I tried to poison myself but woke by the lake in the morning

A mother’s love should be pure, natural, unconditional, and selfless. It is patient, forgiving and present. It’s a tie that binds, a bond that can never be broken. It really takes a lot a for a mother to raise a child; this calls for carrying the child in her womb for nine months, not knowing who she is carrying. This is called faith because she waits patiently, until she gives birth. A mother is the best musician as her songs are always original, she composes them at the time when she is singing for the child not to cry. She is a lawyer who will always be on her child’s side, a warrior for her children, and a person who feels pain on behalf of her children.

An example of a time I have seen this love comes from James*. James was one of the children supported to leave the streets by S.A.L.V.E. He began staying with his Aunt because his father had left his mother with five children and no financial support. The father had beat her up almost every day for no reason, could not provide necessities at home, and when she reported to the concerned local leaders in the community, he decided to throw her out of the house with the children.

Earning for Education

His mother’s sister (James’ aunt) sympathised with the situation and decided to take one of  the children to start staying with her, promising to take him back to school. James’ mother was happy and grateful. For the first term, she paid his school fees and he continued attending daily. However, when it came to term two, she told him he would have to work to earn the money for his fees. He became a bar attendant in her small bar.

James, explained that he was exposed to a lot of harm during this time. He was encouraged to drink alcohol, and encouraged to sleep with older women, which he refused. Because of his refusal, the aunt got annoyed and stopped even providing him with basic necessities like food and soap, blaming him for trying to ruin her business by not complying with what her customers wanted.

As the situation became so tough, James became tempted to steal his aunt’s money and run away from her home, coming to the streets of Jinja. While on street, one of our boys who attend our Drop in Centre invited him to also come along. He introduced himself to me, I took his profile and later introduced him to the activities we carry out at the centre. As time went on, I used to have individual counselling sessions with him. He gradually began to open up as to why he ran away from home. He told me he was scared to go back. He shared how he tried several times to commit suicide because he didn’t want to live with the shame of being called a thief. He thought that his mother could never understand why he stole the aunt’s money and forgive him. He explained how he bought poison, took it and went and slept near the shores of Lake Victoria as he wanted to die in the night. But in the morning he woke up and thus thought the poison must have been fake.

Trusting S.A.L.V.E.

As our counselling sessions went on, he showed interest in wanting to go back home. I referred him to our Halfway Home for further counselling, and to help him adjust to the idea of a home environment again. After he had been staying at the Halfway Home for a few days, I called his mother and she picked up! I asked her whether she knew a boy called James. ‘Ohhh’ you can’t imagine the joy she had only on hearing the name! She called people around to also talk to me in disbelief of what I was telling her. I explained to them how I met her son and the work that S.A.L.V.E. International do.

At first, they thought I was lying to them, maybe pretending to work here when really I had kidnapped the boy and wanted money. They asked questions like how much I wanted to release the boy. Because of the many questions, I promised to call them with James so he could talk to them himself. The mother was so desperate to talk to him that she called me every hour to see if i had reached him yet. When I reached the Halfway Home, James talked to his mother but she was just crying and could not believe her son was still alive and not hurt. She pleaded with the son to accept going back home because she had forgiven him already and had paid the money he had stolen from the Aunt. James agreed to go back home and we scheduled the day when the home tracing and resettlement could happen.

Going Home

On ‘D day,’ I arrived at the S.A.L.V.E. land and found that he was already up and dressed, waiting to go back home. The mother was also excited, asking how far we had gone with our journey.

When we reached his home, we found that they had made a welcoming party for us with friends from the community helping his mother to make it possible. Many people came around to witness whether it was true that James was still alive. On our arrival, when people saw us, they all shouted and came running towards us with joy. The mother couldn’t hold back her tears, she carried her son on her back up to the tent where they had organised for us to sit. James was asked to cut a cake as a welcoming sign and served everyone who was around. The people appreciated the work of S.A.L.V.E. for helping children to leave the streets and taking them back to their families. James gave a speech and asked for forgiveness from everyone that he had caused pain, promising to be a good boy. The mother promised him that she would never give her children to anyone, and that she would try her best to raise up all of her children by herself despite the little source of income she has.

I later appreciated the community for accepting James back home, and also for understanding the reason why he run to the streets. I talked more about the work that S.A.L.V.E. does to help children leave the streets as we believe there should be No Street Called Home.

I will be following up with James to see that he settles well at home. I will also recommend the mother to be considered for the business empowerment programme S.A.L.V.E. offers to help make sure she can support James and her other children in the future as a single parent.

*James’ name has been changed in this public space to for child protection.

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