"After having a peaceful and a wonderful night, the children together with the team had the opportunity to have a morning bath and it was at 9:30am when both the children and the team were served with breakfast. In a bid to get acquainted with the work of the indigenous partner organization, we jointly held a brief meeting immediately after having breakfast through which each of us on the team was made to know how the work was to be accomplished during the week.
In this meeting, Angela the Program coordinator and Janet the social worker all working for the Community Development Organization thanked us for having traveled with the children all the way to Karamoja. After Janet talking to the meeting, we also briefed representatives from the Community Development Center that all the returnees had spent some good time of more than 6 months with the partner organization and assured them that the returnees had been well prepared to start school.
They further added that all the returnees had undergone medical examination and were found with no chronicle diseases and had already been fully de-wormed. However, it was also made clear to the Community Development representatives that among the returnees, there were some children who had been brought back to Karamoja alone after their parents refusing to be returned together with their children and hence those children returned without their parents were to stay with their grandparents on resettlement.
With that said, each of us was assigned a different task to handle within the various locations where the team was to minister during the week. As one family, we were divided into the following main groups; the Resettlement Group, Education Group, Medical Care Group and the Income Generating Group.
With all that done, each group was as well assigned a different task to accomplish in the field during the week. The Resettlement group was to ensure that all the homes/families of the returnees had been properly traced. In addition to this, the resettlement group had to talk to the returnees very well how great it is for a child to be home, travel with the returnees to their homes and share the joy together as the returnees were welcomed and met their families again.
On the other side, the Education group was responsible for ensuring that all the returnees were properly enrolled, resettled in formal schools, provided with scholastic materials, beds and beddings especially for those placed in boarding schools while the Medicare group was to take care of the team’s health together with the children during the repatriation exercise. Thanks to this group that took great care of the children and my eyes when they were badly affected due to the harsh conditions there.
For purposes of sustainability and increased social protection among the families of the returnees, the Income Generating group was responsible for identifying, sensitizing and providing for the suitable Income Generating activity that can best benefit the families of the returnees after re-uniting the children with their families. According to the situation in Karamoja, there is overwhelming need to economically empower not only the families whose children are returned but to other families as well.
As someone from the Sweet Sleep Ministry, I was assigned to be part of both the resettlement groups and the education since these interventions have a direct linkage with Sweet Sleep’s work of providing beds/beddings to both children in communities, homes and schools of the orphaned, abandoned or other vulnerable children.
After receiving our assignments, I was given an opportunity to share more with the team members about the work of the Sweet Sleep Ministry in Uganda and through the same communication, I shared with them the purpose of my traveling to Karamoja and hence emphasized that I needed their maximum support.
Having heard from Sweet Sleep, Angela the Programs coordinator from the Community Development Centre together with Diana the social worker from the partner organization thanked the Sweet Sleep Ministry for the good work that it is doing in Uganda. Pleased with the work of the Sweet Sleep Ministry, the team members from both the indigenous partner organization and the Community Development Centre pledged to provide Sweet Sleep with their maximum support and above all, the opportunity to interact with the returnees together with their family members as much as Sweet Sleep desired. With this good news to the Sweet Sleep Ministry, the meeting ended and each of us started to interact with the returnees and also to prepare them to get ready for joining their families and school once again. We helped the children organize all their belongings, sort and distribute their resettlement packages which we had traveled along with and these included the following; exercise books, pens, pencils, blankets, mattresses, soap, pangas, hoes, beans, maize flour (posho), cups and saucepans to mention a few among others.
All the above mentioned resettlement packages were procured and provided to the returnees by the indigenous partner organization together with the Community Development Center.
Some of the resettlement packages that were provided to the returnees
During the interaction with the children, I got the opportunity to hold brief interviews with some children to find out why they had left their homes and families to come to the streets of Kampala.
Sweet Sleep staff holding interviews with some of the children; Achiya Michael, Logiel Agnes and Logeer Paul.
ACHIYA MICHAEL aged 9 years with both parents alive, left his village because they lacked enough food to feed on in his family and hence decided to board a bus with his mother to Kampala with hope for a better living. However, on their arrival in Kampala, Michael together with his mother found life very hard as they had to spend hours on the streets begging for money or something to eat. On many occasions they found themselves being beaten by other bigger street children who had already got used to the street life.
