This is a story about a boy called Bernard* told in his own words.
Life at home
My name is Bernard and I am 15 years old. I grew up with my mother and three brothers in a village in the eastern part of Uganda. Our father had abandoned us when I was just two years old.
While at home I grew up hating our father because he had abandoned us and had never shown us love as his children. I have kept asking myself why a father leaves his children to suffer and I have never gotten the answer to this.
Before running away from home I was in primary three but my performance at school was not good. However my mother kept on encouraging me to read more to help me improve on my performance at school. I struggled though and spent a lot of time thinking about not having a father at home and whether he had had just abandoned me because to pursue his own interests.
The time reached when my mother fell sick and she couldn’t do anything yet she was the source of income at home. We were all young and didn’t know what to do next: getting food to eat started being a challenge and soon we were starving.
Life on the streets
It was at that moment that I decided to run away from home to go to the street and it is now counts approximately seven years ever since I ran away. I spent three years in Iganga town before friends told me to go to Jinja city. Life was difficult while on the street and I developed ulcers because I wasn’t getting food to eat. Mafuta (aeroplane fuel) was my best friend because it was solving my problems; for example when I could take mafuta I would not feel hungry or the coldness in the night.
A fresh start
I felt stranded and hopeless after spending three years on the streets of Jinja city. One day staff from S.A.L.V.E. International met me and explained to me the help they were giving children who are staying on street. I didn’t know these people but eventually I believed in what they told me. I started attending their Drop in Centre and I was later referred to their residential site. I was given treatment and given food to eat but because I was addicted to mafuta, the craving later became too much and decided to escape and go back to the streets.
While on the street I regretted why I had run away. I was scared to go back but I knew I needed S.A.L.V.E’s services. This time round I made a wise decision and went back at the Drop in Centre. They welcomed and referred me to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre after understanding my challenge of being addicted to drugs.
While in Drug Rehab they helped me to overcome my addiction and right now I don’t want to even smell mafuta. Slowly I started missing home and also my mother and this was due to the different lessons they teach us about why it is good to be home. We went for a home visit at home and my mother was so happy to see me again after a period of seven years. She had tears of joy thinking I had died and asked for forgiveness in case she had wronged me in any way that made me run away from home. I felt so sad with this because it was me who left her at home when she was very sick. I apologised to her and she forgave me.
I have now finished my Drug Rehabilitation programme and I went back home to my family.
“Thanks a lot to S.A.L.V.E. International for supporting me and to help re unite me with my family again”
*names are changed in line with our Child Protection Policy