What are the hopes of your children? Cherry (name changed to protect child’s identity) didn’t have high hopes for herself. At aged 15 she left school and began working in the family business selling alcohol in the slums in Kampala. She was sexually exploited and abused, and her future looked bleak.
However, her life changed when she found out about Retrak and its Premier Skills Project, which is a girls-only football program.
“It meant a lot to me. I wasn’t just playing with my peers – I was accepted by them. I was strong and helped the team score lots of goals. The team believed in me! And my social life changed – through football I made good friendships and got back the respect of the community.”
Training at the Premier Skills Project doesn’t only involve football – the coach also teaches the girls life skills, including decision-making and how to protect themselves from dangerous situations, such as trafficking and different forms of exploitation. These sessions changed Cherry’s life. Slowly her outlook on life changed and she was able to focus on her future. It gave her the confidence to apply for an apprenticeship program, where she learned hairdressing and was given equipment to start up a business.
Now Cherry can live independently and wants to give back to the program that made such a difference to her. Aged 17, she has trained as a community coach to help other vulnerable children out of exploitation, and leads a weekly football club of 18 girls, helping them in the way that she was helped. She is saving part of her money from hairdressing to invest in her future. Her mum is now engaging with Retrak and wants to join a savings club.
In 2018 (to date), in Uganda, Retrak provided shelter in the Lighthouses to 523 children (74 girls and 449 boys), providing them with a safe place to rebuild their lives and start the journey back to family-based care. The work Retrak does is life-changing for children and families and we cannot do this without your generous support. Thank you for supporting our project in Uganda which helps us to work with more children like Cherry!
Oscar (name changed to protect identity) came to Retrak after experiencing life threatening situations on the streets of Kampala. He found a caring home at Retrak’s drop-in centre (Lighthouse). The dedication and care of Retrak's project workers and his peers helped him to work through traumatic memories of street life and focus on shaping his future. As soon as Oscar showed signs of improvement during the counselling sessions and group activities, he was supported to make a decision about what to do next given his age and what lay ahead. He agreed to learn a skill in wielding and metal manufacturing. During his vocational training, which lasted four months, Retrak supported him with food, shelter, medical care and counselling. At the same time, he was prepared for independent living in the community.
Oscar was fully employed by his trainer and occasionally received support from Retrak when needed, such as rental deposits, health checks, tools and food. This was to help transition him into independent living.
Oscar has proven to be a focused and determined young man. He told the staff: “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”. He continues narrating his future plans: “I want independence and I want to set up my own work station complete with equipment and probably also employ somebody. I have set myself a target to have this dream realised and I am fully committed to it” he asserts as he thinks big. He also told staff that he’s halfway through his savings target of 2 million shilling (approx. £400/$520), which he saves in the form of mobile credit.
Oscar’s story and our experience time and time again highlights the huge potential that boys like Oscar have. When Retrak meets them on the street, they are in survival mode and have lost confidence in their ability to contribute to society in any positive way. Addressing the trauma they have been through and supporting them at the lighthouse starts their journey to fulfilling their potential. We cannot do this without your support – thank you for giving boys like Oscar a future!
#InternationalYouthWeek is just around the corner! This annual celebration of young people aims to bring their achievements to the forefront, showcasing the role of young people as partners in change. It also doubles as an opportunity to raise awareness of the challenges faced by the youth of the world.
Starting at 9:00am EDT on Monday, August 7th, and running until 11:59pm EDT on International Youth Day, Saturday, August 12th, donations to Retrak are being matched dollar for dollar on GlobalGiving!
By supporting Retrak during #InternationalYouthWeek, you will be helping young people just like Absolom:
Absolom left home when his parents separated and his mother could no longer fend for them. Wishing to pursue his education, he travelled to Kampala city in hope of finding work so that he would be able to go back to school. Unfortunately, life in the city was not at all what he expected. Absolom joined the Tigers Club Project (Retrak Uganda) after living on the street for more than one year, over the course of which he experienced much suffering. While at the drop-in centre, Absolom was able to access catch-up education. Following his reintegration into a family environment, he completed secondary school and enrolled at Ssesse Farm School for a two year certificate course in tropical agriculture, before studying animal production and management of Busitema University. Thanks to his hard work and resolve, Absolom eventually became self-employed, something he had never expected to be possible. Now, Absolom is an officer in the Ugandan Police Force. He says that he was inspired to join the Force because of the way that it guides people and helps to keep society in order. Most importantly, however, Absolom saw this as an opportunity to show young people that their circumstances can change for the better, and to help them along this path to a better life.
