Those that know me well will know that I’m an enthusiastic supporter (and a Trustee/Non-exec Director) of Retrak, a charity working with street kids across Africa to ensure that no child is forced to live on the streets, and I wanted to write a little about the work of Retrak.
I’ve been very fortunate to meet street children for myself in the slums of Kampala, Uganda. These are children who end up living rough on the streets for a whole variety of reasons. Rather than attempt to describe what I think life is like for them, I’ll simply recount some things that street children have told Retrak:
- “Women throw food for me to eat as if I am a dog.” Godwin, 10, Uganda
- “At night we look for places like shops and hotel verandas where there are night guards for protection. But some of the night guards take advantage of our being weak and force us into sex.” Nabulungi (girl), 15, Uganda
- “I am lonely, there is no-one to care for me or watch out for me.” Kelile, 12, Ethiopia
- It is hard knowing my family don’t want me back.” Yonas, 13, Ethiopia
- “I am ashamed of this life, we do not like it but we have no choice.” Iskinder, 13, Ethiopia
- “Being raped is the worst thing that can happen to a girl. It shatters the future and leaves you hopeless, depressed and with a very low self esteem.” Namono (girl), 16, Ethiopia – A street mother in Addis Ababa whose baby had died one day before this.
- “On the street death is always around the corner.” Ibra, 12, Uganda
- “I am hungry, I get abused, I get sick and there is no one to help me.” Berhanu, 15, Ethiopia
- “Please help me get off the street, to give me new life and hope.” Geteye, 14, Ethiopia
I find it heartbreaking to read these, but then I read the quotes from children helped by Retrak:
- “Staying at Retrak has saved me from beatings on the street” Eddie, 13, Uganda
- “Retrak rescued my life, I was sick, I had no hope of life again but now I do!” Akiki, 15, Uganda
- “I now have someone I can call father and mother, I have a family where I am accepted” Joseph, 15, (In Retrak Foster care) Uganda
Retrak not only provides food, shelter and medical help to children on the streets but also works to reintegrate children with their families, their communities, or foster carers. Retrak is making a difference that lasts and has so far reunited over 1,000 children with their families, children whose lives are transformed and who go from no hope to a future filled with hope.
Greater Manchester Police have been great supporters of Retrak and I had the opportunity to interview Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable, about why he supports Retrak and about his experiences of meeting street children in Africa.
This short video also gives a good overview of how difficult life is for street children and of the difference that Retrak makes.
Like Retrak, I believe no child should be forced to live on the streets. We can do something about it.