#ConnectingHRAfrica – Day 6. Our last with Retrak.
It has been 4 days since we last visited Clubhouse, a centre for boys. What a welcome. This little one almost had me off my feet when I arrived; then we danced. It was absolutely bloody wonderful.
Our last day with the boys was going to go like this:
- Play – Football
- More Play – Volleyball
- Read stories, comics, songs they had written
- Chat about anything and everything
- Help with a big outreach to street kids living around the slums; this involved social workers, outreach workers and us pairing up to approach the street children, interact with them, listen to their stories and understand how we could help them.
We listened to the children and heard their reasons for running away:
- Physical and emotional abuse. Being beaten by their mother or step-mother. Community Chiefs actively encourage beating children to instil discipline.
- Family breakdown. Father had two wives. Father had dies and both wives were ran out from the village. There was no-one to look after this young boy. 12 years old, he was.
- Wanting an education. One boy wanted to go to school, learn enough, graduate and be a lawyer. A rich one. He wasn’t able to receive this education in his village and has ran away to the city in the hope to get on a programme.
- Sexual abuse. Gang leader’s initiations involve the requirement to perform sex acts or have sex with the gang leader. If you do not conform, you are beaten incredibly badly. Sometimes the punishment is worse than a beating.
A massive football game was organised and the children were all encouraged to join in; made to feel welcome. We invited all to come back with us for lunch. Clothes were washed, as were the children, HIV testing and medical assessments took place. Then they slept.
We danced. The smiles, the squealing, the energy. It was infectious. It started to rain yet no-one cared.
Then it was time for everyone to eat; a massive line for lunch. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. For the first time, there wasn’t room for all of the children to sit outside to eat so they started to eat in the dorm where they slept. Every available space, both on the floor and on beds, was taken.
It was an emotional day. Peppered with humour.
Our evening was joyous. We took the staff of Retrak out for a meal to say thank you for all of the awesome work they do. A evening of comedic comparing, along with traditional singing and dancing, which represented a variety of different tribes from all over Uganda. It was such good fun, and most touching, to see the whole team unwind for a few hours.
We have only been here for 1 week and I am emotionally and physically exhausted. The Retrak team do this every single day and hey have a 6 day working week here. How do they cope with the things they see, hear and feel every day? The whole team are so very resilient. They suffer, of course they do, but it is how they are so supportive of one another on a continual basis that must surely help.
How to I sum up my week in Uganda? I have more questions now than when I started, that’s for sure.
- What can I do to continue supporting Retrak when I get home?
- How can we maintain contact and support with the senior team after we leave?
- How realistic is it for me to pop back within the next 6-9 months?
- How can the girls centre be equal to both of the boys’?
- How do I best share this experience with everyone?
- What can I do to support next years’ Connecting HR Africa Team?
- Why didn’t I hit my fundraising target?
- How and when will my experience change me when I get home?
- Do I want it to change me?
- How will we all cope with what the emotions we have had this week?
- Have I really left a footprint here that will make a difference?
And that, my lovely reader is the end of my blogging, for now.
Many things to ponder. I promised to share everyday and I hope I have provided you with a little insight into all I have seen, heard and felt. I am so thankful to have spent this week with 10 amazing people; simply exceptional human beings. I’m not sure I would have got through this week without their support. Memories and friendships have been made and I will cherish these forever.
Today, the team went for a trek. I stayed behind because I am drained both physically and emotionally. I know I’m not feeling too well when my body is telling me to stop. To rest. I listened. I slept for a good portion of the day and feel much better. Ready, at least, to leave the room and have something to eat. I followed the team’s adventures via Facebook and they have had an awesome day with a surprise visit to the source of the Nile coupled with a very personal visit for Kate which I am sure she will blog about, so I won’t ruin it by mentioning it here.
Tonight, we will have our last supper and perhaps a few drinks to celebrate all we have achieved; how much we have grown and developed personally over the course of the last week is staggering. Tomorrow afternoon, we depart for home leaving 10 pairs of footprints in the rusty red Ugandan soil. 10 people, who made a difference to street children’s lives.