Ian (14) had to leave school due to lack of funds during P5 and Eddie (7) has never been in school. Ian and Eddie are the sons of James Kigegenye (56), a homeless alcoholic who spends most of his time on the streets of Kabale. Amasiko staff members were shocked when they went to visit these children and the father cheerfully said that he has over twelve kids most of whom he doesn’t know the whereabouts of. After James and his last wife separated, she remarried in a man in Mbarara and she has never returned to see her two boys.
When we told the boys to inform the dad that we would like to visit them at home he tried to avoid us by saying he will be at work. We found him on the side of a street where he was repairing shoes; highly inebriated and with his own shoes falling to pieces.
We went to their ‘home’ and, as hardened as we are to the living conditions of the children in our care, we were shocked by the state of the home. Seeing where these innocent children have to sleep was a terrible experience. There is no bed or mattress, not even a mat or a blanket – only a heap of smelly rags picked from the rubbish tip which they lay on during the night. The room is dilapidated, leaking whenever it rains, very small and more of a compost heap than a room. So small that a person cannot even stretch his legs while asleep.
With no toilet nearby faeces are scattered all over; they said that whenever they are answering the call of nature they move in the nearby bush during the day but in the night being in an isolated place they use the compound. They used to have a hoe which they used to dig a small pit for one time purpose whenever they wanted to answer the call of nature, but thieves stole their hoe so dirt is littered all over the compound.
Their small room was originally built in a swamp to act as a shade for the casual labourers who used to work on a seed bed project, but after the project finished their dad occupied the room because he cannot pay rent.
Surely no person with a hope of a future could stay in such a place. These children need help. The only meals they get are what they get at the Amasiko Drop-In Centre. They said they used to have one saucepan which was stolen by thieves, so any produce they manage to gather during the day cannot be prepared when they get back home in the evenings or during the weekend. When asked what time they go home, they said that since they cannot cook or wash they just loiter around compost areas in search for food till it’s dark.
Since we feel that it is dangerous and unhealthy for these young boys to live in these circumstances, we are trying to get them temporary refuge with the Shepherd’s Centre – although this project is also bursting at the seams and struggling to cope with their own children. We desperately need to find sponsors for these children so they can get the education every child deserves and have a clean, healthy environment to grow up in.