SSUUBI LY'ABATO VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATION
SAVO’s mission is to bolster children’s ability to deal with stress or unhealthy environment through working in and with communities focusing on areas of prevention, care, support and mitigation; and capacity building so as to strike the balance between stressful life events and favorable protective factors.
SAVO’s goal is to mitigate the adverse health, economic and psycho-social effects of high-risk environment of children and their families.
Children our focus, love, integrity, respect for diversity, excellence, continuous learning, accountability, gender, empowerment and child participation.
WHAT WE NEED
Short and long term volunteers who are interested to work in Uganda.
My name is Mutyaba Moses. I was born about two months after the death of my father. I heard that he drowned as he was crossing through Lake Victoria, going to Tanzania to collect costumes and clothes for his wedding with my mom. I never had the chance to look at my father, not even a photo that was left for me. By then my mother was a 17 years old school dropout. My father didn’t die alone; I think he took my mother too, because after his death my mother never appeared a normal human. Sincerely she went insane.
I was born in a house far in the village; the neighbor helped my mother on giving birth. In the house they were only three people, my mother, the neighbor and a young girl who was about 3 and half years. After my mother delivered I was brought in the front room where this young girl was, she heard me crying and she wanted to carry me on her body. The lady asked her to seat straightened her legs and put me in her arms, suddenly she called me Moses. At that time, the other lady wondered where she had got that name but later it was made my name. So I was named by a 3 and a half years old girl. Sometimes I feel like she had to name me this, just because my father had died of water and maybe God chose that name for me. Am I son of water? Or did I come from water? I sometimes wonder what it is meant with my name.
I don’t know my date of birth, but my real age can be around 27 years now. But always I wanted to be mature in front of people and all that is about me in public, I say I am 30 years old. I made my own date and this came way back during my days on streets when I wanted other fellow kids to respect me and not torture me. I always felt like that could help me not to be tortured but I lied to myself. I am so sorry for such a lie. From then I take 22nd November, 1982 as my birthday, although it is not correct and I never celebrated it but still I don’t know and no one knows.
My mother abandoned me when I was about 3 years of age and I grew up with my grandma (mother’s side). But in about 6 months after my mother had left, the load was too big for my old grandma to care for me and she sent me to my grandma the side of my father, here I met with many other children from my aunties, my grandma here was so different and cruel. She could beat me every single day; I was a boy who wetted my bed, and every day my grandma washed a little part of my beddings where I had urinated and asks me to drink it. I faced a higher level of torture at this new place including heavy workloads.
One day she asked me to bring to her a tin of water to wash my beddings and I brought a half tin, she picked this metal tin hit it to me hardly, immediately she picked a knife and cut me in the head twice making a cross sign adding that it is the cross which was put on my father’s grave, “my son died and leave another dead for me”, she said to me. I was bleeding from nose, mouth and ears… I was left to rot in the house because they feared to take me to a hospital because they would be asked what happened to me. They used local herbs but with God’s mercy I healed. I suffered with pain and up to now that damage still exists in my head.
Up to now I don’t know why my grandma had such hatred on me, or was it on my mother and I had to pay for it? I really don’t know. The work I had to do include taking care of my aunt, who was always inside the house ill. By then I didn’t know what she was suffering but now I know. She was infected by HIV/aids. I always had to take out her basins after using them and wash her clothes.
One day my aunt called me into her room and she told that “my son, I love you so much but I am very sorry about the life you live here, your life is made to carry heavy loads at your tender age. I can see no one can even care for me at my sickness instead they push you in, I feel my life is going but when you see me dead, my body will be taken to another village where our family grave yard is. Go with them on the car to where they will take my body then you will see your father’s grave. When you see it, sleep on it.”
Just after a few minutes she had said that to me, I heard everyone crying and saying she was dead. I can’t know, but I guess she took an overdose of medicine to take away her life, to relieve my pain on helping her every single day. I am so sad that this it happened on my life. I feel like to live today it’s because another person’s life had to go. But why, God? Why? I am sorry, always I have no answers! Because I was young when I reached there, I didn’t do as she had asked me, I feared those graves. The following days no one cared for my being. I was not taken to school, only doing domestic work while other children can go to school. I loved to go to school like them but no one could allow me to that and instead they could punish me for those days I tried to escape following the other ones to their school.
