Looking for Love

This is the story of John, one of the children Brenda has worked with recently.

Growing up without love

My name is John, and I am 10 years old. I grew up with my grandmother in a remote village in the eastern part of Uganda after my mother abandoned me when I was 2 days old. I had a difficult relationship with my dad, he never showed me any love and seemed to regret me being born. I have kept asking myself why, but I have never been given the answer to this.

I was one of 7 children at home, but almost each child had a different mother and my father never provided any necessities for us. It is OK not to be financially stable at home, as long as there is love in the family.  How I wish we had a chance to choose our parents.

Before running away from home, I was in primary three (year 3) but my performance at school was not great. My father beat me because of this, even though he never paid for my school fees and never tried to find out why I was performing so poorly. My grandmother also reached a point where she could not stop my father beating me, as he threatened to beat her too.

Eventually my grandmother fell sick and was unable to do anything. As she was the only source of income at home, getting food became a challenge. We were all young and did not know what to do next. We were starving because we were not getting anything to eat. One day, a visitor came to check on how my grandmother was feeling. She gave her 50,000 shillings (approx. £10) to go to the hospital and get medication, which my grandmother tied onto the gomesi (dress) she was wearing. Because I was so hungry and desperate, I stole the money in the night when everyone was asleep to buy something to eat. I thought that my grandma would be able to get more money from other visitors who would be coming to see her.

Living on the streets and lockdown

I didn’t want to go back home because I knew they would beat me for stealing my grandmother’s money. I hoped the money would be enough to sustain me, but I did not know how long it would last. The first day I slept in the trading centre near our home, but I didn’t want to be seen by my family so I decided to head somewhere further away. I didn’t know any other place besides home, so I just followed the road. I ended up on the streets of Iganga for 3 months, but later, my friends told me to go to Jinja town.  

Life was difficult on the streets and I developed ulcers because I was not getting enough to eat. Mafuta (aeroplane fuel inhaled as drug) was my best friend because it solved my problems; I did not feel hungry or cold at night. It took me 3 weeks to reach Jinja from Iganga town by foot. After being there for one month, the president declared a lockdown in the country. It felt like the world became a smaller place to live in and I lost hope because everyone was looking out for themselves. Before the lockdown, we could beg for money for food. Now, the few people in town did not want to give out the little they had. Even as the situation was getting worse, I still did not want to return home.

Meeting S.A.L.V.E. – Trust and hope

I spent 2 days without any food, I felt sick, stranded, and hopeless. By luck, some of the staff from S.A.L.V.E. found me and explained about the help they give to children living on the streets. Despite not knowing these people, I had faith in them and believed all they told me and was ready go with them. They took most of the children who were willing to be helped to their Emergency Centre. While at the Centre, I was given treatment, and regular food and drink but I struggled with my Mafuta addiction and my cravings became too much. I was scared to share this with the staff, so I decided to escape and go back to the streets to be able to sniff some Mafuta.

I regretted running away from the Emergency Centre, and even though I knew I needed help, I was scared to go back. The situation became tougher because of the police round ups every night due to the curfew. This time round, I made a wise decision and went back to the Emergency Centre. They took me back and referred me to the Drug Rehabilitation Centre after understanding that I was struggling with addiction.

S.A.L.V.E. helped me overcome my addiction and right now I do not want to even smell Mafuta. Slowly, I started missing home and especially my grandmother. We went for a visit and my grandmother was happy to see me. 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 and uncomfortable with this because it was me in the wrong. I apologized to her and she forgave me, but it was not yet time to be resettled at home because I was still in the Rehabilitation programme. My grandmother was invited to the Rehabilitation centre for family counseling, but because she was sick, she could not make it, and so my older brother came instead. I felt so happy that my family still loves me and thinks about me. I am not sure whether my father also loves me, but I trust the staff who promise to help bridge the gap between me and my father. When I successfully finish my drug rehab programme I will be eager and ready to go back home.

Thank you S.A.L.V.E., for your support to street connected children.

Related Post

leave a comment