you for your phone. I never give out my phone if I am not sure about you. On the day we are going to meet, I then call you, saying, I am here waiting for you.

Question: You started this platform not knowing what to expect. What does it look like today?

Answer: When i started, i assumed that i walk everyday of the week, but on a Friday, i can lend it to someone (and i walk with somebody), and then i didn’t know it would pick up at all. So, I changed it to Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Still, the volume picked up. So, at this point, as and when i can, i am walking everyday with a person and there is still a backlog. So each time the week is beginning, I reach out and I am like: Are you able to walk on a Monday? I line them up and we are able to walk. My assistant helps me an Excel-Sheet, because I am bound to forget who I haven’t yet walked with.

Question: People get in touch with you from across the world, how do you handle that?
Answer: When I have traveled out of the country, people are like, you are one who walks. I would like to walk with you. So, I walk with people, not just Ugandans.

Question: Finally, what is that one thing you have learnt about connecting with people?
Answer: If you want to connect with people or network, there are so many ways to do it. What I am happy and proud of is, there is a friend of mine in Mbarara, started in his small way to walk with those that he can. There is another lady who recently reached out. She is going to start her PhD at an Institution out of this country, and she said while there, she wants to walk with campus-girls while she is doing her 4-year PhD. So, this is doable. If you want to connect with people, you have two feet, you have two ears. 

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