But one day, my other grandmother (my mother’s side) sent someone to come for me because she wanted to see me. At first they didn’t want me to go but later they accepted and I was taken. When my grandma saw me she cried, I felt sad to see her crying and that time I couldn’t imagine that she was crying about my poor condition. My grandma didn’t return me and she instead took me to school, I started learning but my first school results were very poor because I was the last one for all pupils in class.
It was a school habit that the elder pupils in school could go on asking the ones in lower classes for their report cards at the end of the term to see their performances. They asked mine and I gave it to them, they looked at it and they told me I was the first one. I was very excited and I couldn’t show it to another person, I was really happy to run very fast until I reached home my grandma was in the neighborhood at the moment, very fast I reached there calling her Mukadde (old woman), “I am the first one in class!”. She was warmly smiling as I moved closer to her. My little uncle got me off the report card to have a look, suddenly he slapped me hardly and I urinated into my pants in a great scare, everyone wondered why that!
But later I knew I was the last one in class, the elder pupils at school meant that I was the first one from behind that was their meaning! They really joked on me. I didn’t like that and the next year I wanted to do well it was my aim. I reached it because by the end of that year I took the first position, I studied but always I was among the first ten students in a class. But in about form three (primary three) I started to hate school because our teachers were very harsh and always beaten us. I feared so much going to school and my performance declined, but later I was taken to another school and again I did well.
Now my grandma died, it was my turning point in life. My fate days were just in my eyes. I had nobody to care for me. Life was just hard once again. I run to streets, school was over. I met there many other children from a very low age, I joined them but we could not become smart brothers, for older ones would torture us even though we could all look to have the same problems. Life on street is too hard, the fresher and weaker you are, the harder streets are. In the first days the fresher is bulled and tortured by the older ones on the streets.
In my time as fresher on streets, the older boys on the street asked me to bring 300 UGX for them every single day. This was too hard for me because I could not get this money from anywhere and then I had to get punishments, I could sleep nakedly without anything covered on my body at night; this was tough during the night coldness. The other younger ones and weaker boys were also ruled the same way but sometimes we were asked for even a bigger amount. Often children were forced to steal because at times they could not find work to get the money; we became victims from the older street boys, the town people and the police.
My time on street as a weaker boy was filled by fear; the diseases could get to us with no one to provide medicine, for food we could pick in piles and checking in fresh garbage dumped by the town people. Most of us on street we were there as victims of domestic violence, family torture, loss of parents and we end up with no home. Some of us always loved to have a home but no one could get it to us, no one loved us, and no one cared. The longer we could live on streets, the more savage we could become because our hearts always felt no love and not wanted. And many grow jealous in their hearts for other home living children and parents. While on street I used to see two different worlds, ours that we lived and that for the rest who had homes. And we could never feel the mercy on them.
There were also girls on streets, many could become street mothers and for these, one could produce another class of savage street daughters and sons. Often they don’t know the fathers of their babies but a little difference is that street girls could live around film halls and one cannot easily know that they are street children unless you know them. They also have a very hard survival and in this situation many get infected with HIV/aids.
The saddest moment on street is when one falls sick, you can’t get up from your night hideout, no treatment and no one can give you food. Every one for himself on streets is the life to live! It is very cold at night, this night conditions also make our hearts on street harder. It is hateful to live on the streets. It is too bad not to be loved as a child and cared for. And worst to live without a home. On streets I realized a big trouble deep in my heart and always I didn’t know what to do next, but every day I felt more hate to live on there. I could talk to other fellows who had families at least to go back, and also tried to encourage them to make a single family for ourselves to help each other and end the torture thing on streets. But often when the elder ones heard of this could just give us punishments. There are leaders on streets; there is suffering of all sorts.
We were not children to anyone and no one could love us. I felt I can’t survive on the roads, sleeping on shop verandas, unfinished structures, and unclosed churches and under container kiosks while eating on town garbage, picking in piles and at the same time tortured by our fellow street members. I couldn’t stop crying for two years.
One day I went back around the village of my beloved grandma, still I was sleeping in the bushes and up in the tree branches. I often didn’t want people to see me. But in about two days after I had returned, a guy came to me and gave me some money. I was happy and he started talking to me. He told me that he is my uncle, brother to my late father. I felt bad for all the sufferings I had gone through, in my heart I could not understand: where was he all that time when I lived on streets! But because he told me that he lived in the town I liked to go with him to live in the town too.
