What I learnt at the S.A.L.V.E. Drop in Centre

My name is Marleen Okken; I have been working as a social work intern at S.A.L.V.E. International for a period of three months. I study Social Work at Windesheim University in Zwolle, The Netherlands. In February of this year, I started to work at S.A.L.V.E.

I worked at the Drop in Centre, which you can see as the heart of the organisation. From here, S.A.L.V.E. can meet children currently on the streets, and begin to build relationships with them. The children come to the Drop in Centre in the morning, where they can wash and bathe. After this, the children go to class. The social workers at S.A.L.V.E. teach the children different subjects, for example, life skills, computer lessons, and hygiene. Importantly, they teach children to think about their future away from life on the streets.

The goal of the Drop in Centre is to educate, counsel and trace the children back to their homes. What I enjoyed the most about working at S.A.L.V.E. was tracing the children back home and following them up in the next weeks to see how they were settling in with their family.

Meet Charlie

I really liked tracing the children home because you can see the happiness of the family and the child. Once, I traced a boy named Charlie* back home. Charlie had been living on the streets for one year before meeting S.A.L.V.E.

He came to the streets when his father died in a traffic accident and there was nobody who could take care of him. He earned money by collecting scrap items like papers, plastic bottles or metal. From the money he earned, he used to buy a little food.

I met Charlie when we were carrying out a street outreach walk in Jinja town. We could make contact easily because he spoke English. From the moment we met him on the streets, he attended the Drop in Centre every day. He always showed good manners, motivation for change and he showed that he was ready to be taken back home and to return to education.

Finding Charlie’s Family

With the death of his father, we began to look for his Mother, but unfortunately she was too unstable to take care of him right now. Next we began looking for other relatives.

Charlie told us he saw his Aunt very often, because she lives nearby Jinja. We tried to get in contact with the Aunt and we succeeded.

I will never forget the moment when I told Charlie that we could take him home that day. Charlie was so happy to go back home and leave the streets, he was smiling all day. You could see on his face that he wanted to go back home so badly.

So we took him to the place his auntie lives. When we arrived, both the aunt and Charlie were so happy to be with each other again. I really loved to see that the aunt was ready to take care of Charlie, even though she had many children herself. The aunt really loved the boy, a thing I see every time when we went for a follow-up.

The first time we went to follow-up with the family. Charlie was so happy to see us. He really wanted to tell us how things were going at home and how happy he was to be home again. The happiness of the boy was really taking over; he even didn’t mind that he needed to wait a little to go to school to make sure he was really settled at home. Charlie wanted to be taken home even though he knew he couldn’t have everything immediately.

Charlie really taught me many things. He showed me what good manners are, how you treat people, how you show respect to people, how to be patient and most of all; how you can be happy with the small things in life.

Even after I leave Uganda I will continue to follow up with the team to find out how Charlie is doing. I know he has the potential to go so far, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the S.A.L.V.E. Drop in Centre to support him along the way.

*We have changed the child’s name in this public space for child protection reasons.

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