Mariam* lived with her aunty and her cousins in a small village near Jinja. She felt unloved and unwanted by her paternal aunt who gave more attention and care to her own children, ignoring Mariam.
Mariam would do almost all the house chores alone and sell vegetables on the streets but, despite this, she was still denied food at the end of the day.
Eventually, Mariam decided to run away from home and became part of the invisible population in Uganda – street connected children. Mariam’s days were filled with uncertainty; navigating the dangers and struggles of survival. She would often search for food in rubbish bins, sleep on the cold pavements of Main Street, and she was faced with the constant threat of exploitation and abuse.
While on the street Mariam discovered a small community of street connected children who became her makeshift family. United by their circumstances they formed bonds. They looked out for one another and shared stories and laughter together, despite all their hardships.
However one day. as the S.A.L.V.E. team walked around the streets and rubbish dumps to talk to the children, checking in and bringing hope to them, we met Mariam.
We had a group counselling session along with other children. We asked her to join us and go to our Drop in Centre to have one-to-one counselling with her, to which she gladly accepted. On arrival, we asked her about the scenario of how she ended up on the streets of Jinja and she opened up. We later asked her how we at S.A.L.V.E. can best help her leave the streets. She responded by saying that we can support her by looking for her biological parents whom she suspected to be in Kamuli, where they had been separated at a tender age.
This encounter turned out to be a turning point in her life. We then offered her a referral to our Halfway Home where she was rehabilitated to help her to heal both mentally and physically as we traced for her biological parents or even other possible relatives. Through continuous counselling and rehabilitation sessions with Mariam we recognised her potential, seeing her love for reading and learning new things. With a glimmer of hope in her eyes, she was offered an opportunity to be supported through Education Sponsorship and she embraced it wholeheartedly and promised to do her best.
Realising her dreams
After some time searching, we found her parents, where we resettled Mariam and enrolled her in primary six. Through education, Mariam discovered a world of possibilities beyond the confines of the streets. She developed a deep passion for becoming a teacher. Going to school gave Mariam dreams that began to shape her mind, dreams to better her life, dreams of becoming a teacher and breaking free from the cycle of poverty.
Through our home visits for the children that have been resettled, we happily found out Mariam is now doing well, both at home and school, as her good performance and discipline bagged her a half school fees bursary at school. Mariam’s father is so grateful to S.A.L.V.E. for bringing light to his daughter’s life.
This story stands as a testament to the resilience and dreams that reside within every child, regardless of their circumstances and background.
*names, locations and other identifying information is changed in line with our Child Protection Policy