The Ugandan government created this facility for “stubborn” children- street beggars, disobedient kids, unwanted orphans, handicapped and mentally disabled kids, etc. One child I met was dropped off at there at ten days old by her fourteen year old mother. I do not know how she survived for three years in that hellish place but she bounced around and played as if it were a funhouse. Another was left there by his grandmother for not doing his chores – he tried to hang himself during his first week and he’s only eleven years old. One boy was crippled and blind because his grandmother poured acid in his eyes and broke his leg so he would bring more money while begging.
Unwanted girls don’t often make it to this place because they can be sold into prostitution so of the 250 kids there, probably 200+ were boys. Of those 200 boys, about 50 weren’t wearing clothes. Most of them sleep together on either the floor or on the few bunks but a few unlucky ones are put in special cells. Exceptionally stubborn kids are locked into a urine soaked room of about six square feet- they are naked, given no bedding, no food, and no contact for “as long as it takes” before the social workers feel they can be trusted on their own.
I asked Natalie how she got involved with this place and she said she passed the sign for it one day while driving out of town. It’s a haggard, hand painted sign that says only “‘M’: Rehabilitation Center for Children” on it and she intuitively knew that didn’t sound good so she drove right up to the compound and snooped around. Now here is where you will stop believing me if you haven’t already- she could not find a single adult on the property and what she found instead were rooms of naked children locked up with some of them chained to the window bars. After a billion frantic phone calls, she learned the place was supposed to be government funded but paychecks were never issued. The headmaster and house mother were not about to work for free so they began locking the children up during the afternoon and night and letting them out once a day to feed them if they had anything at all. Two hundred children locked up and starving with no supervision is what she saw that day.
Shocked? Outraged? Me too. I still am. I feel sick every time I read those words.