Hello this is Kathryn Davis and Lucy Ellis – long-time SALVE supporters who are currently in Uganda writing about our experiences!
Witnessing S.A.L.V.E. First-hand
Since S.A.L.V.E. began in 2008 we have learnt about the plight of children on the streets in Uganda and been inspired to support the charity. This week we have been privileged to have the opportunity to visit Uganda and see for ourselves first-hand the impact that S.A.L.V.E. is having on the streets of Jinja. We have not only witnessed the positive effects of the S.A.L.V.E. team’s work on the streets, but also their work within the local community.
This week we have met children who are currently living on the streets, children within the rehabilitation programme, children who permanently live in the S.A.L.V.E. house and women from the local community who S.A.L.V.E. are supporting. It has given us a deeper understanding of the work of S.A.L.V.E. and the need and importance of their projects.
On the Streets
The children we have met have all been surprisingly welcoming, well mannered and friendly, considering their background and past experiences. For us this made the way the local community treated the children even more shocking. They have a negative view of children on the streets, which has even lead to the temporary closure of the S.A.L.V.E. drop in centre. We witnessed this prejudice first-hand when accompanying a boy to the S.A.L.V.E. house and he was not allowed on the local bus. Many of the children do not have shoes, and if they do they may not match! Even with access to a shower we struggle to keep clean as it is so dusty here. For children on the street it is a real challenge and we were shown a place where they bathed, i.e. a sewer. Clearly this cannot be a long term solution, but they are making the best of their situation as they understand the value of being clean. One boy we met refused to go home until he had clean clothes as he was ashamed of being dirty.
The Importance of Education
Part of S.A.L.V.E.‘s work is to help the children get an education or vocational training as this will give them the best opportunity for the future. As teachers we were surprised to learn that children as old as 17 can still be at primary school, but this showed us how much the children value education and realise that they need to complete primary school to access a better life in the future. Differences to the UK are that the school day starts at 7am and can last until 5.30pm, and the children are very proud of their uniform; never are their shoes unpolished or their shirts untucked!
Here’s a great little video some of the children at SALVE made about why education matters to them: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCdRs–bkNc
The S.A.L.V.E. house
The S.A.L.V.E. house can be seen as a refuge and an important step before being re-homed. We were asked to teach the children and were struck by the lack of resources available to them and again how lucky we are in the UK. We were donated some books by Dore Primary School in the UK and it was amazing to see how excited the children were about these new books, even though not all of them had good enough English to fully understand them. The Encyclopedia and Castle books were firm favourites!
Even in the few days we have been here our eyes have been opened and we truly understand the importance of the work S.A.L.V.E. is doing and the impact it is having on many children and the community here in Uganda. We are certainly motivated to return home and continue volunteering for S.A.L.V.E. knowing how big an impact S.A.L.V.E.’s work can have on these children.