Meddie*, 11 years old, escaped his home because of the constant beatings. His mother Ritah* is a single mother of four who works as a street vendor and earns about $41/month to support her family.
“ She used to beat me for playing too much, when I was eating the maize that was left at night, or because I was not doing work at home!” remembers Meddie.
Meddie lived on the streets for two days and endured more beatings, coldness and the constant search for food. The following day, Meddie went to Retrak center. Retrak is a local partner of AVSI for the Family Resilience (FARE) project implemented by AVSI and funded by the ASPIRES project of FHI360. Meddie had heard of the center from a peer.
When Meddie arrived at Club House, one of Retrak’s centers, all he had eaten since leaving his home was a chapatti and beans. At the center, he was reserved and had a hard time making friends. When asked about his home location and his family, he had a negative attitude and was reluctant to answer. It was only with time and through different rehabilitative programs that the center offers that Meddie started opening up and sharing. Through life skill lessons, counseling, and story sharing, Meddie began to look at his life in a more positive way.
Meddie, started making friends, getting along with others, doing chores and learning how to communicate. The center helped Meddie identify and learn positive ways of dealing with his problems and making decisions. Eventually, the Retrak counselors began to ask about his interest in going back home.
“I need to go home and apologize to my mother, she lives alone and I am sure that she has no one to leave my siblings with when I am not home,” concluded Meddie.
FARE is centered on the process of reintegration; of bringing families back together. In order to reintegrate a child with his family, the family is first located and the child brought back to the family. While the family is initially being reunited, the social workers help mend the wrong done, helping the family and child accept each other again. The social workers also ensure that it is a safe environment for the child. This is a process of healing and restoring relationships. The reintegration of the child in school is also an important aspect. While the children are in the centers, waiting for the process of family reintegration, they receive life skills lessons and “catch up” classes to help them bridge the gap and not get too far behind in school.
In Meddie’s case, his mother came to pick him up from the center, after having reported a disappearance case to the Nabweru police that managed to trace Meddie at Retrak center. His mother broke into tears when she saw him. Meddie, upon seeing his mother, immediately knelt down in tears saying, “Mummy I am very sorry, I am asking for your forgiveness and acceptance back home.” Ritah confessed that one night when she was looking for Meddie in the slums, she got a tip-off from other children, who came and slept late at night on the streets. That same night, the police rescued her from men who were going to rape her.
After they were reunited, Ritah received Meddie with love and promised to take good care of him. She warned him about the negative influence of peers and urged him to always be disciplined back at home.
Part of the reunification process are the follow up visits done by social workers to ensure a good situation for the child and the family. Meddie was first followed up in March 2016, and the social worker continued family dialogues on parenting with Meddie’s family. Yet, Meddie was not in school so Retrak agreed with Ritah to cost share the school fees. Meddie was placed in Abbey Foundation Primary School in Nabwery in Primary Four.
On the recent follow up on August 2016, the social workers found Meddie in school at Abbey Foundation Primary School. The teachers reported that the child is well disciplined; he cares for others and currently is the head prefect at school. His mother Ritah confirmed his accomplishments and stated that his behavior was very good.
Meddie’s story is one of many. Every week, children find their ways to Retrak and other local partners like COWA and after receiving life skills lessons, counseling and the correct assistance and attention, they can finally rediscover their path. Through finding the family, allowing for a good reunification and with the power of follow-up visits and individualized support, the project ensures continual family dialogues on parenting, respect and child welfare. The family situation is looked after more closely and guided towards being economically strengthened and sustainable.
* all names have been changed for privacy reasons
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