Our Work

Psycho-social support

 

Children in northern Uganda, unlike in other parts of the country have been and continue to be affected by the effect of the LRA insurgency in the region up to date. The LRA insurgency saw most people leaving their homes and migrating to towns for fear of losing their lives. This did not only result in loss of their heritage and homes, but also into family breakdowns.

Children who were born in captivity and in IDP camps raised themselves and as they grew up, they also sired their own children who unfortunately cannot enjoy parental care and a proper early childhood as a normal child would. Currently, there are children who live on the street but do not know where their home, parents, relatives or even their lineage and that simply does not make life any easier and worth living.

This is further made worst with the rampant use and abuse of alcohol and other harmful substances with is synonymous with street life. We work with such a child or youth to overcome the trauma, heal and rebuild his or her live.

Life skills Empowerment

 

Faced with the realities of poverty and hopelessness, children and youth who live and work on the streets often engage in criminal activities as a last resort for survival. Hashtag Gulu runs specific life and and employable skills trainings in carpentry and joinery; hairdressing; tailoring and garment cutting; bricklaying and concrete practice and agriculture as well as mentorship to prepare them for reentry into the community and to enjoy a better and improved livelihood. We also offer linkages to available opportunities such as apprenticeship and eventual employment, working in cooperatives for collective gain.

Re-integration

 

Most children end up in the street due to a variety of both pull and push factors ranging from poverty, war, lack of care from home, death of parents, violence at home, physical and mental abuse, economic growth, trafficking and loss of traditional values among others. Once they are on the street, life is hard; they are looked at as a nuisance and perpetrators of violence. Others resort to criminality to make ends meet.

Our team reaches out to them and invite them to a safe space from where we work hard to gain their trust, offer good counsel, another perspective to life, instill good morals and the need for hard work to make a decent living, enroll them in our life skilling program and upon completion, we facilitate a reintegration process back into their homes to live with family members or into the community, but as productive citizens.

Our efforts to transform the lives of these vulnerable young people and reintegrate them back home will remain a key focus and to this end, we also work with the families or willing community members to build their capacity to enable them to effectively support these children and youths

Advocacy for changed Systems and Mindsets

Most community members often look at children who live and work on the street as nuisances and perpetrators of violence in our midst. Being called an “Aguu” a common derogative word used to describe street connected persons among other wrong doers in Gulu is equivalent to passing a death sentence or at the least a long-term stigma tag.

We have a track record of speaking up where it matters. For instance, we have been reaching out to schools and communities, seeking audiences, and speaking with people including families, organizing radio and online campaigns to change their mindsets and fulfil their responsibilities as responsible citizens as well as change the bad narratives about vulnerable children and youth in street situation.

Our efforts at the height of the Covid19 lockdown led to the establishments of temporary shelters for street children and youths one of which was run by Hashtag Gulu. We have also seen an improvement and willingness of community members as well as leaders to critically ask the hard questions, explore solutions and attempt to address root causes leading young people to life on the streets.

Art and Therapy

The experience with art (music, dance, painting and deejaying) initiatives at Hashtag Gulu has shown how powerful art can be in healing, as a strategy in coping with stress and supporting wellbeing of young people living in street situations, in juvenile detention centers as well as in supporting reconciliation and reintegration processes in communities.

Art touches the hearts of people, where there is art, people come together, are open to listen, dance and paint. Art contributes to the wellbeing of the onlookers and the performers. In Gulu and at the Remand Home, where our projects are based, art is used as a form of therapy as it provides a platform for self expression and story telling which is a crucial part of healing and dealing with the past. Art can give a voice to the voiceless and amplify their stories. Performing one’s art gives people hope, provides them with visibility and the pride to be able to achieve and receive recognition. Hence, it is actually a powerful tool for rehabilitation, reintegration, and healing among the streets connected young people and the communities.

Through art, we give hope and a better alternative to life and these activities has enabled us to connect with our beneficiaries by identifying hidden talents and supporting them to nurture it and earn from it.

Health

Young people living in street situations always suffer from untold physical and mental health issues. Hashtag Gulu carried out a survey with 50 (41 boys and 9 girls) street connected children and youths where only 32% of males and 56% of females interviewed were feeling healthy.

Furthermore, they expressed difficulties in accessing proper healthcare as they struggle with serious stigmatization by healthcare providers. As a result, they often resign themselves to self-medication with whatever they can find, frequently causing more harm than good. Overall, studies on SCCY show that several factors such as violence, nutrition, infectious diseases, risky sexual behaviors, substance abuse and stigmatization result in poorer health outcomes among them.

These factors threaten their chances of being reintegrated into their community/family and put them at risk of unwanted pregnancy, long-lasting health complications and premature death in the worst cases. The study also revealed that almost all young persons who are homeless have been exposed to violence at home and/or on the street. This often leads to psychological trauma that only get worse if left untreated, as well as the uptake of negative coping mechanism such as alcohol and substance abuse. SCCY often have very limited knowledge on where to seek proper healthcare services and health-related knowledge in general. Their lack of trust in other people further impedes their willingness and ability to receive physical and mental treatment when needed. While programs such as the vocational trainings are important to provide SCCY with skills for them to find a job/generate an income, tackling physical and mental health issues is essential and necessary.

In partnership with St. Phillips Health Center, vivo international and Elephante Commons, we are implementing the “Improving the physical, mental well-being and sexual and reproductive health of street-connected children and youths in Gulu” project with the major aim of enhancing the right to health of street connected children and youths by increasing their access and utilization of physical and mental health care services.