This story is about Viola*, a 12 year old girl who was in her third year of primary school before the Covid-19 lockdown happened. She had been living with her paternal grandparents since she was a baby.
Leaving her Grandparents
One day, her aunt came to visit her from the suburbs of Jinja city, and asked the grandparents to have Viola go and stay with her. Viola thought her aunt was a great role model who was going to help her fulfill all her dreams and goals and she seemed committed to supporting her. However, once she reached her aunt’s hometown, her life became harder than when she was living with her grandparents.
To get money to send to her grandparents in their village, her aunt started sending her to a garbage site to collect scrap metal and plastic materials to sell. It was so hectic and tiresome to even get enough money to eat. It had started to become an overwhelming challenge – so many vulnerable people were depending on Viola, both men and women.
Meeting Viola during a street walk
Our team met Viola at a garbage collection site, during one of our street walks. We encouraged her to start attending the S.A.L.V.E. Girls Drop-in Centre for more counselling. Viola began by telling us that she was tired of her situation, and that her aunt had even started mistreating her. Her aunt would give her a heavy workload and would even beat her whenever she came home with empty hands – as if she was already the breadwinner for the family at such a young age.
Healing Across Generations
We went to meet with the Aunt and she responded that she no longer wanted to care for Viola, even though she had brought her from the village after agreeing with her grandparents. Due to the assessment we conducted, we were able to find out that the girl’s aunt had been recently been traumatised after realising that she was HIV positive. This had made her very stressed, even towards the child, who did not know what had happened. Viola felt she couldn’t go to anyone for counselling or for guidance.
We provided Viola with support, love and education, ensuring the child’s safety during the severe challenges she was going through. We referred her to our Halfway Home for Girls for more counselling and rehabilitation services, with the aim of ensuring that she could rebuild her life after living with her aunt.
After finishing a three-month rehabilitation process at the centre, she learned that she was not alone in going through this situation. She was inspired by one of her friends, who had survived a similar situation she was going through. She began to respond after having several counselling sessions, which aimed to make her resilient and able to cope in any situation in life.
Making an action plan for Viola
We then formulated an action plan for resettlement, of which home tracing is an action. We were able to have home tracing visit Viola’s grandparents to find out whether they had ever heard about the severe challenges their granddaughter had been facing. Their response was one of shock and anger – Viola’s aunt would call them, she would tell them that the child was settled at home and doing well.
Viola was welcomed home with great happiness. We made several follow-ups, both in-person and over the phone, to ensure that the child had settled in well. We were happy to hear that Viola had even started school with her grandparents’ support.
Viola and her grandparents are thankful to S.A.L.V.E for all our support to see she is no longer on the streets working but is instead home, loved and in school where she belongs.
*names are changed in line with our Child Protection Policy