Susan, aged 13 first came to CRO Lira drop centre in 2014 after engaging in child labour on the streets of Lira town, Northern Uganda as a result of the harsh living conditions at home where they could hardly find food, clothing and neither go to school.
She narrates that the situation worsened after her father died in 2011 as a result of taking excessive alcohol leaving their mother of seven (7) as the sole breadwinner.
Her father used to ride boda-boda – (motorcycle transport means) and the little that he earned was spent on alcohol and prostitutes thus Susan and her siblings could not even attend school except her elder brother who also dropped out in Primary four (4) since their mother could not afford to support him.
“To the worst, we had nowhere to live as our paternal uncles did not allow us to stay on our origin village land saying that our mother was not officially married and hence there was no land for her and her seven (7) children. My mother had no option but to move with us to a place formerly an Internally Displaced Persons Camp that was created as a result of the LRA insurgency”, she narrates.
Getting on the Streets
At 11, Susan embarked on hawking her mother’s bananas on the streets and sometimes collecting used empty plastic bottles for sell in order to supplement on the money that could buy the family a day’s meal.
On the lucky day;
One day as I was moving on the street selling used empty plastic bottles, a social worker from CRO approached me kindly introduced herself to me. She asked me why I was not in school but just on the street selling the bottles! I explained to her that it is because I am looking for money for food at home. She told me about CRO, what they do and also the dangers of street life to a young girl like me.
Additionally, she requested me to visit the CRO centre which I accepted and 2 days later i went to the to CRO centre where I found other children. The social worker introduced me to the children and the teachers who welcomed me and i was urged to continue coming to the centre so that I could learn many new things.
I am happy now because at the CRO centre I attend the rehabilitation class in which we are taught English, writing, mathematics and life skills training such as making paper beads. I am now proud of my new skill of making beads out of paper.
At the CRO centre am able to have breakfast and lunch yet at home sometimes we go without a single meal in a day or only one small meal a day. I feel loved,can sing,play many games and i have learned to pray. I want to become a professional tailor, I also want to continue making paper beads to match the clothes I make and sell to my customers.
Today in Uganda, there are an estimated 300,000 children like Susan. They are subject to poverty and illiteracy; orphans who have lost parents to AIDS and alcoholism; children abandoned by mothers and fathers who cannot care for them. Without love or support, they live at the margins of society and struggle each day to survive.