KAMPALA – When you reach Hajarah Namuyanja’s home in Nsooba, Kyebando, you are welcomed by smiling faces of children that seem to live happily in her company.
It is however hard to tell that these children are former street children bearing the huge transformation they wear compared to the life one would imagine on the streets.
Namuyanja is a compassionate 27year-old, Ugandan with an undying passion to cater for street children.
She hatched the idea of looking after these children from her own upbringing as she was raised by her grandmother (RIP) who took her whole heartedly with her brother after the death of their parents.
Her grandmother had quite a number of children under her care even those she did not have blood ties with, something that fascinated Namuyanja.
“On witnessing how she sacrificed, worked hard to ensure that we attain an education and always encouraged us to lend a helping hand to those in need, I took it as a debt to repay when I grew up. I was inspired by my late grandmother and Friend Deborah to start Mercy Alive Africa Foundation. They are the very essence of the woman I am and hope to become,” she shares.
Through Mercy Alive, Namuyanja rehabilitates 24 former street children under her care.
Namuyanja operates in Kampala slums such as Kivulu and Kisenyi mainly since the majority of the street children are always from there.
“I am able to run this through donations from friends and well-wishers. I devote my time to the children and engage them through religious teachings. It is a never ending process that demands for a lot of patience, trust and hard work through the day and night outreach programs among the other activities involved in the child preparation, counseling, rehabilitating and resettlement.”
Namuyanja shares that while growing up, she nursed dreams of being a scholar, a social worker and a humanitarian and as she grew up, she found herself pulled towards humanitarian works especially with the influence of her friends Ruth and Stacy who have continuously helped and cared for many people.
“I am grateful to God that I am living some of my dreams right now like getting to see the children with basic needs that they did not have before including seeing them graduate from one education level to another, resettlement, rehabilitating, temporary shelter among others,” she explains.
At her age one would expect her to live a luxurious life being in her youthful times. As her counterparts are looking out for happening places over the weekend, she is always kept at home looking out for the children to see they are fine and well catered for.
She currently has 23 children living in Kyebando under her care and six of these have gone back to school.
The Covid-19 pandemic did not also leave her the same as her outreach programs in the different slums around Kampala were halted.
“Another terrible issue was that the responsibility had to increase whether we wanted it or not as we welcomed more children to the center because they had nowhere to go and needed a place to seek refuge,” she shares.
She adds that the growing numbers of street children in Kampala is due to poverty, violence as well as child neglect.
According to her, these and other factors render the children vulnerable and end up leaving their homes to flood the streets.
“I rehabilitate these street children in various ways like counseling, teaching, education, sports, games, music and reintroducing the children to godly ways of doing things,” she shares.
She hopes to get a farm project in the sense of cutting food costs and at the same time equip children with farming skills as well as generate money to run the project and also a spacious residence among others in the future.
Findings from the recent enumeration of street children by Retrak Uganda in collaboration with the Gender ministry and Uganda Bureau of Statistics (Ubos) show that there are more than 2,600 children living on streets aged 7-17 years while 1,410 children aged 7-17 years are estimated to be working on streets.