It is a sunny Friday evening at Masulita Children’s Village in Wakiso district, health workers and probation officers join hands to screen and understand the stories behind the 895 children recently rescued from the streets.
The Thursday night rescue operation, carried by the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) with the assistance of the police, has not only saved these children from the clutches of exploitation but has also initiated a journey towards healing and rebuilding their future.
The operation also led to the arrest of 47 adults involved in child trafficking who will be taken to court.
As the children arrive at the Masulita Children’s Village, their expressions are a mix of uncertainty and curiosity. The majority come from the Karamoja region, their innocent faces bearing the scars of child abuse and trafficking.
The dedicated health workers on site are actively engaged in screening, ensuring the physical well-being of each child. Meanwhile, probation officers are delicately peeling back the layers of their past, striving to understand the circumstances that led them to the streets.
Amidst this process, the laughter of children playing and the aroma of warm porridge waft through the air. The Masulita Children’s Village is not just a refuge, it is a haven of hope and rehabilitation. The rescued children, ranging from the youngest to the most advanced in age, are finding solace in the embrace of this safe space.
In one corner, the younger ones engage in play therapy – a crucial component of their rehabilitation. The infectious laughter and joy reverberate, echoing the resilience of these young souls.
On the other side, a group is gathered around, diligently serving porridge. It’s not just a meal; it’s a symbol of nourishment and care, a small but significant step towards restoring a sense of normalcy in their lives.
Sheila Birungi, the Director of Gender, Community Services and Production at KCCA, shed light on the rescue operation, highlighting its alignment with The Kampala Child Protection Ordinance 2022.
Under Section 10 of the ordinance, sending a child to beg or solicit for alms in public places, streets, offices, or commercial establishments is strictly forbidden.
The ordinance also prohibits profiting from a child engaged in begging or soliciting for alms. Violators of these provisions could face fines of up to 40,000 Ugandan shillings, imprisonment for a maximum of six months, or both.
The rescued children have been transferred to the Masulita Children’s Village, where they will undergo rehabilitation. Some will also be taken to Koblin in Napak district before being reunited with their families.
Silvanus Bob Turyamwijuka, the Masulita Children’s Village Coordinator, expresses a deep sense of commitment to rescuing and reintegrating these street children.
“Our focus is not just on providing shelter; it’s about transforming mindsets and building futures. We want to give them hope, counsel them, and equip them with skills that will empower them to return to their homes with dignity.” Turyamwijuka says.
The village’s holistic approach involves spiritual mentoring, engaging games, and vocational training tailored to the unique needs and age groups of the rescued children.
In addition to fostering psychological and emotional healing, practical projects such as piggery, dairy, and orchards are instilling a sense of responsibility and self-sufficiency.
This journey of rehabilitation is not embarked upon alone. The Masulita Children’s Village is supported by the Uganda Women’s Effort to Save Orphans (UWESO), a children-focused organization working in collaboration with the government.
The commitment of the entire community, including Tororo Cement’s contribution to renovating dormitories, signifies a collective effort towards a brighter future for these young lives.
As the sun sets over the Masulita Children’s Village, a warm glow of promise envelops the rescued children. The scars of their past are acknowledged, and the path to healing has begun.