My name is Samuel*, I am 17 years old and from the Musamya by tribe. Most of my life time I have grown up with my grandparents from my maternal side. My parents separated and due to lack of financial support from my father, my mother also decided to abandon me and I started staying with my maternal grandparents in Tororo (a district in Uganda) at the age of 4. Because I was still young everything seemed fine although even then I often didn’t have enough food.
When I continued growing up I became the house helper at home. I had to do all the house chores including garden work. I could only get something to eat after finishing all the house work. I later developed ulcers because sometimes I was not given food because I had not finished my house chores and also I could have the meals very late.
When I turned 14 years I made friends in the village however I began to realise that they were not good friends for me. I would lie to my grandparents that I was going to dig in the garden but instead I was meeting these friends and we would abuse drugs. In case we didn’t have money to buy the drugs we used to steal people’s hens in the community and sell them to the business people who could come to our village and get the money to buy more drugs.
One time I was planning to steal my grandparents’ hens but they caught me. They were so bitter with me and wanted to burn me to death because I had become a disgrace to their family. With luck I managed to escape from them and ran straight to my paternal grandmother’s place in Namayingo: she welcomed me dearly and accepted me as her grandchild.
My life started changing and I felt her love for me. As I was settling well at her place, my father came looking for me and wanted to go with me to his home in Nakasongola. My grandmother was hesitant to let me go because she was not sure if I would be treated well as a child since he had married another wife. He visited and asked my grandmother three times and on the third time she accepted and I went with my father.
Living with dad
Personally I was happy because I had gotten the chance to see and start staying with my biological father. When we reached at his home in Nakasongola all what I found there was a reminder of what I went through in Tororo. My father is an evangelist so he could leave home to go and preach the gospel and sometimes could stay away from home for a week or even a month. I would stay with my step-mother but she used to mistreat me. Whenever my father came back home, I used to narrate to him what was happening but he seemed not to mind. I couldn’t continue living in such a situation so I decided to walk back to Namayingo from Nakasongola and continue staying with my grandmother. The journey was very far and within my journey I had to plead with the truck drivers to help and transport me till I reached Kampala.
Living on the streets
I stayed on the streets of Kampala for 3 months and when I made some friends I told them about my plan of going to Jinja. They collected some money and gave it to me to use for transport. I managed to reach Jinja and I couldn’t continue to Namanyingo, so I started staying on the streets of Bugembe (near to Jinja) where I spent 2 years.
Slowly I got to know about S.A.L.V.E.’s Drug Rehabilitation program through the drug rehab staff. They told me how I could be supported to recover from drugs whenever they met me in Jinja town when I had gone to look for scrap to sell. After 5 months of talking to meet about the rehab program, I accepted to join and I was admitted in the program.
At first it was not easy because my craving to use drugs again was so strong. But the staff there were so supportive and gradually I learnt to manage my craving which has also enabled me to stay at home drug free. While in the program, I was helped to reconnect with my grandmother again through a home visit, she was very happy to see me again. Also through the family counselling with my grandmother and the staff, we were able to sort out the issues that led me to the street and right now I am very happily living at home with my grandmother.
*names are changed in line with our Child Protection Policy