This is the story of Sonny*, a 15 year old boy we met and have supported at our S.A.L.V.E International residential site in Uganda.
“When I was younger, I lived with my mother and was very close to her and her relatives. My father lived far away and I only communicated with him by phone. Life was not easy for us at home. Due to a long spell of drought many people died of starvation especially children like me and there was so much violence caused by cattle raiding. Raiders would attack people and burn their homes and steal their animals and as this increased, food shortage became a major problem too. When my dad heard about this, he immediately arranged for my mum and me to come join him. We were all so happy to see each other as we had been apart for a very long time. I was so glad when a few weeks later my father took me to school and I began my studies.
When I was 12 years old, my dad became mentally unwell. He started acting strangely, talking to himself and began beating my mum. After a while we realised that he was very unwell and we needed help. We went to the local council but they did nothing to support us so my mum called her brother for help. My uncle was staying in Jinja city, so she asked him to take me in for a while. Sadly after a few months my uncle passed away and his family accused me of causing his death. Nobody in the family wanted me to live with them anymore; they refused to give me food and told me to leave. I started sleeping on people’s verandas because I had nowhere to go.
Sent to the streets
This forced me to look for work to get money for food and I got a job fetching water and also selling scrap from the rubbish pit. With the money I was able to rent a place to stay in the city. However one evening the landlady chased me out as she said I was giving her too little money so I ended up living on the streets. During Covid-19, everything became more difficult. The authorities were on patrol due to lockdown and street children were regularly rounded up and food was very scarce. It became harder to find a safe place on the streets so I slept under drainage pipes. Life became too miserable and I thought of committing suicide, but I heard my mum’s voice in my head telling me to come home, which saved me. I decided to go back to the village to look for her. The journey took ten days on foot as there was no transport due to Covid-19. However when I arrived I found out my mother had died. I was distraught and decided to return to Jinja as I felt I had no other option.
From the streets to safety
The situation in Jinja was increasingly difficult. I had no food and out of desperation I started stealing and even sniffing petrol and smoking marijuana. One day the S.A.L.V.E. team found me intoxicated during their street walk and told me of their work and suggested I come to their Drop in Centre. Eventually I went and after a week attending they took me to their residential site. I started their programmes and activities and began enjoying life with other children whom I found there. I was given counselling, medication, accommodation, clothes and food by S.A.L.V.E. and my life turned around. Now, I am waiting to be reunited with my grandmother through S.A.L.V.E.’s home tracing programme and start attending school again. I thank S.A.L.V.E. for their help and care, and I pray that they are given more support to look after children like me.”
*Name changed in line with our Child Protection Policy