S.A.L.V.E., A Ray Of Hope

Haruna’s* father is a very tough person. Renowned as a polygamous witch doctor in the area, he believes in appeasing the gods through the sacrifice of children. Though he has never been caught by the police sacrificing children, rumours around the village suggest he continues the practice. Sacrificing his child would raise suspicions in the area, so he simply left family to starve by refusing to contribute or help to provide food to Haruna’s mother. Starving, and scared he would be sacrificed, Haruna ran away to live on the streets. He did simple jobs to try and earn a little money to support his mother.

Life on the streets

While on streets he made some friends, and together they collected bottles and fetched water for people to earn a little money. Street life for a boy of his age was very difficult and he was often teased by the older boys on the streets. One chilly Sunday evening, after it had been raining hard all day and he had not eaten a thing, Haruna braced himself and decided to beg a lady for some money to get something to eat. The woman he chose took an interest in the young boy and decided to try and find out more about the shivering barefooted boy dressed in torn clothes which hardly kept him warm. She offered her wrapper to him and requested to buy for him a cup of hot tea and something to eat so she could talk to him more. She later introduced him to S.A.L.V.E. and encouraged him to attend the drop in centre for more sharing. Though challenging for an introvert like him, Haruna started attending our drop in centre activities. S.A.L.V.E. International looks at supporting children to stop them from living on the streets in Uganda through support, love, family reunification and education. Haruna needed practical support, encouragement and help to get back to his family and to understand just how much his mother wanted him to be at home.


The centre of Kigulu is so quiet, colourful and bursting with life. Everyone has something to buy or sell. The tiniest scrap of land is in use either to grow crops or as a base for street food vendors to roast corn. Motorbikes are the commonly used means of transport and are overloaded with people travelling, animals or incongruous heavy objects.  On our way back home with Haruna, we jumped off a taxi in this beautiful centre of Kigulu and began the walk to his home. We pass through a small alleyway that divides two run down shops on either side of the road. The pathway winds upwards and, as we climb higher, the worn concrete steps are replaced with muddy, litter strewn paths. The further we go, the quieter it becomes, until we can’t hear the rumble of the traffic below us at all. As we climb higher, we’re leaving behind the solid, permanent buildings of the town centre. Now, flimsy shacks and lean-tos cluster along the narrow path. As I stand to catch my breath and allow my sweat covered clothes to dry, I am hit by the smell of charcoal burning.  Faces peek out of the precariously perched buildings at us as we wheeze up the hill. Some young boy begins to shout. ‘Harunaaaa…..’

We finally reach a circle of about 6 small homes. Some are made from concrete, others from mud. Each has one doorway. With a wide, beaming smile and a warm handshake, Haruna’s grandmother comes out to meet us. “tusanghale tusanghale elaala!” she repeats “you’re welcome!” She had not recognized her long lost grandson!

After turning back, she shouted ‘oooohhh…. Haruna! Are you the one?’

She then danced, jumped and ran to the boy and picked him up as tears of joy washed down her face. It was such an emotional moment reuniting Haruna with his family and the joy it brought in the area! Haruna’s father was accused falsely of sacrificing his son upon his disappearance. We sat on the concrete steps outside the house and felt like celebrities after the grandmother shouted and many people had gathered from all corners. A group of young children appeared from nowhere and stared at us. They hid when I waved at them, only to reappear a bit braver and a bit nearer moments later when their mothers came as well!

Haruna has been back at home for seven months now and enrolled in a local school. He loves drawing and playing local drums. He shows me his sketch books full of intricate pencil drawings of lions, giraffes and aeroplanes and whenever there is a local show, he plays the drums in the band and i am invited to watch. He likes Mathematics and English and his school books are full of complex calculations and red ticks. Haruna is attending school every day and happy to be back home with his family. He dreams of becoming an accountant like me and he is continuing to practice playing the drums. Haruna tells me that without S.A.L.V.E.’s help, he would never have been able to get back home. His Grandmother and Mother are always happy thanking S.A.L.V.E. for the great work.

They say “mwebale” meaning thank you.


** We’ve changed Haruna’s name for this blog in line with our child protection policy.

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