Living without a mother – Mariam’s* Story

As a little girl, I flourished, receiving the love of my mother and enjoying every moment with her. However, little did I know that she would one day leave me by myself, alone.

In 2021, my mother, the most amazing person in my life, was poisoned by someone in the town where we used to live. By that time, I was only in P.7 (the last year of Ugandan primary school). On hearing the news, I was overwhelmed and I couldn’t believe it was true. Memories of that day remain fresh in my mind; I remember seeing her lying in the casket in the living room as though she was merely asleep. As a little girl, I never imagined such a thing would ever happen to me. It was even more painful to see her body being lowered into her grave. Tears rolled down my face in grief at losing my mother and best friend. Despite this major challenge, I lifted myself up and managed to complete P.7. I passed with flying colours and returned home.

I then moved in with my step-mother. I expected her to be understanding and kind and take on the role that my mother had once occupied in my life. Unfortunately, the truth was far less pleasant than my expectations. Staying with my step-mother was nothing short of physical and psychological torture. Instead of providing for me, she kept sending me to my dad to feed me and ask for the resources that I needed to survive. It became even worse when my father would leave to work in Jinja as a fisherman. During those periods, my step-mother would refuse to feed me for days on end, and I only survived due to the generosity of our neighbours.

Forced to leave school

My only relief from this situation would come when I was at school, where I was guaranteed at least one meal per day. One day, she began to interfere with my education. During my third term, my father sent her money to pay my school fees. She instead diverted the money to pay for her other two children who were in a lower grade, and the school had no option but send me back home until my fees were paid. When I reached home, I spoke to my dad about the issue; he told me that he given my fees to my step-mother who was meant to pay for my school. Unfortunately, she had used it all and my dad had no more money. He asked me to stay home for the rest of the term.

Fleeing from home

Life became increasingly complicated and the days became darker. One day, she chased me out of home with a large knife, yelling at me to go and find my dead mother. At that moment, I decided to leave and find peace somewhere else. My first thought was to find my dad in Jinja. I had to find a way of getting myself to Jinja city, which I had never visited before. As I walked into town, I found a truck driver who I pleaded with to help me get to Jinja. The man accepted, but I was scared; we were always warned at school and by my dad to never trust strangers. Fortunately, we got to Jinja safely, and he continued onwards to Kampala. At this point, I was confused, and I had nowhere to go. I walked aimlessly until it got dark – I was frightened and felt hopeless. Suddenly, a good Samaritan walked by, wondering “What is a girl of her age doing on the streets at this time of night?”. She spoke to me and found out about my problems. She was touched by my story and felt the need to help me. She took me to the police station, and that’s where I was introduced to S.A.L.V.E. International.

Finding peace and my dad with the help of S.A.L.V.E.

At the S.A.L.V.E. residential site, I have been listened to and reassured that things will be alright in the end. A S.A.L.V.E. staff member managed to trace my dad’s phone number; he was happy to find out that I was safe and sound and couldn’t wait to see me. We talked about my situation with the S.A.L.V.E. team and my dad promised to protect me from my step-mother and to not return me back to her home. Here, I have found a safe haven, and it has become like a second home for me. There are loving and caring staff who have made sure I have appropriate medical support, food, shelter and counselling, which has restored my hope. I sincerely appreciate the support I have received from S.A.L.V.E International so far.


*Names are changed in line with our Child Protection Policy.

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