Dwelling Places, hospital a charity organization that rescues and rehabilitates street children in Uganda has Saturday launched activities aimed at raising funds to support their campaign to rid Kampala streets of helpless children.
The organization is set to carry out a 467 kilometre long walk dubbed ‘Journey of Hope’ from Kampala to Karamoja later next month.
The walk which will begin on July 31 in Kampala and last 18 days looks to raise awareness on child trafficking and mobilize funds to resettle 20 streets kids with their families.
Funds will also be used to construct a classroom block in Lomaratoit Primary School in Napak.
Majority of the children that loiter and beg on the streets of Kampala are said to come from Karamoja sub region with Napak district contributing the most numbers.
Rita Nkemba, the Founding Director of Dwelling Places attributed the rising numbers of street kids to less support towards education since most parents can’t afford fees.
She made reference to a visit she made to Lomaratoit village in Karamoja in 2014, where a school had been set up by government but pupils were not attending classes.
“Only 30 pupils out of the registered 93 were on site when we visited in the middle of the term while many others were loitering in the village. We came to learn that while the school was for free, parents were required to pay Ush 2,000 every term,” Nkemba told journalists during Saturday’s launch held at the Phillip Omondi stadium in Lugogo.
It is this need that led to the very first ‘Journey of Hope’ in 2015 which raised money to enroll up to 200 children in school in Lomaratoit village.
“We’ve supported these children by putting them back to school and 89% of these have stayed in school. It is therefore tested that if children in Karamoja are supported to get education, they will stay off the streets,” she added, asking the public to donate towards the cause.
Bokora county Member of Parliament, Hon. Terence Achiya who officiated at the launch hailed Dwelling Places for its work, urging other organizations to make concerted efforts to further resettle these children.
He also advocated to interventions that will make Karamoja more ‘attractive’ so that once resettled, children do not escape back to the streets.
Dwelling Places says that major factors that drive children to flee their homes to the streets are; child trafficking, child exploitation and neglect on the part of parents and community.
Although the upward trend in child trafficking was aided by weak provisions in the previous law, Damon Wamara the Country Director for Dwelling Places says the amendments made in the Children’s Act 2016 are a step in the right direction.
“The new law has clearly defined the concepts; child trafficking, exploitation and neglect, and the penalties for perpetrators are strict. However, we need regulations to guide how this law will be implemented,” Wamara said.
In 2016 alone, 14 child traffickers were arrested and prosecuted in courts of law. The offence attracts a sentence of 10 to 20 years.
Since its inception, 15 years ago, Dwelling Places has rescued and reintegrated over 1,300 street children among them, 17 year old Rachael Amatun. It is currently caring for 535 children and 125 families.
Amatun narrated to journalists on Saturday how she fled from her home in Moroto 11 years ago while she was only 7.
“My step mother was mistreating me. We had no food. My mother had escaped to Kampala following a disagreement with my father. So, I got onto a bus and came to Kampala and lived in Kisenyi,” she said.
Now in her Senior Two (S.2) at Upland High School, the decent looking girl says she has found a place of belonging and gets all the basic provisions she needs.
Saturday’s launch also saw over 15 corporate companies participate in a soccer tournament in a bid to raise money that will reinforce the walk.