I had an amazing experience volunteering with Home Free in November and December of 2018. During my time I saw how a few dedicated people can make a profound difference in the lives of vulnerable children. The work being done by Home Free is changing the trajectory of child welfare in Uganda.
I also witnessed the impact that moving a child from an institution to family-based care can have on a child’s life.
To give one example, here is the story of Grace:
Grace’s husband died four years ago. Without the support of her husband, she was forced to send two of her children Samuel and Joshua to an orphanage, when they were seven and five years-of-age.
During one of her visits to the institution, Grace noticed that her sons were malnourished. Joshua, who had been a strong boy, was just skin and bones.
It was even more heartbreaking to hear Samuel recalling he and his brother’s experience.
Samuel explained that they were only given one meal per day and the children were always hungry. He told us that one time another child at the orphanage stole cornmeal, and in retaliation, a worker caught him and burned his hands in front of the other children.
He also told us how his little brother Joshua, sometimes wet his bed at night. In the morning, the staff would punish him by making him wash his clothes and sheets, and then send him to school alone. Samuel would try to help, but the workers stopped him, in an attempt to dissolve the brotherly bond that gave them hope.
The few times that their mom was allowed to visit the boys, her sons begged her to take them home, but Leticia was not allowed to, nor did she have the support to care for them.
An organization that works with Home Free, worked with Leticia so that she could rescue her boys. Samuel and Joshua are now back home and thriving at school, and Home Free continues to support the family to ensure that they never have to go hungry or resort to an orphanage again.
I will forever cherish my experience working with Home Free. It has impacted me both professionally and personally. Working with Home Free helped me dream bigger as to what is possible for countries who have not yet moved away from institutional care.
My experience with Home Free has motivated me to start my own organization in my home country, the Dominican Republic. As someone who was in the New York City foster care system, I know how important Home Free’s work is, and I believe that introducing similar support systems to other countries could mitigate the hardships that vulnerable children face.
Guest Post: Wilmary