Uganda: Street Children End Year With Full Bellies

Uganda: Street Children End Year With Full Bellies
The Weekly Observer (Kampala)

17 January 2008
Posted to the web 17 January 2008

Elizabeth Kameo

Some say the festive season right into the New Year is time for children. However, this normally excludes children that roam Kampala’s streets in search of food, water and money to buy glue and aviation oil to sniff.

While children in Kampala homes and orphanages choke on too much food during the festive season, street children’s hunger and thirst doesn’t abate.

But the last festive season was different. As petrol scarcity descended upon Kampala on New Year’s eve, food was in abundance for street children in Kisenyi, Owino and Entebbe road areas.

With sweat flowing down his dark face, a smiling 15-year-old Nangoli recounted how he came to Kampala from Mbale hoping for the best.

"My parents were farmers but did not have enough money to send me to school. After Primary 4, I did not go back. So I came to Kampala," he said.

The year 2007 could not have ended on a better note for Nangoli and another 400 street children. The promise of a well-cooked hot meal that day is what got them to generously share their stories.

The food was served at Nakivubo Blue Primary School playground.

Organised by Imagine A Smile Uganda, a charity project set up by a Ugandan living in England in partnership with others in Uganda, the idea was to make street children feel wanted and not forgotten.

"I am fortunate to be living in London, where there are many organisations providing assistance for people who, for one reason or another, are unable to support themselves or find themselves needing help like I once did," said Beatrice Akulia, one of the organisers.

"I have found myself in a situation like this and found help, so I thought since I am in a better position now I could help those who have little or no help."

According to Akulia, what started on New Year eve as a mobile food kitchen will with time expand into a fully fledged charity that will not only feed the unfortunate children but also provide guidance and counselling. The meal kitchen idea was borrowed from India.

The problem of street children in Uganda has over the years developed into a crisis. Most children on the street today have either run away from poor homes or hail from disturbed areas such as Karamoja, Teso and Acholi.

The children survive through either begging, robbing, or by collecting plastic bottles and steel scrap for sale.

In addition to provision of food, clothing, healthcare and other basic needs, Akulia and her friends plan to open permanent shelter for the homeless children.

Reacting to the view that feeding the children encourages more to come to the street, Akulia argued that the kids need to be given food without conditions first, and then talked into rehabilitation later. "This is what organisations in cities like London do," she said.

Besides Akulia and her associates, food donations came from Materials Technology, Tate and Lyle UK, Club Silk’s Elvis Ssekyanzi, AngeNoir’s Charlie Lubega, Salim Uhuru and the Rastafarian community in Kampala.

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