It is an alarming fact that too many children in Uganda are orphans. Children may have lost their parents through death due to illness, poverty, or accidents. These orphaned children are more vulnerable to illness and malnutrition themselves as they rely on others in their family to care for them and they might not be able to afford the extra burden. Thus the orphans are also unlikely to receive a good quality education. Orphans are also faced with a higher risk of challenges such as emotional distress, domestic violence, child abuse, torture, poverty, child labour, and teenage pregnancy. Aisha*’s experience is no different.
Aisha was born in the mountain slopes of Mbale where she spent a happy childhood with her parents. However, her childhood was cut short, as Aisha lost both her parents at the age of 8. Aisha and her younger sister were left alone, causing the course of her life to change drastically. The children became neglected physically and mentally, and did not know the meaning of love as their other relatives were already overstretched. Their access to education and food was restricted after the death of their parents, and Aisha suffered a lot emotionally.
Aisha’s grandmother offered the girls refuge at her home in a small village near to Jinja. This didn’t last for long, as Aisha’s grandmother was aging and could not provide support to the 10 children in her small house. The children were not cared for and had little food to eat. They had to earn money by collecting used water bottles and scrap metals from the rubbish. The children even began collecting rotten left over food from rubbish bins and dumping sites. This became Aisha’s reality.
Aisha got to learn that there was an organisation called S.A.L.V.E. International when she had gone with her friends to sell off her bottles she had collected and met them on a street walk. On the first day that Aisha came to our girl’s Drop in Centre she was so emotional that she burst into tears. Our Street Outreach team talked with her and she opened up about her life with her sisters and the challenges they have being going through ever since the death of their parents. Aisha says how valuable it has been that there are people who understand her struggles and help her out. The sessions that we have at the girl’s Drop in Centre have also facilitated positive behaviour change in how she has been coping with her situation and boosted her self-esteem.
A big thank you to S.A.L.V.E. supporters for the tremendous work being done in the lives of these young people – bringing hope to children who might otherwise not have any.