This is an account of a conversation and email written to me by a member of the Chrysalis Centre. The english words are written by me, but the content is by the boy who reported his feelings to me. He is an example of many children who live in the slum district, whose parents or guardians cannot afford to buy food for them. Because they live in the slum, there is no available free food, that would be available if they lived in a village. In a slum you cannot grow food, as there is little or no land available and even if there were, people would steal crops that were grown there.
I don’t want my name published, as I am not proud of my life but I can tell you I am 12 years old and I have been coming to the Chrysalis Centre for almost two years now and I’ve even stayed over there a lot, when things were really bad at home. I live with my sister who is much older than me and sometimes her husband is there and sometimes he is not, as he is asked to work in another country and is away for many months. When he is away things get really bad, as my sister has no money at all. She works making beads, but there are no buyers for her beads most of the time. Usually it’s not worth going home, because I know she has no food for me. I used to collect scrap for money and beg but now I don’t do these things.
Sometimes a local trader will give me food, if I am with my friends, but very often I just don’t get any food at all. At home we can’t even afford water, so we have to drink contaminated water and today I am feeling bad, really bad. I was sick earlier and I still feel sick, but I can’t eat anything, because there is nothing to eat. I am at the Chrysalis Centre, who sometimes pay for food for me but tonight I am just here at the computer typing, with no food. I learnt how to type before I knew how to write English properly, but I learn things quickly and I am pretty fast at most things, so they tell me. Sometimes I can chat to my school sponsor on-line or even on Skype and I talked to her 12 year old daughter a few weeks ago, who lives in England, which was very nice.
At school I don’t do so well. Before I had a sponsor, I did not go to school very often. I used even to sleep out on the streets because I was scared of going home. My grades got worse and worse, because I was thinking about other things and often this was how I can stop being hungry the whole time. Then I was thrown out of school because we could never pay for school fees, then I had no pen or black shoes or many things and so I missed much of what was being taught to me.
For one year I was looked after at the Chrysalis Centre, because they thought I was a street kid and needed their help. I did and they helped me find a sponsor too. They fed me nice food and I started to grow again and feel stronger, but now I am home again and I feel that I am not growing and starting to grow weaker and weaker every day.
When I don’t eat, it feels like I am going to die and I fear that one day, I will sleep and not wake up. I don’t want to die, because I know I can do things. I can repair electrical things very well and I can type and I have taught other children and even adults how to use the computers – some have even paid me for my teaching. No one taught me, I learnt myself. Now I am sponsored, my grades are improving and I can write English much better than before, so maybe I have a good future, if I can stay alive.
If I am ill, then they cure me at the Chrysalis Centre, but they cannot afford to pay for my food too. So, what do I do? I just suffer every day and hope that people will be concerned about me and help me survive. That’s my life right now.
Many children are like me in the Acholi Quarter, but most are quiet about it. I know how to use computers and the people at the Chrysalis Centre said people around the world would like to hear what I have to say.
Children living in slums are especially at risk, as there is so little food around in these areas – even families with food have too little to go round. The slums are dangerous places too and vulnerable children can be kidnapped, easily catch illnesses, be forced into crime, giving them little or no chance of a future. The capability of these children can be very high, if supported with education and the social impact of supporting them is particularly significant, as you can prevent a life of crime and perhaps even save their lives with a small intervention. The rewards of working with them is also significant, as they show initiative and solve problems more effectively than their peers. This boy could be spported with food for £10 per month and a wider feeding programme for slum children will help ensure they develop properly and help reduce crime in an entire community. Please don’t forget them.