Dembe* is a 15 year old from Sudan who has spent almost 7 years on the streets of Ugandan towns like Jinja and Iganga. She is one of five siblings from different fathers but all from the same mother.
Dembe has never seen her father since she was born. She stayed with her mother during childhood in a small shared house in a slum area, with about 20 people in one room.
At a young age she began looking for food on the streets. It was her friend, Alice, that told her to look on the streets for food so that is what she did. Dembe says her journey has not been easy.
Moving to the streets
Dembe used to sleep on the streets of Jinja since they struggled for space to sleep at home. Being a girl child of a very tender age and sleeping on the streets, she faced a lot of challenges. She suffered sexual harassment from boys living on the street. Often she would sleep in the central market, where they would enter the stalls of vendors once the security guards were closing up. One of her worst days ever was when she followed a truck with music which was announcing musicians. They went to a bar and by the time she remembered to come back to the central market it was already too late and the guards had closed the place. She was stranded and hungry and decided to walk back to her mother’s house that night alone. Life on the streets was becoming too difficult for her.
A new opportunity
After only two days at home, her friend Alice came looking for her, saying she had got them a job in the Iganga district. They could start working and live a good life as well as helping their mothers. Dembe didn’t know what kind of job her friend was proposing to her but she decided to accept because all they wanted was to start living a good life. They had to walk from Jinja to Iganga town by foot because they had no money to travel. Walking night and day, starving and surviving sexual harassment was not easy so they had to get through a lot before reaching Iganga. On reaching Iganga town, Alice told Dembe that the job they had come to do was to work in a restaurant but it also had a bar. They worked in the restaurant during the day and their boss forced them to work long shifts in the bar at night. They began drinking and using drugs such as marijuana.
From bad to worse
As time went on, Dembe became fed up and decided to run away from the job and return to the streets of Jinja. Upon reaching Jinja, she fell into the hands of some boys on the street who robbed her of all the money she had and also beat her up very badly. Very early in the morning as she was still lying on the ground where she had been attacked, when some of her fellow children on the street came across her and took her to a place called the Drop in Centre. S.A.L.V.E. staff took her to hospital for treatment because she needed immediate medical attention. Once she had gained some energy, Dembe decided to run away from the hospital since hadn’t heard of S.A.L.V.E. before and was not interested in anything she was being told.
Getting help from S.A.L.V.E.
The following day, as our team was doing the street walk, they saw Dembe and encouraged her to start attending the Drop in Centre for their services. Dembe did exactly as they suggested and attended the Drop in Centre for almost a month. She was later referred to the girl’s Halfway Home where we have our Drug Rehab Centre for children battling addiction issues.
Dembe has now spent five months in our girls’ Rehab Centre and her health has greatly improved. We are planning to resettle her in Sudan at her sister’s place since her mother still lives in a slum area, full of addicts, and she would like to remain drug free.
Dembe says “Thanks to S.A.L.V.E. International, its staff and every individual reading this blog for endlessly supporting children on the street and to see that there is No Street Called Home.”
*Name changed in line with our Child Protection Policy