Nina lived in a village with her family and was not regularly attending school. When she was 8 years old, her aunt who lived in Jinja asked Nina’s father if she could have her come to Jinja town to begin to study at a school near to her. Nina and her parents were so excited to have her attend school in town and the future opportunities this may hold for her.
Promises that turned into a nightmare
However, after a short while, these promises turned out to be a nightmare and instead of sending Nina to school, her aunt made her be her house maid and carer for her aunt’s young son. Nina had never done anything like this before and she was so upset to learn that this is what her aunt had planned all along and never had any intention of sending her to school.
Nina’s excitement soon turned into misery as she was expected to do all chores and tasks that housemaid’s are expected to do. This included cooking, washing clothes, fetching water, mopping and look after the young child. Not only did Nina have to do these chores but her aunt and uncle did not treat her well and regular beat her.
Nina was patient as there wasn’t anything she could do as she did not know the way back home and felt she could not escape. One day, her aunt had beat her badly and wounds were all over her body due to not preparing a meal for the family. Nina did not know how to use a charcoal stove. As her punishment, her aunt gave her many clothes to wash during the heavy rains and thunder storm when it was dark outside. Nina was locked outside and terribly upset.
Turning to the streets
This marked the beginning of Nina’s journey to the streets. She was scared of the dark and heavy rains but wanted desperately to find a way home to her parents and family in the village. She ran away from her aunt’s house and looked for shelter that night. After hours had passed, Nina ended up sleeping on someone’s veranda to keep out of the rain.
However, a good samaritan found her in the morning; confused and in tears. He tried to speak to her but they both spoke different languages and could not get past the language barrier. So he decided to take her to the police station for help and that is when S.A.L.V.E. were called for further assistance. Some S.A.L.V.E. staff members spoke Nina’s language and were able to understand what had happened the previous night and learn of her circumstances.
Nina was invited to stay with S.A.L.V.E. at our Halfway Home because of her vulnerability and together we managed to address her trauma and support her in finding her family. After some time, we were so happy to tell her that we had finally tracked her father down.
Going back home
We travelled for two days to get Nina back to her village by bus but it was worth it. Her parents knew that she had disappeared from her aunt’s house and thought that she had been killed or taken for a child sacrifice. Since a lot of time had passed, they had actually been preparing for Nina’s funeral, with the local tent under construction, and were just about to begin proceedings when we arrived. When Nina’s father saw her, he could not find the words and everyone shed tears of joy in that moment. Everyone fought to carry Nina because they couldn’t believe she was back home – they didn’t want to let her feet touch the ground.
Due to cultural beliefs, Nina’s father was supposed to pay a fine of 6 cows to the aunt because she had left her home. But Nina showed them her wounds and scars from the bad treatment from her aunt and her father was very angry. However, I counselled the family that more anger wouldn’t undo the past and eventually they decided to forgive the aunt – they were just so happy to have Nina home safe and sound and appreciated S.A.L.V.E.’s support.
* Nina’s name has been changed in line with our child protection policy.