This is the story of Joel* told in his own words.
As I was growing up, my grandma would often say, “Okule Obone”, meaning “when you grow up you will understand.” Indeed, I now understand and I can apply this statement to my own life. I grew up without my father who I lost when I was still a young boy and my mum would tell my brother and I stories about how loving our daddy was. However, I didn’t feel the love of my father that mum used to tell us about.
Separated from my mum
The death of my father made our situation at home difficult. When the situation became even worse for mum, she decided to look for another partner with the intention of supporting us (I guess). She eventually had to move to Kampala City where her new lover was staying as she had no option but to live by his rules. She dropped us at our grandma’s place as she couldn’t go to the new house with the burden of children since the cost of living in Kampala is already quite high. We understood that Mum had gone to hustle and to find a way of helping us but we missed her parental love and care.
I must say, Mum performed her role well as she always provided school fees and grandma used to take good care of us though at times it was hard for her to manage the heavy load of feeding and clothing us. She tried her best to see that we got most necessities.
Once, during the school holidays, Mum asked us to spend it with her in Kampala so we travelled to the city. The joy of meeting her was unmatched. When we reached her new house, she welcomed us with so much joy, and we were all smiling from jaw to jaw from the excitement. We had so many amazing stories to share with her since it had been a while.
A difficult conversation
One day, in the middle of the night, I overheard mum having a deep conversation with our stepfather about us staying in the house. I heard mum crying and desperately trying to let us stay in the house until the end of the holiday. During the day, I tried talking to mum to find out more but she kept on telling me not to worry about anything and assuring me that everything would be settled. The pressure kept piling onto her as this became every night’s conversation. I was disgusted that our stepfather didn’t want us in his house.
The world felt so small for me and at this point, I concluded that the road I was taking was indeed a path of hate. I decided to go back to my grandma’s place.
Finding support from S.A.L.V.E.
I left Kampala in secret and started the journey which seemed near enough for me to walk (in reality, this is 270km). Whilst trying to find the route to I found myself in the streets of Jinja and I was welcomed by a group of young boys. They ordered me to take off my clean clothes and gave me ones which were dirty and smelt but I did as they said just to stay alive. I decided to seek help from one of the pedestrians along the street who directed me to the Central Police Station (CPS). After speaking with police officers, I met a gentleman, who I later discovered was Uncle Philomon and who spoke to me about S.A.L.V.E. International and how they could help me back to my grandma’s place. I accepted his help and I’m now planning to get back home. Without them, I would be lost.
* names are changed in line with our Child Protection Policy