I recently spent 2 weeks in Kabale, SW Uganda visiting friends from Kent who have founded a charity ‘Alongside Africa’ which is focused on turning around the lives of street children of all ages.I took out with me dozens of pairs of pants for boys and girls, donated very kindly by All Saints. The charity currently supports about 50 ex-street children who are now able to attend school (mainly through UK sponsors giving £25 a month per child). There is a drop-in centre open daily giving a safe space where they can go in the holidays to be fed and cared for as well as being the first place of contact for other street children to begin to move back into receiving care and support. When I arrived it was during the school holidays and 30-40 children were at the drop in each day. Term then restarted and pants were being gratefully distributed as children returned to their boarding schools!
For teenagers there is a recently opened Halfway House where at the moment 18 boys and girls live, learning to adjust to life off the streets. They learn basic life skills and share in the duties of cooking, cleaning and gardening as well as receiving some basic education. Placements in a hairdressing salon and sewing/craft skills are provided for the girls and car maintenance experience for the boys. Its challenging for these teenagers to choose to come off glue-sniffing and shoplifting as a way of life and accept some discipline and order into their previously chaotic lives. While I was there one boy left as he wanted to make his own choices and continue glue-sniffing and another joined an old friend not at the centre and committed a robbery. The police caught him and he spent 3 weeks in prison but has now been released and returned to the Halfway House – hopefully a wiser lad. On a positive note, others are making good progress and one lad of 16 after his first night there said, ‘ I have never slept on a mattress – it is heaven!’
I was awed and inspired at all one couple in their mid-50’s have already done in a few years, with the help of some very skilled dedicated local Ugandans and it was a privilege to be a tiny part of their work for a short time. Thank you again for all who supported this project in any way.