Big roars to you all! After passing the Equator we found ourselves in a country called Uganda. Can you find it on a map?
It was time to us to visit a charity called Retrak that helps children who live on the street.
Retrak Uganda was started as a football club (Tigers Club) and they work with children from the local Slum in the capital city called Kampala.
Most people in the city live in nice houses with TV, electricity, water and they can afford to buy nice food, (Dino loves eating nice food) books, and have very similar lives to the life we have in England.
A small number of people in the city can’t afford food, houses and so they build a tiny hut in a unused part of the city. The huts are small, lots of people share rooms, the huts are very close together and they are not very stable, often the parts of the city are dirty, unhygienic and disease and illness spreads quickly between people. These areas are called slums.
A walk through the slum with Elvis as our guide was shocking. Not only were the living areas basic, dirty and everything that the image that a slum conjures up. What hit us more was the personal element. Young children approached us, clothes tattered and torn, without shoes, dirt and grease covering them from head to toe, some had cuts and bruises but couldn’t afford to go to the doctor to get help.
But amongst the shock, the kids just wanted to chat to us, laugh, and find out more about us. They loved meeting Dino and Lion. Some kids were walking back in school uniform to their houses in the slum.
In our Reception class back home Dino often used to go into the garden with the 4 and 5 years olds and spend hours searching the garden area for mini beasts, collecting ants, spiders, worms in jam jars. What shocked us was that a 4-5 year old was not searching the area for fun things like millipedes or spiders but was searching for plastic bottle lids..which he could then give to someone older to sell. This really hit me that these children are missing out on the chance to laugh and play: such a huge element to growing up.
Luckily, a few of the boys walked with us back to the drop-in centre.
Where we met Churchill, Dinah and the amazing boys at the project.
We learnt more about the centre while the children were at the school room enjoying the catch up lessons. Some played cards, while others shared a bike, riding around the compound much more quickly than Lion can cycle!
Clothes were drying after being washed at the centre and their were places for children to wash hands and the boys were encouraged to practice good basic hygiene.
The centre is what is says…a drop in centre offering well run workshops, lessons and other services to the children who live on the streets of Kampala. Alongside, the Tigers Club is also there to allow the children a place to play football and sport.
For the children who are ready to engage in a program to get them off the streets and back to parents or adopted parents, Retrak also has a halfway house on the shore of Lake Victoria.
Arriving at the end of school, we were greeted by children in school uniform. A great selection of drumming and singing, mixed in with some amazing dance moves and we felt truly welcome.
A huge meal of rice and beans was devoured eagerly by everyone and it was great to see the children eating so heartily! They even ate more than Dino!
We then went for a walk, Retrak has 4 houses, each capable of housing 8 children under the guidance of a houseparent. The children stay at the house for between 4 and 6 months, they set the routines and rules of the house. They are encouraged to become self reliant, share chores and even make sure their rooms are tidy!
We met the amazing Teacher Michael, who had made all the resources for the classroom himself: a totally brilliant learning environment!
Once school has finished, the children are encouraged to work on the farmland. Most of the children see working in the fields as a punishment. They are not forced to, but each is given a small patch of land which they can grow crops to sell to Retrak staff. The children soon see the value that land can bring, as well as learning techniques for maximising yields. The money they earn is given to them when they return to parents or foster parents.
We were amazed by the chickens and pigs…the cleanest pens I have ever seen. Helping to show the great work Retrak do helps the children to really engage with family life, helping to learn ways to increase family income.
The centre also has a Football pitch looking out onto Lake Victoria.
At the end of the day we were sad to leave the children.
Many thanks to Retrak Uganda, Retrak Ethiopia, Tregarron and Jo for making our visits so special in all those countries. (Jo also makes the best pancakes ever!)
Please visit their website at www.Retrak.org
big roars….we are off to write more about the amazing country called Uganda!
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