My name is Tiyo and I am a Drug Rehabilitation Home Assistant for S.A.L.V.E. International. This is the story of Emma* told in his words.
When I was in sixth grade of primary school my dad and mum had been separated for some time. I was living with my mum, who was struggling to find food for us to eat, my school fees and shelter, so she decided to send me to my father’s place. When my father received me, he was happy and things appeared to look OK for the first fortnight, although I learned that my father had married another woman.
When my father was around, this stepmother used to pretend to be a loving person. However, my stepmother started acting strangely towards me when he went away for work. She started isolating me; she denied me food, chased me, threatened to kill me and made me sleep outside in the cold and scary night. She always emphasised that I would leave her home in any way, be it dead or alive.
She would not allow me to go to school. She would not provide me with basic necessities like clothes and medication, and she forbade me from even playing with my stepbrother and sister. In many ways, this stepmother of mine made my life hell on earth.
Seeking Safety in the Streets
I decided to leave home and go to the streets. I started my journey by walking to Jinja town. This journey was long and tedious – by the time I reached Jinja, my feet were swollen and painful. I had never travelled such a long distance in my life.
When I reached Jinja, I thought things would be easy. Unfortunately, my life became even harder than I anticipated. A new friend taught me a lot of bad behaviours, like smoking, drinking alcohol and sniffing fuel (mafuta). We began stealing, and people would pay us money to burn other people’s businesses because they wanted to take them over. I would even participate in gang fights during the night hours until dawn.
A New Dawn
I was enslaved by these conditions – I felt like I was drowning and I couldn’t save myself. I desperately wanted help.
Fortunately, S.A.L.V.E International came to my rescue when I needed it the most. It was my new dawn, and it came when I was unprepared for it. At the time, I was too intoxicated. An uncle (S.A.L.V.E staff) came to me and found me sleeping. He woke me up and he shared some words of wisdom with me. I was intoxicated, hadn’t bathed or washed my clothes and I had a bottle of fuel (mafuta) for sniffing. He continued talking to me my heart softened and I started seeing the value in his words. The only question that I remember was ‘Do I know the worth of my life?’
Visiting the Drop in Centre and Drug Rehabilitation centre
After he spoke to me, he advised me to start attending the Drop in Centre and he left. The next morning, I had to visit the Drop in Centre where I found other children like me who were also around playing with S.A.L.V.E. staff. From that first visit to the Drop in Centre, I learned a lot and continued coming to the Centre. They taught me a lot of things and changed my life positively through counselling.
Eventually I was referred to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre for more counselling, detoxification, treatments and eventually, reunification with my parents. Before this process or programme, I thought I couldn’t change, but gradually I started to change my attitude, character and behaviours. I am so grateful for S.A.L.V.E International, for their time, money, love and support. S.A.L.V.E has devoted a lot of effort to transform me into a new person so I ended my bad habits, and reunified me with my parents in a positive way where I am now loved and cared for and no longer fear being abused. Thank you, S.A.L.V.E. International!
*names are changed in line with our child protection policy