Often on our trip to Uganda we experience a day of great contrast, and Thursday was one of those days. This was a day when we were to visit the ‘homes’ of some of the street children that are cared for so well at Amasiko.
Our first two visits were to places where children with no homes at all spend the night. One of these was in a semi-derelect building, which the children enter through a window that they forced open. They then ascend to the roof via a ladder and sleep there as best they can, with the constant fear of being found and beaten by the police or local security guards. The second sleeping place was a wooded shed that measured three meters by one and a half. It did not have any windows
or a door and the walls had holes in them.
This is the resting place for a minimum of ten boys every night. It is situated next to two overflowing rubbish skips that act as the source of food for the children. We were warmly greeted by the children (ages ranged from eight to late teens) who were happy in many cases to share their stories. We left them wondering how any society can allow their children to live like this and punishes those who do so by beating them?
Following these two moving visits we went on to visit three of the homes of some of the children who did have some form of family structure. These three visits were all emotional for us in different ways
and were all strikingly contrasting.
The first visit was to the home of eight year old Hassan. I had been told that he lives with his grandmother, who is HIV+ and blind, and so had a picture in my mind of an old lady who was well past the prime of her life and capable of very little. How wrong I was. Hassan’s grandmother is only 40 and is sprightly and very cheerful despite her physical challenges and the fact that she lives in one room and relies on a strong neighbourhood community to help her with many essential tasks. Hassan’s mother did not know who his father was and she abandoned him when he was a few months old. She has not been seen since. So the grandmother has raised Hassan in one room for the last eight years but been unable to raise funds to send him to school.
She used to make some money by buying large sacks of charcoal which she would split and sell in small quantities. This venture came to an end when the price of charcoal went up and she could no longer afford to buy stock.
The story of this family affected all of us greatly and we asked what we could do to help. Instead of asking for money, food or clothes she asked if we could help her with one or two sacks of charcoal so that she could start trading again and help herself. This brought more tears to our eyes and a generous member of our party immediately pledged ten sacks so that this loving and enterprising lady can make a future for herself and her grandson. Hassan himself needs to get a sponsor so
that he can get into school as soon as possible before he gets too old. Having Hassan cared for and giving him the chance of a future is the grandmother’s main worry as she struggles so hard to support him. We left this encounter deeply moved and very quiet, each of us lost in her or his own thoughts.
The last two visits were a great contrast. One found us at the home of a grandfather where six siblings recently arrived at Amasiko had originated. Far from being totally poverty stricken this man was realtively well off by local standards. It turns out that the grandfather had had a fall out with his daughter-in-law, the mother of the children and, cutting a long story short, the children had ended up stuck in the middle and having to fend for themselves on the street. After some passionate discussions led by our very competent Amasiko General Manager, Peace, the grandfather agreed that the children could go to boarding school and that he would pay the fees. We will be looking to make sure that he keeps his word so that the children do not suffer for the sake of a domestic argument.
Our final visit was probably the most depressing of all. We visited the home of two of the children cared for at Amasiko, one of whom is being treated by Peace each day for a very bad case of jiggers and a foot infection. The father we met at this home, a widower of two years, was living in a house that had been built for him and his two boys by concerned neighbours. He claimed to be 73 years old (with sons of nine and eleven?) and as such said he was too old to work to support his children. When asked what his plans were for caring for his sons he said that he had none, they must fend for themselves. What a contrast to Hassan’s grandmother who, pennyless, sick and blind, only wants an opportunity to help herself and her abandoned grandson.
We came away from these visits feeling sad, angry, overwhelmed, enlightened but with a sense of real hope that there are still people out there with a heart. If you can sponsor Hassan or any other of our very needy children you can do so by clicking here, or PM us for more information.