What do you worry about when it’s raining outside?
Do you pull out an umbrella? Do you prepare yourself a cup of hot chocolate? Turn on the boiler, take a warm shower, crawl into bed and snuggle with a pampering blanket and a good book?
More than 50,000 residents of Igel, northern Uganda, have different concerns when it’s raining outside. Their homes – created by grass, mud, trees and cow waste – can easily crash by heavy rains, leaving children and adults exposed to illnesses and deaths.
Those lucky enough to survive will have to rebuild the huts. Due to a twenty year civil war, two million people are homeless in northern Uganda, and the fortunate ones share a one-room home with 7 to 50 other people. Walk for a 100 kilometers from Igel and you won’t find one permanent house.
Instead, you will find forests, bushes and wildlife. With no fences around and no safe structures to run to for shelter, families and their animals are exposed to danger regardless of the weather.
What would it be like to have no home?
Thousands of people were killed in the war inUganda, and hundreds of thousands were forced to leave their homes. Others’ homes were destroyed. Those of them who lived in Igel, escaped toKampala,Uganda’s capital.
Many of them were 5-17 year old children, who were alone in the world. Sending kids to school during the war meant risking they would lose their lives or be kidnapped, forced to act as child soldiers. With no education or job skills, these kids still wander through the streets of Kampala, homeless. They beg for money, they beg for food. Others managed to find a job, only to be exploited by employers when there is no adult around to protect them.
Girls have it worse. Few girls were fortunate to find jobs as maids, facing poor work conditions – yet 70% of the girls who reached Kampala ended up in prostitution. Being victims of prostitution, they are exposed almost more than anyone else to rape, battery, diseases, low self esteem, life-long trauma and death.
Whether they were raped in Igel during the war or while prostituting in Kampala, many girls have given birth on the streets of the capital. This, in turns, exposes both the girls and their babies to health risks, to possible death – and to the inability to break the cycle of poverty and violence if, by any chance, they survive.
Building Permanent Houses is a Matter of Life and Death
Permanent houses can literally save people and children’s lives. Our intention is to build permanent houses for 300 families. We want them to have a safe space of comfort. Reducing the risk to residents’ lives will take away concerns and free them up to learn new skills. Thus, they’ll be able to create a better life for themselves and for the next generation.
Another intention is to bring the kids who escaped to Kampala back from the streets. We want to provide them with self-contained dormitories to call home until they reach adulthood. We intend to bring in foster parents and other caretakers to nurture and mentor the children who have no one in the world but themselves. Education inUganda is free if you have a school nearby. The schools we will build will be close enough for them to get consistent education.
We already started making this dream a reality, and our first orphanage is already operating. We need to expand it for the sake of the kids who are still in Kampala. Their fates are not sealed, they can have a better life.