“I would like to thank Retrak in a very special way for all the support extended to me, to see that I am now a serving police officer in this country; and I request that Retrak continue to provide this kind of support for other young people of this nation who are still trapped in street life, so that they too can find an opportunity to come out of a life of hopelessness in crime and find a better future, full of hope and productivity. Long live Retrak, God bless you.”
Please donate to Retrak this #InternationalYouthWeek!
Don’t forget to share the event with your friends and family, letting them know why supporting Retrak’s work with street children in Africa is so important to you!
Thank you for being a part of our success! We couldn't do it without you. Please know it is making a real difference in the lives of these children.
To stay up-to-date and engaged with Retrak’s #InternationalYouthWeek Campaign, connect with us on:
'Thank you Retrak for supporting me in school!'
One of our key aims here at Retrak is to encourage children to embrace education in order for them to be better prepared for adult life. In order to do so, we facilitate life skills training and catch-up lessons in order to inspire children to rejoin formal education once they are reintegrated into a family environment.
The life principles imparted during the life skills training are centered on the 3 Cs: challenges, choices, and consequences. The 3 Cs aim at equipping young people with the necessary skills for them to understand who they are, where they are going, what challenges they might face along the way, and how to adopt positive behaviours when faced with these challenges in order to enable them to find joy in their lives as they mature. Using this approach, the children discover how to think critically before making decisions about critical issues in life such as staying in school.
The catch-up lessons have made a great change in the lives of children. Last year, a good number of reintegrated children passed their Primary Leaving Exam. Upon returning to visit Retrak, Nico, a former beneficiary who now attends one of the best secondary schools in Uganda, said the following: 'Retrak rescued me from rubbish and instilled good behaviours in me that enabled me to return to school. I am doing well in school because I have stuck to the life principles I received while I stayed here.'
This is the kind of strategic, long-term investment in young people made by our many wonderful donors that is now really paying off for these children and the community as a whole. None of this would be possible without you, so we extend our sincere gratitude. Thank you for making a difference!
Veronica is just seven years old, and one of the youngest chilidren at Retrak's Bulamu Center for Girls in Uganda.
One day, Veronica’s mother walked with her out of their village and into some fields. Once in the middle of a field, Veronica’s mother asked her to wait there, then turned and walked away, abandoning her daughter.
Veronica was terrified, confused and alone. She waited in the field for over two days with no food or clean water, waiting for her mother to return. Local farmers heard Veronica’s sobs and reported her to the police.
Like many of the girls at Bulamu, the police took Veronica into custody before calling Retrak to see if we could take her. Veronica was kept at a detention center for juvenile offenders for five weeks before coming to Bulamu, a terrifying ordeal for a seven year old.
When she first arrived at Bulamu, Veronica wouldn’t speak at all, to either children or staff. She was angry at her mother for leaving her and wary of the staff at the Center. After receiving counseling, Veronica began to trust that the staff were trying to help her and began to relax into the setting.
Veronica felt her mother didn’t love her and that she found her a nuisance to be around. That was the only explanation she could think of for why her mother would leave her. She was too young to quite grasp that her mother had been driven to abandon her by extreme poverty. Life with her mother had been fraught with difficulties, but Veronica missed her little brother and more than anyting she was desperate to return to school. "I really want to go back to school. My English is good because of my school. I study hard and I love it so much" she said.
Staff at Bulamu worked with Veronica and her mother to reconcile them. Retrak is offering Veronica’s family ongoing support to strengthen them economically so that they are under less strain. Veronica is happy to be at home and back at school where she is able to fulfil her true potential once more.
Without the generous support of our donors, Retrak would not be able to change the lives of street children like Veronica. On behalf of everyone at Retrak, thank you for your generosity and have a Happy New Year!
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