Yesterday we met up with an NGO volunteer from our old Church back in MK. Olivia is out here on a six month placement with an organisation known as JENGA. Not to be confused with the popular building game this is a Christian NGO working with some of the poorest of Uganda’s population and providing practical support.
Having met up with Olivia at Endiros we had an hour or so at CRO. This is a local NGO working street kids in Mbale and in turn supported by JENGA volunteers such as Olivia, a few days a week. These children are provided with daytime education and / or support through school, food and time to play. Children have been supported from pre-school right up to the end of school and some have gone on to higher education. These kids have been kicked out of home for many and varied reasons. The organisation also acts as a mediation between children and their parents. We had time in the yard playing games with the children. They were all very keen to meet up and shake our hands, tell us their names and have a hug. They seemed happy but in truth the only affection they get is from the staff and volunteers at CRO. At night, sadly they are back on the streets and some on drugs. One showed evidence of being high- apparently on the streets they take rags dipped in kerosine/ petrol and place into a bottle which is then sniffed. Where possible these bottles are removed from kids on the street but it is addictive and destructive. CRO and JENGA are doing a good work here, but it obviously a major problem in Mbale as in Mwanza and countless other towns and cities across Africa, indeed the world.
In the evening we met up with more of the volunteers, all young and passionate people determined to make a difference in this place; a mixture of UK and U.S. A great bunch of people and truly inspiring. We shared a meal of roasted pork, tomatoes and plantain in a slum restaurant. The slum area being another major focus of both of the organisations.