COVID-19 has affected everyone. Young people who work or live and work on the streets of Gulu have been hit harder. Previously, most of them used to find small and odd jobs to earn a little money to get food each day, but with the outbreak of the virus, survival became tougher. Uganda’s 7 pm curfew strictly enforced by police and soldiers made life even harder for these young people and with no place to stay, they were constantly chased, brutalised and some were murdered by law enforcement officers and rowdy members of the community.
The government of Uganda through the various district taskforces put in a concerted effort to fight the spread of the coronavirus, however, little attention was given to the plight of vulnerable groups such as street-connected children. Thankfully, we sought for authorization and were able to secure temporary shelter for the vulnerable young people during the lockdown. Since April, we have been able to provide 70 vulnerable young people with a safe place to sleep, three meals a day, counselling and psycho-social support, medical services, and hands-on skills training to help reintegrate them into society.
28 youths enrolled and are actively participating in various hands-on skills training courses in tailoring, carpentry and joinery, and bricklaying and concrete practice; five teenagers (one boy and four girls including two pregnant ones) were reunited with their families; nine young people who were equally connected to the streets, but have other responsibilities at home were supported with a package of beans, maize flour, salt, soap, cooking oil and sanitary pads; 7 have also been trained and are currently engaged in work at Takataka Plastics producing face shields to protect frontline medical workers in Uganda. The youth are very dedicated to their work and are proud to be playing a part in helping fight COVID-19 in their community.
Living with the kids at the shelter has offered our staff new opportunities to interact with and guide them every day. This way, COVID-19 has enabled us to fulfil our mission of preparing street-connected youth to reintegrate into society even though the expenses of running the shelter was outside our original budget.
We plan to continue caring for the street-connected children at our shelter for the next three months as we explore a long-term and sustainable option. Our staff have daily interactions with the youth at our temporary shelter. This has improved greatly our personal relationships with them and offered us the opportunity to understand their needs, guide and mentor them further. Our top priorities are to:
- Continue training the children who have already enrolled in the various vocational programs.
- Monitor, counsel and guide them.
- Meet the ultimate goal of reintegrating them into the community as transformed and productive persons.
We need your support to enable us to continue providing a safe space for accommodation, feeding, and training for these street-connected youths for at least three more months because we cannot do it alone since this was not something we originally planned to do. Any contribution, regardless of the amount, will go a long way in helping us meet our goals.
We are aware that these are hard times for many people in different ways, and we are highly grateful for any amount you can donate towards this course. Together, we can overcome COVID-19 and help these street-connected young people become productive members of society.