Grace’s* family live in a very poor, remote village in Uganda. They could not afford school fees for Grace and struggled to provide food. One day a lady, who was introduced to her family by a neighbour, promised to take Grace to school in the capital city Kampala. Her parents were trusting village people and were so happy that Grace had this opportunity. She could not believe it and packed her things making her way from her small village to a big city that she had never been to before. However, when she got there the reality was very different. Instead of learning her times tables and playing with her classmates, Grace was forced to cook and clean for a family she did not know. She lost her childhood in an instant. She wondered if she would ever see her family again. She was just 8 years old.
Frustrated and scared, Grace decided to run away, thinking even a life on the streets seemed better than her current situation. Alone in a big city she didn’t know with no money, no protection, no food and nowhere to sleep. She was terrified and just wanted her Mum. Life seemed hopeless. She wished she was back home.
Children living on the streets of Kampala are at huge risk of being caught up in gangs, organised crime or sex work. Others are often taken in by the many independently run orphanages around the country; the majority of these make no effort to search for children’s families or to investigate their stories, meaning that children who do have surviving family members have no opportunity to be reunited with them. Research by Alternative Care Uganda shows that 85% of children living in institutions have at least one surviving parent and 52% of childcare institutions have no reintegration or foster care programme and make no effort to make contact with a child’s relatives.
But, Grace heard about Kids Club Kampala’s feeding project taking place in a nearby community. She told her story to a volunteer there who referred her to our Ewafe project for abandoned children. We rescued Grace from a life on the streets and provided her with food, clothing and medical care. We gave her a safe place to stay whilst our social workers started looking for her family. Grace’s family live in a remote village and they didn’t have a mobile phone, so this wasn’t easy. After several long weeks, the day that Grace had longed for finally arrived, and she was reunited with her mum and brothers and sisters. She cried tears of joy as she hugged her mum, she was so happy to be home.
All children deserve a childhood. The best place for a child is within a family unit and our social workers work to find the best solution for each child in every situation. Kids Club Kampala works tirelessly to make sure that children get to grow up in a family, where they belong. We are also working to reduce poverty and provide education to ensure that poverty is never a reason for families to be broken apart.
Grace is now 13 and enjoying living back at home with her family. She is sponsored to go to school and her mum has been supported to start her own business.
We are so happy that our Ewafe project was able to rescue Grace and reunite her with her family again. But there are so many more children like Grace who need our help, which is why we are launching our Ewafe project appeal with Radio 4. To donate specifically to this appeal, please click here. Thank you.
*Grace’s name has been changed to protect her identity.