No Choice but to Become a Mother

A difficult beginning

Alice was one of 4 children living with a violent and abusive father. Her mother tried to be patient and asked advice from elders and her parents, but the situation only got worse. Not only did the violence increase towards both with her mother and her siblings, her father also married other women and stopped supporting Alice’s mother. The children all dropped out of school and there was no food at home, which caused her mother to feel helpless, tearful and desperate as she could not look after her children.

Alice’s mother eventually decided to leave with her children, start a new life and find a way to support her family. Initially she ran away to live with her parents, but they could not look after her and her 4 children. She looked for jobs in peoples’ houses and occasionally would find work washing clothes for 5000ugx (approx. £1) a day, but unfortunately this was not regular enough.

Life briefly improves

Eventually through a friend, she found a cleaning job at Jinja Hospital and her luck and life began to change a little for the better. She managed to rent a small room for her and her children to live in and also hired some land to farm vegetables after her cleaning work. Her children were sent to school; however as a single mother of four, the fees became too expensive and the children would often be sent home for non-payment. With money and food scarce, the children began going to the streets during the day to work, sorting and selling plastic rubbish to try and survive.

These girls were met by the S.A.L.V.E International Street Outreach Team during a street walk and were encouraged to start attending our Drop in Centre. After a home tracing visit, their mother was referred to their Single Mothers Business programme which taught her the skills to run a charcoal business. Life got better as a result and the children stopped having to work on the streets. She started saving for them to go back to school and planned to buy a piece of land.

A tragic accident

One morning Alice’s mother awoke happy and began washing her clothes in preparation for the day. As she hung the clothes on the line it touched an electric wire passing near it, and sadly she was electrocuted and passed away.

This was such a harrowing and miserable time for the children, and as the oldest at age 20, Alice looked after her 3 siblings and became like a mother them. Their father was not willing to help them or take care of them. This was too much responsibility for her and she didn’t know what to do or where to start.

She had to pay school fees, as well as feed and look after herself and her siblings. Alice’s own plans and goals had to change after this tragic event. Alice’s mother had promised she could attend a college as she had completed her exams but there was now no money for her to join and she had to work to support the family instead. Her job as a waitress was only earning her 5000UGX (£1) a day, and part of this went on transport to and from work.  Alice felt desperate and alone with nowhere to turn to for support.

Hope for the future

A S.A.L.V.E. a social worker stayed in touch with this family and kept counselling and encouraging the children, offering advice with the challenges they faced. They continued with their mother’s business which provided money for their needs including food and clothing. Alice now attends the Single Mothers Business programme in her late mother’s place and has managed to begin saving. 

Alice was also selected to join S.A.L.V.E.’s partnership programme with East African Playgrounds as an apprentice in welding, which has given her hope for the future after such a sad and difficult time. She was so eager to join and has worked so hard on the programme which will help her find a career and a steady income. She now feels happy and positive about her future and is no longer worried about how to take care of her siblings and be their ‘mother’.

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