For many years, Retrak has worked in Uganda alongside a partner organization called Child Restoration Outreach (CRO). Here's the story of Mercy, a seven-year-old girl who CRO helped to return home.
Mercy is the second of three children. Her father died when she was only two years old. After her father’s death, Mercy’s mother lost all of her property, as it was taken by her in-laws. Mercy and her family were destitute, with no source of income and no place to live. Even managing to find a daily meal was a struggle.
Mercy says, “Our condition of living became unbearable day by day and as a result, my mother abandoned me with my aunt and left for Kampala (Uganda’s capital city) to look for odd jobs. For six years, we never saw nor heard from her again.”
Mercy’s aunt also struggled to survive and wasn’t able to care for Mercy or provide her with life’s most basic necessities:
”Hunger and starvation became part of my life” Mercy laments, ”I couldn’t wait to die, so I was influenced by other children to go part-time on the streets.”
Mercy began scavenging on the streets of Mbale, where CRO social workers first encountered her and encouraged her to join CRO. The social workers were able to trace Mercy’s aunt and resettle Mercy in her home, a rented room in Mbale. Mercy has also joined CRO’s one-year rehabilitation class, which will enable her to develop life skills and enroll in formal education.
Mercy and her aunt are doing well, and Mercy is off the streets and planning a future:
”When I grow up, I would like to become a nurse and help treat people."
Thank you for your support which enables us to reach more and more children like Mercy, offering them a permanent alternative to life on the streets.
The latest Retrak success story of a street child reunited with his family comes from Cyrus*, a 7-year-old boy from Nanyale village in Eastern Uganda.
Cyrus grew up living with his grandparents, as his mother left when he was young and his father had to work. One summer, Cyrus went to spend his school holiday with his father in Kampala, who would leave him in his neighbor’s care while he worked. Cyrus soon ran away, frightened by a local circumcision preparation dance, known as an ‘Embalu’. Unable to find his way home to his grandparents, Cyrus slept on the streets. He survived by begging for money for food, and when unsuccessful, was forced to scavenge for leftovers from restaurant bins.
But one night, Cyrus and a few of his friends were rounded up by the police, who then referred him to Retrak’s Bulamu drop-in center. Here, Cyrus received care and protection, getting along well with the other children despite not speaking the same language as them. Cyrus was then moved to the Retrak Tuddabujja halfway home, where he told his social workers details about his previous primary school and his grandparents. This crucial turning point gave Cyrus’ social workers hope that he could be returned home.
Anthony, a security guard at Retrak’s clubhouse, went on to visit Cyrus’ village, showing locals a photograph of him in the hope that someone would know where his family could be found. Thankfully, Anthony was in luck. Teachers from his school recognized Cyrus from the photo, and were able to escort Anthony to the house of his grandparents.
On arrival, Anthony presented the photograph of Cyrus to his grandmother, who broke down in tears. “We give thanks to the Lord”, she cried, upon learning that after 6 months of no word, her grandson was safe. She explained how Cyrus’ father had contacted them, petrified he had been kidnapped for sacrifice. After trying all possible ways they could to find him, they were left to fear the worst.
Many children like Cyrus find themselves with no option but to live on the streets, simply because they cannot find or make their way home. Thanks to the support of our donors, Retrak continues to work with young people to retrace their families and return them home.
*Name changed to protect the child’s identity
Twenty years ago, two expats living in Kampala, Uganda, started playing pick-up soccer after work with a group of street boys. Little did they know in 1994 that over the course of the next two decades, this soccer club would evolve into a highly effective and respected organization that would change the lives of thousands of vulnerable boys and girls and their families in five African countries.
Oscar was one of the hundreds of children who walked through the gates of Retrak’s Clubhouses last year, taking that first step off of the streets and into a new life. After enduring many months of hardship alone on the streets of Kampala, Oscar found love and support at the Clubhouse. Oscar was a bit older than most of the children in Retrak's program, and with the guidance of a Retrak social worker, decided to pursue vocational training in metal welding with the hope of someday supporting himself independently. Retrak supported Oscar through his training and apprenticeship and assisted him as he transitioned into independent living, supplying him with support for accommodation, food, and a few simple tools.
Oscar is living completely independently now, working as a welder and saving money to start his own welding business and hire an assistant. He is forever grateful to Retrak, saying,
“I can’t imagine where I am now compared with two years back when food and shelter were my priority concerns. Today I can afford to eat what I choose and have a rented room for my home. Retrak you mean the world to me for without you I would not have had a chance to live again”
Our work is vital to children like Oscar and to the thousands more like him who are living outside of the protection of a loving family. We wouldn’t be able to do this work without the support of donors like you. Thank you for helping make our work possible!
#GivingTuesday has finally arrived! This is an exciting opportunity for Retrak, because Microsoft is giving a 100% match to any gift that you make to Retrak through GlobalGiving, up to $500!
Please donate soon, as matching funds may run out quickly. By donating to Retrak today, you can double the impact that Retrak makes with children living on the streets of Africa, helping them return to a loving home and family.
Your donation will help children like Ayana, a young Ethiopian girl who was sent by her aunt to a life of domestic servitude when she was 5 years old. In exchange for food and shelter, Ayana spent her days scrubbing floors, washing clothes and preparing meals for a family. When she was 14 years old, her employer beat her and forced her out onto the streets. Fortunately for Ayana, Retrak heard of her situation and stepped in to help. Ayana was reintegrated with her family and is living in a stable, loving and supportive home. You can read more about Ayana here.
Fred is another child who was helped by Retrak. Retrak’s outreach workers in Kampala, Uganda, met Fred for the first time during a regular soccer training session. Activities like these, held near the streets where the children live, provide a chance to get to know the children and for them to understand what Retrak can offer. Over the course of the following week, Fred joined in with soccer and other games, as well as getting good meals and attending the education and life-skills classes at the drop-in center. By the end of the week, Retrak’s outreach worker had learned that Fred had been on the streets for some time. Since he hated getting dirty and sleeping outside, he mopped the floor in a video hall every evening so that he could sleep inside. He had run away from home after his parents divorced and his father wouldn’t care for him.
After 5 months of counseling and preparation at the halfway home, Fred was able to return to live with his mother. He’s now settled at home and is back in school. You can read more of Fred’s story here.
On behalf of Ayana and Fred, and the thousands of vulnerable children that Retrak works with every year, thank you again for supporting us in our vital work in Africa. Please make a #GivingTuesday donation today!
Meet David. David entered a life of hardship at an early age when his parents separated and later died. He went to live with an uncle who tried to force him to be a witchcraft shrine attendant rather than go to school. Instead, David went onto the streets of Kampala, Uganda.
In desperation , David turned to a church for help and from there he was referred to Retrak. David entered Retrak's foster care program and while he found it difficult at the start, he eventually settled into a loving home where he felt safe and happy. This allowed him to rejoin the community where he became an influential leader of those around him, especially other children.
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US Country Director