"For sure, life in Kiteso (slum) was difficult since our mother had no source of income. She could neither afford to feed us nor pay for the cheapest grass-thatched hut where we slept.” Jennifer says. ”Mum’s friends got fed-up with us and eventually evicted our family”
Jennifer sank into deep despair at only two (2) years of age after her father was killed over a land dispute. She is the fourth (4th) born in family of nine (9) children (5 girls and 4 boys).
After the demise of her father, their paternal relatives again turned to the family and wanted to destroy them as well which prompted their mother to escape with them all to the slums of Mbale town known as Kiteso where she sought for refuge among her friends who had settled there earlier.
“For sure, life in Kiteso (slum) was difficult since our mother had no source of income. She could neither afford to feed us nor pay for the cheapest grass-thatched hut where we slept.” Jennifer says. ”Mum’s friends got fed-up with us and eventually evicted our family” she continues lamenting.
Amidst the despondency, a rescuer appeared in form of “Good Samaritan” who welcomed her family to his single room he was renting. Surprisingly, Jennifer’s mother being a young widow and the rescuer being single the man, she easily got into a second marriage with him.
Still disappointing, the husband only survived by doing casual labour in town and earned very little which couldn’t support the family fully.
This forced Jennifer and her sister to move to the streets hunting for survival. “During the day we would go around the garbage heaps and try to find left overs (makombo) in order to fend off hunger. Sometimes we could hardly find anything to eat”, She says.
She later got a causal job which involved washing plates and carrying water for the food vendors in the market and would be paid Ushs 500 per day. She would take the money to her mother who would use it to buy other necessities for the family. Still this was not a walk in the park, as sometimes she would be cheated and would go back home empty handed after a day’s load.
Due to her poor living and working condition at such a tender age, Jenifer’s health eventually deteriorated and she developed a skin disease and chest infection. She was eventually denied work by the food vendors in the market because of her looks a result of the skin disease and she had to find another way of survival. She resorted to fetching water for those who operate local bars in her slum area.
On a lucky day in January 2016, Jennifer was met by CRO staffs who were conducting a day survey while she was from fetching water which was her new chore. She was hungry, malnourished with a very bad skin due to the infection. She was offered an invitation to CRO rehabilitation class which she accepted from where she received counseling; psychosocial support and treatment for the infections she had contracted form the street.
Through several counseling sessions, Jennifer was able to revive her self-esteem. ”Now am happy and I can play and socialize with my peers. I have lots of new good friends”, She says with a big smile.
Her mother was also counseled and encouraged to join women saving clubs. She was able to access a loan which she used to start a brewing business that helps to buy food for her family and also reduce dependency on her husband.
Jennifer completed rehabilitation class and was enrolled at a Primary school in Primary four (4). She dreams of becoming a nurse, why? Because she esteems the CRO Nurse, hence wants to become like her.