A SUCCESS STORY: HAMZA
Hamza was one of the original beneficiaries of Craft Aid UK through our work in Kampala. He now runs our home and looks after the children enrolled in our project - and is a truly inspiring young man. Here is his story, in his own words:
"For the early part of my life, I lived with my parents in a rural village. They loved me very much, and worked extremely hard. The bad times began for me at the age of 4 when my mum passed away.
I was living with my father, who soon married another woman. When they were both together, this woman was nice to me - but when he was away she badly mistreated me. She would refuse to feed me, and made me sleep outside. I told my father what was happening but he did not believe me as he only saw her loving me. He worked away from home a lot, so I suffered badly with my step-mother.
One day, when I was seven years old, she sent me to the markets to get food. I was very hungry. Whilst I was out, I saw people playing cards who told me I could double my money. I wanted to do this so badly, so that I would be able to afford some food for myself. I put all the money I had on the cards, but I lost it. I stayed at the market all day because I was too scared to go home.
When I eventually arrived home, my step-mother was very angry and said that she was going to kill me.
When she learnt that I did not have the things she had sent me to the market for, she grabbed a big stick and chased me. I hid from her until late at night - but when I went home, she was still waiting for me with the stick. That was when I realised she meant what she'd said about killing me.
I had to leave.
I walked and walked and walked in the direction that all the cars were going. I had no idea where I was heading, or that I was to end up in Kampala. At first, I was happy to be there; but then I started wondering what I would do. I kept walking around until I saw a boy like me and asked him where I could get something to eat. He gave me something, and then left me.
Time passed - I slept on people's verandas and woke up hungry. I went with other kids to collect bottles and metal scraps to sell to earn money. One day, a boy in my group ate food from the rubbish, but I did not want to. I went to the local markets instead and a kind lady gave me something to eat.
I realised that I was a 'street kid' by talking to the others in my position. I had no choice but to start eating scraps from the rubbish. It wasn't a terrible existence, but it was extremely hard. I had some friends who loved me, but others were not so kind. They harassed me when I had money, or scrap to sell. Older kids would beat me and take from me what little I had. I disliked sleeping on the streets because it's always hard to find somewhere to sleep.
It was often very cold, and police officers or security guards would often beat you or take you to jail. When it rained is when I hated it most, as there was no shelter. There were a lot of drugs on the street. Whenever I got money, like every other street kid, I would get fuel to sniff so that I could escape my reality and feel good. I liked it at first, but after a while I decided it wasn't the right way to live. Those days were very miserable.
If the police found you doing drugs, you would be arrested. I was taken to remand homes so many times I lost count. I was imprisoned, once for two years. We only got fed once a day, and we would be forced to undertake hard labour from 4.30am until late at night - my only crime: to be living on the street.
I escaped prison with a group of other boys, and went back to the streets. While I was there, an older boy told me to stay with him and his friends. They were thieves who entered peoples houses and wanted to use me because I was very small and could get into houses easily.
One night, for some reason, I felt a sense of dread when I looked at the house we were supposed to burgle and refused to go in. The boy who went in my place was caught by the house's owner and beaten to death. I knew I had to stop.
One day, I was walking in the slums with my scrap metal. I saw all the street kids going to a place where men were giving them medical care, food, and were talking to them. I didn't speak to these men the first time, but they came back again.
The first man I spoke to said he couldn't help me, but then I spoke to a man called Paul. He asked me a lot of questions, and I asked him his story. His was similar to mine, and he told me to believe in myself. From then on, every time he came into the slums he would talk to me and give me some money.
One day, he told me he wanted to start an organisation. I went with him, and saw that he had constructed a small papyrus structure - that is where I slept, and now I was able to clean my clothes and look smart. The organisation grew from nothing. I saw how my life was changing and I decided then that I was never going back to the streets. Uncle Paul started bringing in other boys, and the project grew and grew.
We were enrolled back into school, although this was very hard for me. Despite being young, I had missed so much school and being enrolled into a school year much further advanced than my last was incredibly difficult. At first I did very badly, but studied very hard to catch up, and read my books every day. By the second term, I was second in my class, and by the third term... I was first!
I always listened to Uncle Paul who always told me I could achieve more that I thought I could. He gave me courage to learn English and from then on, I always studied hard so that I would be top of each subject I chose. Because of this, I was included in a programme which gave me the opportunity to take part in an international exchange to the UK. Uncle Paul arranged a passport for me and I was able to take my place.
I had the chance to go on a plane: something I thought I would never be able to do whilst I was living on the streets. When I was sitting on the flight I finally knew that if you believe in something enough, you can always succeed.
I want to become a doctor, and create art in my spare time. I want to take my message of thanks to the world by helping others - and I'd like to hope that, in the future, there will be no street kids."