Project #2202

Rebuilding the lives of street children in Uganda

by Retrak America
Bulamu Center for Girls
Bulamu Center for Girls

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! 



Peter, age 15, came from the Nakaseke District of central Uganda. He arrived at the Retrak Clubhouse in early June, accompanied by a friend and looking exhausted and confused. Peter was a loner who would interact with other children only during times when they were lining up for food.

In time, Peter started engaging in the various services offered at the Clubhouse, such as life skills lessons, counseling sessions and catch-up classes. He started interacting more and more with other children and began participating in play therapy, soccer matches and debates.

After a few weeks at Retrak, Peter stated to his counselor that he was ready to go home. “He was excited as he sat in the car taking off to Nakaseke District for a pre-visit. Through the support of the parish chief in Nakasekke, we were able to locate Peter’s home and found both parents were not at home at the time of arrival. The neighbors warmly welcomed us and even took the initiative to call the stepmother to come back home to meet us”, explained the social worker. 

It was a time of great joy and a big relief to the community as Peter’s case had been linked to child sacrifice. Peter’s problems started when he was at primary school in Nakaseke. He started having headaches that caused him to stay home from school. When pain killers and even a visit to the hospital didn’t help, Peter’s grandmother consulted a witch doctor. Shortly thereafter, Peter disappeared and some family members feared that Peter had become the victim of child sacrifice.

Peter’s stepmother couldn’t believe her eyes when she returned home and saw Peter. With a big smile she rushed towards the boy and hugged him for nearly five minutes. She marveled that “Indeed God has fought my battles; praise to Him”. His brother Kayiire said “It is a big relief to us as a family and a great joy to me seeing my younger brother alive again” as he pulled out his handkerchief to wipe the tears that were rolling down his face. 

Subsequent follow-up by the Retrak social workers has shown that Peter is doing well at home. Your generous support is the reason children like Peter are able to leave the streets of Kampala and return to stable, loving homes. Thank you from all of us at Retrak.

Peter's return draws a happy crowd
Maggie speaks up for street children
Maggie speaks up for street children

Four Retrak children recently had the honor of participating in a National Conference on Children's Rights in Uganda.

One hundred children from all four provinces were invited to help assess the progress made in the realization of the rights of children under the four pillars of Survival, Development, Protection and Participation. The children advocated for the state to prioritize child protection from sexual violence, child labor, and violence at home and at school.  

The children spoke for the estimated 10,000 children who live and work on the streets of the capital, Kampala, and the almost 400,000 children living as refugees in Uganda due to conflicts. The children also called for the state to strengthen community structures to support the rural children who experience very limited social protection services.

The four children from Retrak were excited to participate in the conference and to raise the issues faced by street children in particular. Maggie, 15, nominated herself for election as Speaker to deliver the children’s paper to the Minister. Although she was not elected, her courage speaks of how Retrak is rebuilding self-esteem and empowering children. Maggie did get the opportunity to speak to the press about the conference. Ann also contributed by asking the Minister “How much is the government doing to protect children living and working on the streets of Uganda?”

At the national celebrations, Retrak had the opportunity to run a stall and talk to people about what we do. Members of parliament and ministry officials were among the people that visited Retrak's stall.

Retrak strives to give street children a voice. This conference enabled street children to be heard on a national level and we were thrilled to be able to participate. Thank you for your support which allows us to do our work on behalf of these children.

100 children were invited to attend
100 children were invited to attend
Retrak's stall at the conference
Ann asks a question
Ann asks a question


Nyombi went to the streets when he was only 10
Nyombi went to the streets when he was only 10

Nyombi is 15 years old and had been living on the streets for five years. After losing both of his parents to HIV/AIDS, Nyombi went to live with his grandmother, but life with her was hard. He often ate only one meal a day and was constantly hungry. He couldn’t concentrate in school and he would get in trouble in the village for taking fruit from the neighbors’ gardens.

Nyombi and a friend decided to leave their village and go to the Kampala suburb of Nateete, where they had heard they could find work. But a local official found them and took them to the police, where they were beaten and returned home.

At his home village, Nyombi says “I could not stay there because everyone was talking ill of me.” He returned to Nateete and got a job making chapatti (flatbread), but he narrowly escaped death when a mob tried to stone him after he stole the equivalent of $14 from his boss. The mob beat him and dragged him to his uncle’s home, hoping that the uncle would repay the boss and take responsibility for the boy, but the uncle told the mob that he wanted nothing to do with Nyombi and that they could do what they wished with him.

The mob then took Nyombi to the police, where Nyombi stayed in their custody for two weeks, until he escaped back to the streets of Kampala. He was able to survive by scavenging scrap metal and by begging and digging through garbage bins. On many occasions, bigger boys on the street would take the money that he had worked for throughout the day. Drugs helped Nyombi to forget his hard life.

One night, Retrak outreach workers approached Nyombi and his friends as they were getting ready to sleep on the streets. They told them about the Retrak drop-in center and told them how to find it. They next morning, Nyombi decided to just go to see the drop-in center, but he ended up going in and staying there. Soon after, he went to stay at Tudabujja, Retrak’s Halfway Home and Farm on the outskirts of Kampala. Social workers have contacted Nyombi’s uncle, and an aunt, but neither is interested in taking him in. Our staff continue to search for family that will welcome Nyombi to their home. In the meantime, Nyombi is thriving at Tudabujja and says, “Here at Retrak I have been helped a lot to change and leave all the bad things that I used to do. When I was brought here to Tudabujja, I loved the place and felt very secure.”

We can't do the work we do without donations like yours. Thank you for your past support. Please make another donation today to allow us to continue our vital work with some of the most vulnerable children on Earth.


At this time of year, getting through the daily struggle for survival and feeling of isolation becomes even tougher for children living on the streets. While the festive season for many of us is a special time to be shared at home with our loved ones, for homeless children, it is a reminder of two of the greatest gaps missing in their lives – home and family.

Fortunately Retrak is present on the streets of Kampala, providing homeless children with their basic needs and helping them return to a loving family.

One mother said this when she came to pick up her daughter from our center:

"This is a great miracle!! Four years minus seeing my daughter, I did not know that I could get her alive, I thought we were to meet in heaven; thanks be to Retrak. May God bless you with abundant resources to save more lives."

Thank you for your past support of Retrak's project in Uganda. We hope that you'll decide to support us again with an end-of-year donation - a donation that will help a homeless child receive safe shelter, nourishing food, medical attention and care and support. In many cases it will return a street child to a loving family home. Please help us return more children home in 2016.




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Organization Information

Retrak America

Location: Washington, DC - USA
Website: https:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Joan Townsend
US Country Director
Washington, DC United States
$68,662 raised of $100,000 goal
410 donations
$31,338 to go
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