A child should never have to worry about finding a safe place to sleep at night, nor should one ever have to worry about where their next meal is going to come from. Every child deserves to know that they are safe and cared for, and more importantly, they deserve to know that they have a home.
Uganda is one of poorest countries in the world. With a per capita income of only $506, Uganda finds itself as number 161 out of 187 on the Human Development Index. The country has had tremendous uphill battles with corrupt leadership over the years, and rebel groups, such as the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), have terrorized the region, capturing children and forcing them to become soldiers. With the median age of the country being 15.7 years-old, the number of children who find themselves displaced within a country full of poverty and neglect only increases. It is estimated that nearly 10,000 children are living on the streets of Uganda, but the actual number is unknown. These children are at a great risk because they must wander the streets, making themselves targets for violence from gangs, police abuse, and abductors, and that feeling of having no sense of safety leaves these children with no options of finding a better life.
“It was a tough reality to face, and to see it for myself was unbearable.”
Giving the homeless children of Uganda hope is The Street Child Project (TSCP), a nonprofit who operates a residency program offering rehabilitation for children living on the streets full-time. Rachel Crawford, founder and CEO, was among a group of American students who traveled to Uganda in hopes of creating economic opportunities for artistic youths living on the streets, but after witnessing the harsh reality of the country’s homelessness issue among children, the team rapidly changed their objective to one more impactful. Rachel explains that “at night, street children can be found in groups sleeping together or walking around from place to place in search of friends.” After four years of running her program, her eyes were opened to the pain that these children endured, and she has dedicated herself to making a difference in how they can flourish moving forward.
“When a seed is sown in rich, fertile soil, something beautiful takes place.”
The process of healing created by The Street Child project is an approach bursting with tenderness and consideration. Their team first establishes relationships with various outreach organizations throughout the town of Jinja. Church leaders, social workers, and drop-in center staff members work to locate children who are in need of a home and then enact an action plan to taking them off the streets. The nonprofit pursues what they call a “home trace,” which is to locate the closest living relative of a child and reunite them with their family. The act of reestablishing family ties is the primary focus for the group, and The Street Child Project believes that the power of family is a special bond that can improve the quality of life solely on the basis that family is forever. Fortifying that bond even more, the initiative will provide academic scholarships for the children in case a family wants to care for the child, but cannot afford to do so. In any case, the most important thing to remember is that TSCP wants to provide the best home possible for their children, and if they feel that a child is at risk of being harmed or threatened in any environment, the child is welcomed to make a new life at their restoration home.
“The seed roots itself into the dirt and life begins.”
Fostering and nurturing stable growth is the ultimate goal that TSCP wants to accomplish for the children of Uganda. To better accomplish it, they have created a safe haven for children to come to when they have no other options. Their residential programs center on transitioning children from life on the street toward a more consistent and healthy lifestyle. The nonprofit offers them the chance to build positive relationships with full-time house parents who cultivate ideas of respect, patience, and compassion within daily life. Their program also offers opportunities for those who show outstanding leadership to become a house parent themselves, which in return shows other children that there are possibilities out there to progress in life. More importantly, it shows the children that someone out there cares enough to help them make a difference.
“Bursting forth from the ground, creation begins anew.”
What’s amazing about the process of adapting these children into new environments is the element of sustainability that TSCP carries out. Sustainable living moving into the long-term is crucial when trying to create positive growth, and the nonprofit has put several projects into place to ensure that every child is prepared with essential skills to overcome any obstacles that may lie ahead. One project in particular that brings tremendous support to the foundation is The SOW Collection—a series of products that represents a certain way in which proceeds are distributed among the children’s needs.
Four categories have been created that connects each item with its end result: Feed, Shelter, Educate, and Inspire. “Feed” is a collection of home and kitchen products (salad tongs, bottle openers, aprons, etc.) which represents the healthy nutrition provided for every child. “Shelter” is comprised of different pillows, throws, and home décor that embodies the nonprofit’s mission of providing safe and sustainable shelter for the homeless. “Educate” is a line of school and office supplies (pencils, backpacks, journals, etc.) that is emblematic of how important education is to these children, and every purchase goes towards providing them with new educational opportunities. “Inspire” is the final product line, but it encompasses all the creativity and character of the children in need. This group features different accessories (bracelets, necklaces, shoulder bags, etc.) embedded with the passion and artistry of the Ugandan people. With each purchase from any kind, the proceeds are reinvested to supplying children with life’s basic necessities, all while instilling a new hope for the future.
“Before long, what was once a seed has turned into a life-giving, fruit-bearing tree.”
Since opening their doors in 2009, TSCP has given dozens of past street children a new home. They have managed to provide both economic and educational services, and have witnessed many of their children be reintroduced with their families. In total, the support and philanthropy of everyone involved has lead to 112 children being cared for, with 50 or so children being supported educationally while living with other relatives.
These children, whose lives have faced difficult times, are able to find refuge in the hearts of those who truly care for them. Because of that unconditional support, former street children have gone on to open their own businesses, art galleries, and have also found gainful employment through vocational training provided by the nonprofit. With all the beauty and prosperity that has emerged thus far, it’s important to remember where it all came from; a seed of an idea that was planted with a true intent on helping those in need. That patience and love is what defines The Street Child Project, and their children are spreading that message further, planting seeds of their own.