Our evangelist team in Uganda were already meeting with these young people who ranged in age from 10 years old to 18 years old, teaching them the bible, encouraging integrity and loving them...no easy mission as these young people, who had never been loved before, were used to fighting for everything they could get, were mistrustful, angry and wary of broken promises.
Can you imagine having to live in a tree? Afraid for your life, not knowing where your next meal will come from, ostracised by everyone including your family, wanting to wash but having no soap and only access to river water, chased by the police and generally being considered the lowest of the low.
This is where we met Martin and a group of street boys.
In 2010 a mission of young people from different churches came together to play sports and games with local schools and including a team of street boys. We also held our first boda-boda race to the Equator and back, some 40 km. This encouraged the boda-boda bicycle riders, who made their living by taxiing local people around the Kasese district, making them feel valued by the local community.
In April 2011 we started an apprenticeship scheme with 13 of the boys, training them to be drivers, welders and mechanics. From this first group, three drivers graduated, one of whom secured a job with the police force, got married and started a new life. Three welders and two mechanics also graduated. As students graduated other boys were chosen to start an apprenticeship although welding was dropped from the scheme because the boys were unable to get jobs in the trade. Many boys wanted to take up driving as this gave them the opportunity to wait in the municipal car park where they were sometimes asked to drive taxis. This in turn allowed them to gain experience and earn some money.
However many of the boys wanted quick and easy money and found the patience in waiting for those opportunities a step too far. Despite this several cohorts of boys went through and passed their driving tests. AWU paid for their first licenses.
Our greatest challenge was how to support this street gang and instill in them a sense of self-discipline and citizenship while also teaching them practical skills.
We started small by providing them with jerry cans, bowls, regular supplies of soap and a meal when they met with the team.
Some of our drivers in training 2013 (left)
In 2013 4 of the boys, who had shown a greater degree of commitment and leadership qualities were trained, with the women's group champions, in briquette making. One of the boys proved to be very quick at learning and tried hard to motivate his street boy group to make briquettes. They were given their own press which was stored at St Peter's church in Nyakasanga.
Briquette training, women's group and street boys champions 2013 (below)
Meeting to discuss apprenticeships 2013
Time for lunch 2013
Showing us where they live 2013
Using their comedy drama skills soon gathers a crowd 2013 (above)
Amaha We Uganda team continued to motivate and encourage the boys, as did the UK team on each visit. The team, led by Rev Johnkeson met with the boys fortnightly in fellowship and bible study and the boys were given a hot meal.
This was a golden-opportunity to make them part of the community, empower them and create a source of pride, activity and income through an organised briquette manufacturing and sales initiative. #briquettes
However the boys were not always committed, there was often a problem with quality and they struggled to market and sell the finished product. Many of the boys were young men with their own families. They found work in the local area on an ad hoc basis that gave them quick cash. In 2016 it was decided that they had graduated from the support they had been given. We remain in fellowship with many of these young men.
Work (above left & Middle) Bob's shoe making at Good Samaritan (above right) 2014 Fellowship 2014 (below)
Meeting in All Saint's new church 2015
Checking the photo is good enough
Giving donated clothes 2015 followed by a soda.
Graduated - Hamis now has a trade, a beautiful family and has moved away from Kasese to start a new life, helped by Amaha We Uganda.
2018 Amaha We Uganda now supports the next generation of street boys with a new strategy. These boys meet at The Library and Garden of Eden, mentored and taught by Rev Johnkasen Murabyo Thembo. The aim is to encourage families to reunite with their young people and to take them back into the home. There has been some degree of success but there is always a cost implication for the family. If you think you can help please donate below.