Their families were preparing their funerals. This charity returned these missing children home safely

Support and Love Via Education International (SALVE) – supporting homeless children in Uganda to build a brighter future through education

Based in North West England & Uganda

Contact: Nicola Sansom; 07837574911

There are around 600 children living on the streets of Jinja, Eastern Uganda, and a further 3,000 children who are out of school working on the streets to make money every day. Many of these children sniff aeroplane fuel as a coping mechanism. 

SALVE has been working in this area since 2008. They offer a programme which supports children to leave the streets, receive counselling and therapy (including drug rehabilitation if needed). They support children to be reunited and resettled home within their extended family and help them to return to school.
Impact? They have an 87% success rate of resettling children home to their families in the long term due to individualised care. They have helped more than 300 children successfully leave the streets and return home to their families.
Life on the streets is tough; children are physically, emotionally and sexually abused. They lack shelter, medicine, food, education and care. Children are often too scared to go home, in case their family is angry at them for running away, and they lack the funds to pay for the journey. With S.A.L.V.E.’s support, we can help them to go home and make sure their family welcomes them back. In 2018 we carried out 68 home resettlements of children from the streets. Every home tracing is special and different. However, one day in particular stood out to the team. Two of our social workers were able to take two children home to be resettled to their families, on opposite sides of Uganda, on the same day. The thing that was incredibly moving was that we found both families preparing for their child’s funeral, as both had given up hope on ever seeing their son or daughter again. So we were able to stop the funeral preparations and restore the family’s happiness again by reuniting them with their child. Both families were so grateful.

Arun’s story: He had gone with his family on public transport to attend his cousin’s wedding. On the way home, he had gotten lost as they came across a political group who were rioting while they were changing buses in the capital city. The family assumed he had been killed. Instead he was badly beaten and became lost and disoriented. He ended up being put on the back of a lorry that went through Jinja and it was there he was left on the streets. When we found him he was so malnourished he could barely speak. We helped to nurse him back to health at our Halfway Home, until he was able to share his story with us. After helping him become well again, we set off to reunite him with his family. At his home, they found his family putting up a marquee for the funeral guests and the whole community was there ready to grieve for him. His mother screamed with joy at having her son back safe and sound and the community welcomed him with open arms.

Mariam’s story: Mariam’s family were really struggling for money after a poor harvest, and thus were delighted when her Aunt came to visit and said that she would care for her and pay for her to go to school. Mariam left with her aunt the next day. However, it soon became clear this wasn’t going to be the case as Mariam was kept locked in the house and not allowed to contact her parents. Then one day some visitors came who took her away with them. As they were driving through Jinja, Mariam saw a chance to escape. She wasn’t sure if they were taking her to become a house slave for someone, or something worse. She didn’t want to wait around to find out, so she jumped out the car and ran away and hid. When she was found on the streets the police referred her to S.A.L.V.E. At first she was nervous of us and our intentions towards her. But when she came to understand we wanted to help her to go home she was so happy. She couldn’t wait to see her parents and siblings again. On reaching her home we found out her family thought she must have been kidnapped and killed as a child sacrifice for a witchcraft potion. They couldn’t believe she was still alive and everyone had to carry her like a baby. No one was willing to let her feet touch the ground they were so over the moon to have her home again. Both Arun and Mariam are settling home very well and managing to overcome the trauma they faced on the streets thanks to our regular follow ups.

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