At one point or another, we have met people who have impacted our lives emotionally and mentally just by listening to the words they say, and Simon Ssenkaayi is such a person.
For the last 11 years, there is nothing that has been so dear to Ssenkaayi (Also the author of an inspirational book, Amanyi g’Obuntu, literally translated as ‘The power of self’ than transforming people’s lives through sharing words of wisdom and inspiration that help many to identify and tap into their strength.
Since discovering that he wanted to be an inspirational speaker in 2005 while still in high school, Ssenkaayi has been exercising his gift to help transform people’s lives locally and internationally.
“I love it when I touch someone’s heart through speech and bring back the fazed smile and hope in them,” says Ssenkaayi as we climb the steps of Freedom City premises at 5pm for the interview.
He is jolly and composed in his submissions and his soft-spoken tone clearly explains why hundreds usually request his services. He has touched many people’s lives with his spiritual way of teaching and using a collection of inspirational words of encouragement to lift their lives.
“Inspirational speaking to me is a gift from God. To do it, you have to be able to project your real life onto your audience’s mental screens, for it to identify with you and appreciate that you understand their lives,” he shares.
Ssenkaayi was born in November 1985 to Medius Busingye and Ssalongo Kamya Stephen Kiwanuka, residents of Sseguku-Katale Village in Wakiso District.
He attended Sseguku Primary School, Hill College and Uganda Martyrs before attaining a Degree in Education and an MBA (Marketing Management and Strategy Major) from Uganda Martyrs University. He also has advanced training from Istanbul, Turkey and Dubai.
“Growing up, watching movies, reading and interacting with people were my favourite things to do. At school, I tried to be an entertainment minister but ended up as an education minister in charge of internal and external debates, something that later caught my attention,” shares the 33-year-old.
“My father is such an ardent fan of reading. He used to read different works of literature and he kept us thinking positively with his motto, ‘Never Give Up’,” Ssenkayi says.
“What I know is that there is a spiritual force guiding me. I have faced a lot of hardships in life and also faced a lot criticism and negativity. Most of my submissions centre on my life and understanding from research and life observations,” he shares.
When Ssenkaayi finished his Senior Six exams in 2004, the Germany Foundation for World Population (Dsw-Bonita) noticed his gift in speaking and trained him as a peer educator.
“Such opportunities gave me a reason to believe: They kept me positive and moving amid a lot of negativity,” he says adding: “A number of young people started approaching me regularly and sought guidance from me.”
While exercising his gift in public speaking, Ssenkaayi has had opportunities to work with different organisations such as Save the Children Uganda, Young Empowered and Health (YEAH), Germany Foundation for World Population and Ministry of Youth- Buganda Kingdom.
Being an inspirational speaker, Ssenkaayi has attended many International Seminars, workshops and courses in Uganda, Africa, Asia and Europe which has greatly affirmed his faith in his calling.
“The greatest satisfaction in my life is when I look at someone who is happy and that happiness is a result of my actions. If a day, a week or month ends without encouraging someone, I feel as though I have failed,” he shares.
Ssenkaayi enjoys solitude and has few friends, which helps him to reflect, meditate and analyse himself. “Oftentimes I prefer to live in a serene environment. I love being alone, which sometimes causes friction with my wife but when I am alone, I listen to my spirit, read, think and write before speaking to anyone,” he shares.
Much as he relishes what he does, Ssenkaayi faced anxiety when starting out.
“It is hard to be strong and confident all the time despite your talent. One time, as I was about to address students at Nkumba University, I started shivering and could not speak for a while. The audience did not notice and I had to find courage to carry on,” he recollects.
Ssenkaayi also says that his speeches have taken him to a number of schools where he has noticed a number of challenges.
“Uganda’s education system does not help people find themselves. To paint a picture, ‘It judges a fish by its ability to climb a tree’. It forces young people to take routes that are out of their natural capabilities,” he says, adding that schools only give students knowledge but not understanding and as such, a number of young graduates do not know what to do with their degrees.
Ssenkaayi also says that there is still a misconception among a number of Ugandans that if you do not have a degree, you are nothing. “Most of the people I interact with consider having a degree more than a gift or talent. To me, a talent is superior,” he shares.
Simon Ssenkaayi is married to Rose Sylvia Nakafu and together they have two children.
In 2013, Simon was selected as one of Africa’s top 30 inspirational young people.