WHY DO THE BOYS LEAVE HOME?
The boys leave home for many different reasons. Some of them are orphans, and don't have a home or anyone to care for them. Many of them have families but are just not able to continue living with them for whatever reason. Sometimes it is abuse and neglect that makes the boys run, and sometimes it is poverty. It is difficult to know the true story why each boy left their family. Frequently, the boys refuse to talk about it or create different stories to avoid the subject. It isn’t until a boy trusts you and is ready to share, will you ever find out the truth.
HOW DID YOU MEET THE BOYS?
Amanda met all of the boys in the Kivulu slum in Kampala. They all came home in different ways. The foundation of each homecoming was a relationship built on trust. Some came home after being asked. Some came home looking for a safe place to recover from an illness and never left. Whatever the circumstances, we are sure that God led each boy home at just the right time.
WHAT ABOUT THE BOYS’ FAMILIES?
As much as we love the boys, we realize we will never be a replacement for their biological families. We also realize how important it is in the boys’ healing and recovery to confront the problems they faced at home and if possible repair that relationship. Most times, the families really do love the boy but the added stress of caring for another child resulted in unsafe living conditions. To date all of the boys, except the newest one, have visited their families and have started to rebuild their relationships.
WHERE ARE THE GIRLS?
While street girls do exist, they are far less common than boys. Girls are more valuable to the family because they are responsible for the work around the house, so they are treated better. Also, culturally speaking, girls are more submissive than the boys and will tolerate the abuse at home longer than the boys will, resulting in them running to the streets less frequently.
DO THE BOYS HAVE TO ACCEPT JESUS TO COME INTO THE HOME?
No. While it is our hope that they eventually will, we will never refuse a boy because of his beliefs.
HOW MANY STREET KIDS ARE THERE IN UGANDA?
There is no way to tell for sure. Every day, it seems like there is at least one new boy on the streets. We have seen figures with estimation around 10,000. In Kampala alone, there has to be at least several thousand.
WHAT IS LIFE LIKE ON THE STREETS?
In Uganda, being a street kid is one of the worst things anyone could be. No one wants them around and they are treated worse than trash. They are frequently beaten and abused by almost everyone, including the police, simply because they are on the streets. They are regarded as disposable and people prefer to deal with them in extremes; pretend they do not exist or beat them to death.
Recently, a boy name Patrick was chased and “fell” on a metal pipe that killed him. Even when they make great strides to improve their lives or come into a home, the minute they make a mistake, people often say, “Well, he is a street kid.”
While on the streets, the boys are abused daily by community members, the police, and boys that are bigger than them. They do not have a safe place to sleep, and often go hungry. In order to survive, they must wake up very early in the morning to begin a daily struggle of searching for scrap metal or plastic to sell.
One kg (2.2 lbs) of metal yields just 25¢, and one kg of plastic yields only 10¢. A small meal will cost them at least 50¢, so they will need to find more than 5 lbs of wires, nuts and bolts or 10 lbs of empty plastic bottles in order to eat one meal. After a long day of searching through garbage (barefoot), the boys might have enough left to pay for a night to sleep in a 4’ x 10’ room with 20 to 30 other boys.
They sleep sitting up because it is usually too crowded to lay down. If they can’t afford a room, they sleep outside and risk being arrested. If they manage to avoid the police, they are still vulnerable to bad weather, abuse and theft.
While living on the streets, the boys do not have access to clean water and as a result are constantly getting sick with Typhoid Fever. Since they don’t sleep with a mosquito net, they are always getting malaria. Because they don’t always have food to eat, it is almost impossible to effectively take either medication. This results in frequent relapses, each time a little bit worse.
When the boys want to bathe, they must do so out in the open, in a canal that runs through the slum. There is a pipe that brings water in and the boys will bathe there and wash their clothes, if they have an extra change of clothes. If not they remain dirty which causes their wounds, which started from a small scratch from scrap metal, to turn into large infected wounds that take forever to heal.
One of the worst effects of living on the streets is the boys lose hope. The boys live each day just trying to make it through. They have no hope for a different life or for a future. They start to believe that they are worthless and unlovable. Some boys completely give up trying to be different or have a better life and decide to dull their pain with drugs. Others, are so broken and hurting that they act out so much, so they can ensure that no one will ever try and get close to them again.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE FOR THE FUTURE FOR THE BOYS?
It is really too soon to know if the boys will achieve their dreams of becoming doctors or lawyers. Do we think it is possible? Absolutely! But with anything, it will take a lot of time and hard work on everyone’s part. Will we be disappointed if the boys don’t attend university? Of course not! We want what is best for the boys and for some we realize this is never going to include university or even secondary school. As long as they grow into men that will respect their wife and children, and be able to find a job to provide for them, we will consider them a success. Right now, we have at least 7 boys that are not in a traditional school but are studying a vocation instead, and we couldn't be happier for them!