A close up of two pairs of children's feet. Neither have shoes on and they are standing on a dusty path

Finding his feet

The separation

Akello is a 15 year old boy from Busia, Eastern Uganda. When his parents separated, his father got married to a woman who mistreated him but his mother had already moved to Nairobi to marry to another man. His stepmother refused to give him food but told his father that she had, and that Akello just wasn’t satisfied. Akello used to ask for food around the neighbourhood and every time his father found out, he would beat him, telling him he was ungrateful for what he was receiving, but never knowing that his stepmother never fed him.

Trying to escape

One day, Akello was starving at home and he had not eaten anything for a couple of days so he decided to leave and go to the streets of Busia and beg for something to eat. But whilst he was begging, his father found him and beat him terribly. He dragged him home and tied him up with ropes, claiming that Akello had disgraced him by begging on the streets.

His only option

After this event, Akello spoke to friends who told him how to thrive and survive on the streets. He saw hell at home and decided that sleeping on the streets couldn’t be any worse. With his friends, they would look for scrap and empty bottles and then sell them to get food. It was so cold at night that his friends would use drugs. They would buy them and tell him to try, and he decided to experiment. He started using them due to the cold temperature at night and this felt like a good reason to him. He started building a tolerance and after some time Akello became addicted to cigarettes, mafuta (aeroplane fuel) and marijuana. He says, whenever he used them, he stopped feeling so cold at night. He thought it was the only way to live.

One day, his friends wanted to leave Busia and go to Kampala, so Akello decided to join them. On route they passed through Jinja City and met friends who told him Jinja was far better than Kampala. Akello and his friends decided to stay there.

On the streets of Jinja, Akello would look for scrap as he was now well versed with the system. He would sell it to buy drugs which had now become a part of him and would always relieve his stress, says Akello. Every time staff from S.A.L.V.E. International talked to him on the streets he would shout at them. His anger and lack of trust in adults was so extreme due to what he had gone through at home. He also began to steal in order to buy more drugs.

Finding his feet

However, one day, when his body could not sustain the street or drugs anymore and he became so weak, one of the S.A.L.V.E. staff took him to the hospital. He was eventually discharged with and admitted to the S.A.L.V.E. Drug Rehabilitation Centre. He went through a detoxification process, involving detox medication, mental state examinations since the drugs had affected his mental health, anti-psychotics and more individual and group counselling to see that his social and psycho-social wellbeing improved.

His father was invited for the family counselling where he told us about his mother’s side of family. Akello’s maternal family later came for the family counselling and Akello was resettled to his maternal grandparents’ home.

Akello is now settled at home and happy that his life has changed.

“Thanks to the S.A.L.V.E. team and everyone who supported me to see that I leave the streets”

says Akello, with a huge smile covering his face.


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