Fred, an 18-year-old former street child, is an inspirational example of how support from GlobalGiving and dedicated supporters can make a real difference in the lives of vulnerable children in Africa who have suffered terrible hardship. The resettlement of Fred is an experience that will stay for some time in Retrak's memory. Fred is from a village called Kalengela in the District of Mukono. He came to Retrak during 2008 but his stay was punctuated by a lot of disappearances. Fred was slow to open up and it took a lot of patience and many counseling sessions before he decided that he wanted to go home.
Moses, Retrak's social worker, recounts what happened when they reached Fred's village: "An elderly lady approached us from a smoke-filled kitchen. She welcomed us and greeted us as tradition dictates. I first observed the communication pattern between this lady and Fred. It was clear that there was something wrong. After listening to my introduction, the lady started narrating to me many stories about Fred and the challenges he had brought to her family. Because of his behavior the family had decided to disown him. It was discouraging to see such a barrier between the child and his family. But deep down in my heart I was with a feeling that since it took a lot of time for Fred to be willing to visit, I had to keep trying. It took about 2 1/2 hours of talking to help Fred's family realize that their son had changed and to look past the stereotype his family had built up. Finally the breakthrough came and Fred was reunited with his family."
Retrak knows that this reunification will still need a lot of support, so Moses and the other social workers will follow-up with Fred and his family both by phone and in person. If they keep moving forward together for the next three months, Retrak will help the family set up a small business to support themselves.
On their recent journey from resettling a boy in Rwanda, Retrak’s social workers followed up on Addae, a boy who had survived on the streets of Kampala for nearly a year before being resettled last year in his original community, a tiny rural village in south west Uganda. He had originally come into contact with Retrak through our Thursday feeding programme and has then stayed at Tudabujja Halfway Home for six months before he was able to be resettled.
His resettlement had not been without challenges. During the time he had been living on the streets, his parents had moved to an unknown location, leaving Addae no hope of being resettled with his family. Undeterred, he said that with 3 months’ room rent and a small amount of capital loaned to him by Retrak, he would be able to start a small business, enabling him to generate a sustainable income and to survive against the odds.
Addae was right. On a follow-up visit, Retrak’s resettlement staff were delighted to discover that not only was he still managing to afford to rent the room but he was also enjoying amazing success in his small business. He had been able to afford a new mattress and bed sheets and had built up a stock of 500kg of beans to sell. On top of this he was trading and growing onions and, most impressive of all, was employing 2 staff to roast cobs of corn by the road side!
Addae’s story illustrates how a small loan of just $50 can make a world of difference to a street child, taking him from struggling to survive on the street to running, in his own words, a “business empire”! This is only possible thanks to the generosity of our supporters, so thank you for supporting Retrak and helping us to transform the lives of street children.
When Matovu’s step-father and a family friend abused him, this 12 year old child made the 85km journey to Kampala.
A week after arriving in the city he asked a man if he could use his shelter to sleep in at night. The man, who was a scrap metal dealer, said he could, but in return Matuvo would have to scavenge for scrap metal to sell. One morning Matovu was collecting scrap when a man accused him of stealing his metal. Even though Matovu pleaded that he didn’t know the metal belonged to him, the man beat him severely and cut off three of his fingers.
Bleeding and in shock, Matovu sought help at the Retrak clinic. He recovered well and was one of the most well-behaved boys at Tudabujja Halfway Home. Eventually Retrak found a suitable foster family for him.
Brian Banks is a student who is traveling throughout Africa this summer and visiting a number of GlobalGiving projects. On May 13th he visited "Provide education to AIDS orphans in rural Uganda." When asked what he would tell his friends about this project, Brian said: “Incredible: You need to see this!"
“I am different because of Tigers Club,” so said Richard, a former street child and Tigers Club beneficiary. When Richard, first came to Tigers Club for a shower he was living on the streets of Kampala. Today Richard has graduated high school (at the top of his class and with honors) and is hoping to attend university, all because of the work of Tigers Club. Not only did Tigers Club pay his school fees and provide him with a place to live, but Richard told us that Tigers Club’s medical facilities actually saved his life. Richard is one of over 1,000 street boys who have had their lives changed by Tigers Club.
Today we had the opportunity to visit the Tigers Clubhouse and meet with Dinah, the interim director. We learned that Tigers Club takes a holistic approach to meeting the needs of street children. They operate a resource center where boys can drop in for a shower, to wash clothes, get medical treatment or for a hot meal. The organization also offers long-term care, focusing on the individual needs of each boy. All boys are resettled, placed in foster care, or provided housing and reintegrated into the formal education system. Finally, Tigers Club works to equip older boys with marketable skills through vocational training that will enable them to live an independent and productive life.
As we sit writing this on a balcony overlooking a Kampala street, flooded with young street children begging for a bite to eat, the severity of the street children problem is clear. At the age of five we were not allowed to cross the street alone and yet, here, leagues of children of the same age now live on the street, alone. As we see children, each brimming with potential, begging at car windows, we realize the importance of Tigers Club in Kampala; it stands as a beacon of hope for children that the world has otherwise forgotten.
To learn more about this project, and how you can help, visit http://www.globalgiving.com/pr/2300/proj2202a.html.
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What a year 2008 has been for Retrak!
The Tigers boys in Uganda commemorated 10 years of the project as a registered charity, and the Tigers Club's sister project, Retrak Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, celebrated its first full year of operation. Diarmuid O'Neill has taken on the role of CEO and has already begun to take Retrak into new and exciting directions. A few of the many highlights of 2008 include:
*Tigers Club was selected as the model in Uganda for the Sudanese Parliamentarians to learn from.
*A classroom block with medical room has been completed at Tudabujja Halfway Home.
* The first Retrak Ethiopia boys attending Selam Vocational Training College graduated.
*48 Retrak staff and boys completed the Great Ethiopian Run on November 23rd.
*The three cities concert tour in Nairobi, Kampala and Addis Ababa helped raise $8,530.
The biggest highlights are always those moments when the boys are able to move away from the streets into a family or into sustainable independent living. As Michael, the first Tigers boy to attend University, said, "In the Tigers Clubhouse there is someone who cares. They were generous to me, comforted me, and gave me a home."
The difficult financial climate has made life difficult for everyone, including Retrak. But, it has motivated many of our supporters to be more active than ever! This financial support has made a huge difference and we want all of our supporters to know how much you are appreciated and what a difference you are making in the lives of these boys.
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US Country Director