Chosen,14 years old, ran away from home in search of an opportunity in Kampala, Uganda to help support her family. With false promises given to her, she ended up being a househelp, working for extremely long hours. Fortunately, her case was reported to the police and she was referred to a rehabilitation home, where she felt safe and happy and was later reunited with her family.
Chosen grew up with her mother and three siblings. Her mother was the sole provider, earning her income from farming to cater for their daily needs, after her father was imprisoned for stealing. Chosen would wake up every morning, go to the farm to dig with the family members and when they would return, she would prepare lunch and dinner and wash the utensils thereafter. She would go to school every day with her siblings. After some time, her mother could no longer afford to pay for her school fees prompting Chosen to make a tough decision.
At the age of 12 years old, Chosen ran away from home with a female 13 year old friend who promised to take her to Kampala to get a job so that she could contribute to the basic needs at home. She did not inform her mother about her departure and boarded a taxi which was paid for by the friend. When they reached Kampala, the friend took her to a certain lady to sell underwear for her. The lady promised to pay her 21 Euros a month which she could accumulate and be given when she wanted it. Unfortunately, after Chosen agreed to this promising offer, the lady changed her mind and kept her home to work as a househelp.
Chosen worked for very long hours under harsh conditions including going without food during the day. She was responsible for cleaning the house, washing clothes, utensils, cooking dinner and all the home chores. She was working so hard yet only entitled to one meal a day which was at night after work. “I felt bad about the situation because I used to have two meals: lunch and supper but no breakfast.I now had to wake up in the morning and work so much. My only wish was to go back home.” Chosen said.
After 5 months of hardship, Chosen had had enough and she wanted to go back home. After talking to her employer about her departure and requesting for the money owed, she told her that there was no money left since she had spent it on buying food, clothes and paying for the rent of the house where she was staying.
In March 2022, Chosen shared her frustrations and sadness with her neighbour who directed her to the local council offices to report the case. She went and explained the situation to the chairperson women affairs who approached her employer.She completely denied her involvement with Chosen. On the same day, Chosen was taken to a nearby police station by the chairperson. She stayed there for two weeks and was later taken to the rehabilitation home. She was away from home for six months. Her mother had tried to look for her and even reported the case of a missing child to the local police station.
At the safe home, Chosen received rehabilitation services including catch-up education which prepared her for mainstream education. She also received individual and group counselling, spiritual nourishment, health, life skills, open heart and etiquette sessions all geared towards behavioural change, healing and forgiveness. She learnt how to read three lettered words, short and long sentences and also search word meanings from the dictionary, improved on spellings and also learnt computer skills.
“Here I sleep well. I enjoy playing, I eat well and get satisfied. I learn and enjoy many things like sounds of letters and I am really improving on spelling.’ She explained.
Luckily, in May 2022, Chosen was reunited with her mother who was extremely happy that she was back home. She was reintegrated and enrolled in primary six to continue with her education.
Speaking hopefully about her future, she said, “I want to become a police woman to keep law and order and support children to get out of the streets.”