Harriet is 14 years old and lives in a slum in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. Six years ago, Harriet’s mother died, leaving her and her three younger siblings in the care of their father. Just two years later, their father abandoned them, as the children slept at night, and has never been seen again. At the age of 10, literally overnight, Harriet became the head of her household, comforting the wails of the frightened little ones, and knowing she had no means to feed them or pay her rent.
There is just one large government school operating in the slum where Harriet and her siblings live. This school, though, is working hard to be a force for change amongst the area’s young people. 1890 students attend the school, which is primary, yet has students as old as 15, who are only now getting the chance to complete 6th grade.
In their 16 years teaching children in the slums, the school has developed some remarkable programs to address the deep needs of, not only the children in their classrooms, but the youth and adults in the surrounding slum area, densely populated with 14,000 people.
Harriet and her siblings were some of those identified by the school as in need of help. The school appealed to their donors and the local community for any help they could offer, and people came forward with clothing and money to pay the rent for Harriet’s small slum home. Once the children were in school, the staff began the process of matching them up with a local older woman in a ‘granny’ program, whereby elderly people living alone are matched up with children living alone, to offer stability, love and guidance. Life for Harriet’s young family has not been mended overnight, but they, and hundreds of students like them, are in a far more empowered position to support themselves in the future because of the work of this school.
The school asked Crossroads to send a container of goods to help their work in this Kampala slum. They needed more text books, exercise books and books for the teachers, computers, recreational equipment, school uniforms and other clothing that can be given to the poorest children, and others in the community, and more. The goods that we were able to send helped the school continue its existing programs, and also reach its goals for expanding their work to establish an orphanage for the most vulnerable children, enhance their programs in adult literacy amongst the students’ parents, and a more comprehensive handicrafts program for the older students.