According to Michael, he had no particular place to sleep in with his mother and the only option was to sleep in smelling places near dust bins on the streets of Kampala. On a sad note still, some of the money that Michael and his mother could afford to collect during the day through begging ended up being stolen by the big street boys.
With all this kind of misfortunes, Michael’s mother decided to go back home in Karamoja at Irriri village leaving her son behind on the streets of Kampala alone.
Today, Michael is very happy to be re-united back to his family in Irriri village after the indigenous partner organization found him living in Kisenyi area. Kisenyi area is a place on the outskirts of Kampala City which is a very dangerous area accommodating the most notorious street boys and girls here in Uganda. After identifying Michael from the Kisenyi area, they talked to him and he accepted to be taken away for rehabilitation and after to join him again with his family and start school in Karamoja.
With beaming joy, Michael could not afford missing to express how glad he was that he was yet to meet his mother once again and was excited with the fact that he was soon going to join school in Primary One (Grade One).
LOGIEL AGNES aged 8 years old was the second to be interviewed and shared with the Sweet Sleep staff that it was her mother who boarded the bus with her and brought her on the streets of Kampala. Being the eldest child in her family, Agnes still wonders why her mother decided to bring and dump her on the streets of Kampala. One day, Agnes just found herself alone in Kampala after her mother all of a sudden disappeared from her a few days after their arrival on the streets of Kampala. Agnes cried, got scared and became so nervous with no other person to talk to and the only option left for her was to look for friends among other street children who had already got used to street life in her efforts to look for survival.
Fortunately, after a while when loitering on the streets of Kampala, she was approached by some of the partner organization members of staff who shared with her and after convinced her that they were to help her trace her family back in Karamoja and that she was to be united with her family again.
At 31 years of age, SAGAL ADELE is a proud mother of 6 children; Joseph, Michael, Martin, Paul, Lucy and Maria who traveled with all her siblings all the way from Karamoja to the streets of Kampala. In the efforts of Adele trying to take care of her family, she managed to grow some food to help her feed the children but wound up futile due to a lot of dryness in Karamoja, she completely became hopeless. With a lot of poverty and famine surrounding her family, Adele decided to move around asking her friends to borrow her some money so that she could raise transport fees to help her come to Kampala with hope of getting an economic activity through which she could earn a living and even pay back the debt that arose as a result of borrowing money for their transport to Kampala.
Unfortunately, though willing to work, Adele was not able to secure anything to do and she ended up resorting to begging in order to get some money to feed her children. According to Adele, life on the streets of Kampala became worse off as there are many horrible things that one goes through each day that come by. There is a lot of child abuse in that so many children take drugs and the big street boys do rape young girls while other street children are involved in robbery of mobile phones and money from people walking along the streets.
According to Adele, each morning was totally different and she could get sick not knowing where to begin from and how to end the day with all her 6 children on the streets of Kampala and at this point Adele broke into tears. Sharing such heart breaking stories with the children together with their parents was a very hard moment and situation for me as a mother and I believe that you certainly agree with me.
Adele added that, much as she knew how hard it was to be on the streets but had nothing to do apart from sending each of her children to different locations along Kampala streets to beg for money. This money helped her to buy some food for her children and sometimes could even send some to her parents and other relatives way back at home to help them buy some food as well for they lack food in the villages and only have to buy food brought from other areas of Uganda.
With this walk of life, Adele one day somehow got connected to the indigenous partner organization through a good Samaritan that has supported her to go back to her home in Karamoja. She is indeed determined to settle back at her home and has hope in that she will be supported with some Income Generating Activities that will help her raise some income to continue feeding her children even when the partner organization has left.
Adele is very excited with the programme of placing her children in Boarding schools by the partner organization where she believes that her children will be able to have daily meals with safe places to stay in addition to getting formal education. She however seemed worried of as to how she was to continue taking care of her children especially during holidays when all of them are back from school.
When Sweet Sleep inquired about the sleeping conditions of Adele’s family upon their return at home, Adele explained that her family will be sleeping on the dried skins of cows and was happy that she had managed to buy two bed sheets that were to serve as blankets. She added that it can be a big blessing for her family if one day they are able to get a mat and mosquito net as there are many mosquitoes in the area where they stay. Adele is a catholic and had a small Bible which she had managed to buy while still on the streets of Kampala. Sharing such heart breaking stories with the children and their parents was not easy for me as a mother and to date I just can’t imagine how these families are doing since we left Karamoja but I pray God blesses them as they once again stand on their own."