Determined to Change

Kula* had been living on the streets for over ten years before he came to our Drug Rehabilitation Centre to get help to change his life and overcome his addiction to Mafuta. This is his story.

Background

Kula was around six years old when his mother sadly passed away. Kula’s father then remarried however, his new wife did not treat Kula well and would beat him. It was hard for Kula to tell his father what was happening as he did not want to cause trouble. One day, Kula’s stepmother beat him so bad that he could not hold it in any longer and decided that he must tell his father. When his father returned from work, Kula told him that his stepmother was mistreating him and had beat him badly that day however, the stepmother already had her own story to tell – she said that Kula had stolen some money from her so she disciplined him. It saddened Kula to see his father agree with his stepmother and had insisted that punishing him was the right thing to do.

The abuse from Kula’s stepmother continued; Kula was not being fed or looked after at home and so he began to leave home during the day and go into the town to collect scrap metal. He would then sell what he had collected and buy some food to feed himself, before returning home for the evening. The situation at home worsened and Kula was very unhappy. He eventually ran away to the streets – hoping he would have a better life there than at home.

Life on the streets

Life on the streets was difficult and Kula was very hungry. He had made some friends (other boys who were also living on the streets) and they told him about Mafuta. Mafuta is the local name for aeroplane fuel; a rag is soaked in the fuel and put into a plastic bottle and the fumes from the rag are then sniffed. Mafuta is highly addictive. His friend said that when you take Mafuta, you don’t feel hungry. After feeling hungry for so long, Kula thought he would try it – after all, it was cheaper than a plate of food and very accessible. It was at that point that his addiction began.

The S.A.L.V.E. Street Outreach team had met Kula many times before when carrying out street walks within the town and in 2017, he agreed to attend our Drug Rehabilitation Centre (DRC) to overcome his addiction, with a view of resettling him back within his extended family once he felt ready. Kula relapsed quite quickly and when we found him on the streets (after running away from the centre), he would give an excuse as to why he had to leave. This pattern continued, but the good news is that S.A.L.V.E. never gives up on a child living on the streets. We believe in their potential for a brighter future.

Time to change

After spending roughly 10 years living on the streets, Kula had suddenly taken ill. His friends did not know what to do and they brought him to our Drop in Centre, asking staff to help him. We took him to a nearby clinic where he was diagnosed with Delerium Tremens (DTs). Because of Kula’s addiction to Mafuta, and the fact that it blocks out any hunger pains, he had forgotten to eat and had not eaten in several days – his body was shutting down. Once in the clinic, Kula woke to one of our social workers who had stayed with him and he was touched to see that he had someone who cared about him and his wellbeing. It was then that he promised he would not return to the streets and wanted to turn his life around.

After arriving at our Rehabilitation Centre, Kula told Uncle Cranmer (the DRC manager) that he wanted to prove everyone wrong, “this time I am determined I will never go back to the street”. A month passed, a second, a third and Kula was still there, just like he had promised. Even though Kula had a difficult childhood, he says that he loves his father and stepbrothers and sisters despite everything that has happened. Kula is steadily making positive changes in his life and is aiming to return to school to build himself a brighter future since he cannot change the past.

* The name of the child has been changed in line with our child protection policy

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