The Impact Uganda program focuses on helping street kids get off the streets and find hope and a future by providing housing, a sense of family, and discipleship.
Jinja Connection provides education and shelter for full-time and part-time street kids. Our drop-in centre offers a safe space for kids to come and get something to eat and build relationships. Staff and volunteers also target street kids who have little or no education and provide schooling for them along with a co-op program for skills training. Whenever possible, street kids are reunited with their families through a process of reconciliation.
Since its beginning in 2012, Jinja Connection has enrolled 315 children, approximately 50% of whom were resettled into forever homes. Families and communities across 15 districts and 26 tribes have been positively affected as children have been brought back home. Primary and Secondary schools in the Jinja District and beyond have also been impacted, as children have returned to school. Masese Co, an elementary school in the Jinja District, currently has approximately 30 children enrolled who came from Jinja Connection.
We recently completed a review of our hiring process to ensure that it is equitable, and all staff are now equally paid and have the ability to apply for internal jobs.
Detailed Implementation Plan
With a focus on the instrumentality of education in empowering and motivating young people living on the streets, the caring and qualified staff hold combinations of counselling, sports, arts, schooling and social skills sessions for the children each day, with the ultimate goal of helping them to decide to leave their lives on the street and re-enroll in school. Each child that attends the centre can expect a chance to bathe, wash their clothes, eat two meals and access medical care if they need it.
Home Tracing and Resettlement
A key part of what Jinja Connection does is home tracing. When a child decides they want to be resettled, Jinja Connection’s social workers begin the process of identifying living relatives who may be willing and capable of bringing the child into their home. Once the home situation has been assessed and approved, counselling with the family and child is carried out in preparation and anticipation of resettlement. The child puts on a clean pair of clothes, gets any remaining necessary medical attention, and then sets out with a social worker to make the (sometimes hours-long) trip to their home village.
Enrollment in School
If follow-ups and communications with the family indicate the resettlement is going smoothly, Jinja Connection then works with the family to enroll the child in the next semester of school, coming to an agreement as to how best share the associated costs (uniforms, books, and school fees). The social worker may also go with the parents to meet with school leaders and teachers prior to the child’s return to school. Jinja Connection takes pride in building relationships with local schools, one of which currently educates approximately 30 resettled Jinja Connection students.
Alternative Settlement Options
Where resettlement isn’t possible, or where a child requires special care, Jinja Connection pursues alternative settlement options. In the past Jinja Connection has been able to refer children to residence, medical and drug rehabilitation programs, or to place older children in Jinja Connection-supported peer-led households.
To supplement the Monday to Friday programming, Jinja Connection also runs a Saturday afternoon basketball program at a nearby church’s outdoor basketball court. They are also developing weekday self-esteem workshops at strategic local schools.
Advocating for the Release of Imprisoned Children
In addition to its rehabilitation and resettlement efforts, a positive relationship with local police and the national juvenile prison allows Jinja Connection to advocate for the release of street-connected children who are imprisoned or in custody.
Stories of Transformation
As part of our routine work at Jinja Connection (JC), we carry out street walks every morning to remind children to come to the Centre.
One morning during street walk, I came across a new boy lying on the pavement along the streets of Jinja. On moving towards him, he’s in the first place puzzled but when I smiled at him he somehow relaxed and smiled back. I quickly introduced myself to him and asked him if he could join me at JC. He accepted and we moved on.
As we moved on interacting in talks I discovered that he was called Brian, aged 14. Also that he had a young brother called Travis, aged 12. They’d been together on the street for about 2 weeks. He asked me if we could get his younger brother at the scrap selling point. We did and went straight to JC.
We had a bright day with all kids including Brian and Travis. We closed later in the evening and asked them all to join us the following day.
By reporting time the following day we got some news that wasn’t good. Brian had been knocked down by a speeding motorcycle that didn’t stop as they were coming to JC. A good Samaritan called us and we quickly went to his rescue.
We rushed him to the nearby clinic. Fortunately his injury wasn’t terribly severe. He was treated and discharged later in the day and we put him in the JC medical room to rest. The accident prompted the boys’ interest to go back home. We contacted their parents and organised their home tracing.
Despite having some hiccups, Brian and Travis’ home tracing turned out to be most successful. They’re now happily with their parents, awaiting to go to school once the term begins. Brian is now well.
Jinja Connection is well connected in the community with other street-connected child organizations, especially SALVE, an organization who serves older street-connected youth and whose drop-in centre is in the same building. Jinja Connection is hoping to build a stronger relationship with the Jinja Police, especially in terms of community and officer sensitization. Jinja Connection has formed a partnership with Food for the Hungry, who helps with access to food for the centre’s meals, as well as Kiira Prep, a local international school that has held fundraisers and given donations to the centre. Artist volunteers from Acacia Tree Child & Services come and hold Hip Hop and Breakdancing workshops with the kids.