“I am breaking the cycle of family separation in my community”
“I know first hand how hard life is for children who do not grow up with their families. I lived it, I know it,” Yusuf tells us with conviction. “My father abandoned us when I was just 12 years old. I suddenly became the breadwinner and I had to grow up very fast,” Yusuf ponders solemnly at his past; a past that has shaped his present.
Today Yusuf is a father, a husband, and a community volunteer. Years later in his adulthood, he has made it his life mission to, in his own words, break the cycle of family separation in his community.
Yusuf wears many hats. He is a business trader and a religious leader, roles that he is passionate about. But according to Yusuf, the biggest hat that he wears is being a community volunteer in his village, a role that embodies who Yusuf is at his core.
He knows all too well, how, if communities come together to support families to stay together, children thrive. “The community supported us and took care of us. Were it not for our community, I would not be here,” Yusuf shared with us about his childhood. He now dedicates part of his time to support other families. “We are paying it forward, my wife and I. I always remember how my community supported me when I was just a young boy, it is now my time to give back.”
Community volunteers like Yusuf are key to keeping families together in their communities. They support families so they do not have to give up their children to an orphanage. “I encourage families in my community to stay with their children,” he says, “there is guidance in a family circle, children grow up healthy and as responsible leaders of tomorrow.”
Yusuf takes us to visit David’s family, just a stone throw away from his home. David’s family was on the verge of separating and giving up their children to an orphanage. Yusuf was able to talk to the parents and encourage them to stay together and work on their issues. “We now plan and make financial decisions together,” says David. “Yusuf has supported us a lot, which has helped our family stay together. We have opened a business together; our children are in school and learning without any challenges.”
To Yusuf, his community is his family. We could not do our work without our amazing community volunteers.
"Oscar is so full of love"
“Oscar is now able to eat our local food,” Oscar’s mum, Sandra, tells us with a shy smile. Oscar is the baby of the family, with 7 siblings. “His health has improved. He is now eating well together with the family.”
Oscar was born with Hydrocephalus, a condition that occurs when fluid builds up in the skull and causes the brain to swell. The majority of children living with disabilities in Uganda are often stigmatised and marginalised by their communities, something that Oscar’s parents know all too well. “Our neighbours stigmatised us telling us that Oscar would die.” Oscar’s mum sadly remembers how their neighbours shunned them.
Oscar’s family could not afford the medical bills and treatment that Oscar needed. Luckily Justine, a community volunteer in their village, took action.
“Most children with disabilities often suffer in our communities, so I counsel families on how to take care of their children and encourage them not to abandon them,” Justine tells us why she decided to become a community volunteer and work with families of children with disabilities. She has continued to walk with Oscar’s family through their journey. “I love children and I like working with parents to take care of their children,” she adds.
Justine connected Oscar's family with our social workers who worked with the family and thanks to your support, we were able to pay for Oscar’s medical needs. Oscar’s mum was also provided with a small grant to start a fish selling business so she could take care of her family.
It has been 8 months since Oscar got the surgery he needed, his health has greatly improved. His mum could not hide her joy telling us that Oscar is now able to recognise his brothers and sisters. “His face is filled with joy when he sees his brothers. He gets so happy when he hears them playing. When you call his name he starts laughing and smiling and opens his arms for you. He is so full of life.”