boy smiling in a banana tree forest

Dreaming of School from the Streets

This a story of a boy called Thomas* who has been living on the streets of Jinja for the past five years. Thomas comes from a small township in East Uganda.

Thomas is now 12 years old, very playful and happy and loves to be with his friends. He has a lot of ambitions in life and wishes to go back to studying in school.

When Thomas was younger he lived with his father who was a farmer and his mother. Though they didn’t have a lot of money they lived happily.

When things went wrong…

Thomas’ father took out a bank loan to help with farming work but when they started missing payments things started going badly. Thomas’ parents would argue and fight regularly with his father turning to drink and abusing Thomas’ mother. Thomas’ school fees had stopped being paid to pay for the loan too, so he could no longer attend and study.

Eventually, the bank sold the family’s land to pay for the loan and Thomas’ father disappeared. Thomas and his mother were homeless and had nothing to eat. Thomas went to live with his grandmother in a small grass house with six other children whilst his mother went to try and find work and Thomas’ father. It was not easy for Thomas, the house was old and leaked when it rained, they had fought to use only one bed sheet between them and they hardly had anything to eat.

Thomas’ mother promised to come back if she found his father and they would live together again. Several months later, Thomas was happy to see his mother return. She had remarried and promised Thomas they would start a new life and be happy. Thomas’ new stepfather also said he know where Thomas’ father was, which filled his heart with joy.

The first few months where good but then Thomas’ stepfather accused Thomas of stealing his money and said he should return to his father, but nobody knew where he was. Thomas decided to go and look for his father himself in town.

He spent three nights in the town and then moved on and found himself living on the streets in Jinja. Here he started smoking cigarettes, chewing kuts (mairuji or mira in local languages), kagoro (mixture of soda ash with tobacco and some cassava flour) and sniffing mafuta (aeroplane fuel) and glue. This was Thomas’ life for the next five years.

S.A.L.V.E. to the Rescue

Thomas would end up passing out on the veranda on the side of the road and this is where S.A.L.V.E. came to his aid.

S.A.L.V.E. convinced Thomas to start attending S.A.L.V.E. activities at the Drop In Centre. Then when he was ready he went on to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre where he is cared for and loved (by S.A.L.V.E. staff like me) until he is ready to be reunited with his family and return to his studies.

S.A.L.V.E. International is opening a new chapter in the life of children like Thomas and others who have lost hope in life through education, medication, counselling, food and reuniting them with families and communities.

Thank you for supporting us to make this possible.

*Thomas’ name has been changed in this public forum in line with our child protection policy.


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