This is Bwanbale’s* story told in his words.
My mother is a wonderful and hardworking woman, who cares for and supports her children. In the past, everything was good between me and my mum. However, gradually things started changing for the worse. I had bad friends at school who would encourage me to smoke marijuana and drink substances like alcohol. I went from being a good humble boy, to a rude and wild person. Little did I know, my mum had asked someone to watch over whatever I was doing at school, since she was always busy with her work.
One day, whilst I was going to school, I met up with my friend along the way. They decided not to go to school and I decided to join them. That morning, we started watching movies at the local cinema. Afterwards, we proceeded to start drinking and we smoked a joint. We became intoxicated by using substances like alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. We started causing chaos in the city centre, yet we were still in our school uniforms. Because of these activities, I lost all my books and my schoolbag.
When the time came to return home, I was still so intoxicated and out of my mind. When I was walking home, I met my mum along the way. I wanted to hide, but I couldn’t. She asked me, “where are you coming from”, “where are your books?”. I lied to her and she became annoyed and angry at me.
Once home she told me that I was never returning to school again, since she said I was wasting her money and she’d rather put her focus on my little brother. In my mind, I started to recall fights that we had in the past. I felt tired of my mum blaming me and complaining about everything I do; I felt she didn’t appreciate me.
My journey into the unknown
Early in the morning of the next day, I woke up, and I decided to leave home covertly whilst my mother was still sleeping. I first went to visit my friend, to wish them farewell. They were sorry that I was leaving, and they collected money that I could use whilst on my journey. I started my journey, without knowing where I was travelling to. However, during my journey, the money that I had wasn’t enough to sustain me. I soon reached a small, unfamiliar village.
I had used up the little money I had and so I broke into a shop. I chanced upon 200,000 shillings (£42), which I stole. I moved on foot for a long distance. When I got tired, I decided to get on a motorbike to a bigger town. I decided to get a room to rent and to buy some clothes and food. For some time, life seemed to be good and I used the money that I stole from the shop. Unfortunately, the money gradually ran out. Since I couldn’t afford to buy food to eat or pay my rent, the landlord evicted me from the house. The only thing that remained was my phone, which I had to sell to get money for food.
With few options left I travelled to a new town. I made many friends that encouraged me to take more substances. I became an addict, living on the streets, and I would break into people’s houses at night. I would also collect used plastic bottles and I would steal saucepans to sell as scrap metal, in addition to robbing people. Because the police were always hunting us, me and some of my friends decided to relocate to Jinja.
A new start
Jinja was where I first got to know about S.A.L.V.E International. S.A.L.V.E has a Street Outreach programme, which involves visiting children on the streets, which are called street walks. I was found by one staff member who persuaded me to start attending activities at the Drop in Centre.
After the first encounter, I was hesitant, but she never gave up on me, and eventually my heart softened. I started attending the Drop in Centre. After some time, I was referred to S.A.L.V.E’s Drug Rehabilitation Centre. There, I got to meet the great staff, who taught me a lot of good things. They instilled good behavior in me that I had lost in the first place and taught me values which I didn’t have before.
I would like to thank the S.A.L.V.E staff, who helped me recover my sanity, for their great work. I hope they continue to work in that same spirit with other children. I am now happy to be reunited with my family. There are no words to describe my gratitude to S.A.L.V.E and its supporters.
*names of children are changed in line with our Child Protection Policy