When I went to his house in the town, I met a woman, but at my first time I felt like she didn’t welcome me. She had a son who was older than me. The following days were not smart for me, she tortured me in everything. I started feeling that I was an evil son. But always I feared to tell this to my uncle, I felt like he will not listen to me and/or I will split the family. And deep in my heart I never wanted to go back on the streets. I became survivor in this house. I was really a survivor until this day, now I can tell this to you; I believe that I am still a survivor although suffering is still part of my life!
I went to school again and I liked this, but this time I had a purpose that was different from my childhood interests. In all my life, as a child, I wanted to grow up and get married, I loved to have a wife and always sleep with her in one bed and getting children. That’s all! But this time I had changed because I could instead aim at making a difference on streets and in children’s lives. When I reached reasonable classes I started to find out that politics is also a powerful tool to make the change in life and I started it a my Secondary class Two (Senior two). I stood up for Head prefect, but students didn’t elect me instead they posted me as Assistant Head boy. I did this role for one year and later I became a full head boy. Later on I was appointed the debate organizer and then after a short time I became the chairman of debates. By this time I had many friends in the school and they could always love me, with them all my suffering would be gone.
Here I met Pastor Paul and his wife Amanda as my friends. Since I was a child my heart loved the “Muzungu” always I wanted to try my English with them. I had a lot of pain in my heart to hear my fellow students saying that I was so good in English while I felt I had no chance to try it with a Muzungu. But with Pastor Paul and his wife I had got the opportunity. I was the boy whom you could send for salt at the shop in the morning and see me in the late evening if I could meet a Muzungu on my way and I stand to look at him/her with full heart admiration until the evening if he/she happens not to go away. But the saddest thing I feared to confront them for a talk, I have weakness to start a conversation with a person I feel like I don’t know where to start. I am quite shy, yes I am!
While carrying on my studies I got a problem at home one day, my step mom came home and she called me. She then told me that my uncle’s money was missing and she added that I had stolen the money. The fact I hadn’t, I told her I haven’t stolen the money but she couldn’t listen. My uncle came back home and she told him as I had stolen the money, they got me up and tied me up in my room, I had to sleep on the cement floor for 2 days, and they could not give me food. I felt life was going. And I could no longer stand the pain. I decided to commit suicide, that other night I was untied, I looked around for the knife in my room but I couldn’t find it maybe they had taken it away but still I remembered that I had a watch, I looked around for the watch batteries. I crashed it and the other one I didn’t then I swallowed both of them that night.
Not even a little stomach pain I got, I was expecting to be dead the next morning but I woke up alive, I felt I was alive again. My uncle got me and took me back to the village he got me. There was no one I knew by then, he left me there without a single penny in my pockets, and I felt life was ending there. In a deep grief I began to walk that distance of about 10km to tarmac road and then more 20 km coming back to the town, I felt that it was the only place I had some people that I knew. I walked this journey for 8 hours and at last I got nearly to the town where I had a friend. I explained the situation to him and he left me to stay with him at their home. But always I could worry about my education, I went to the chairperson of the Division and asked his office to give me a bursary but he never did. I went to the Town Clerk’s office but here they made me move day to day, come back the next day. Ah, sorry! Come back tomorrow again and again. I felt bold, then I went to the RDC’s office in the office I met there a woman but this time I had gone to join army, when I explained to the lady she told me that “my son you can’t join the army, I am so sorry but you must go back to school”. Now I was over!
I went to my former school and I explained the problem, they accepted me to study as a school dependant, and now after this offer my uncle found me and asked me to come back to him. But this time he was giving me a small room to live in at another place, I felt I needed a place where I can come from if I had to continue with the school offer to study, I accepted but life was quite hard because time came when I have to look for food and to go to school every day. At home alone in my room I could cry every single day but at school I never wanted to be lowered by other students because I was through it before, when they bulled me. The fake poor boy!
When I came back to school my friends were happy to see me. But they had strong reasons to give such smile to me for my back. We had a secret behind the teachers, I had a group of about 300 boys with whom we wanted to join the army, we felt like we had hardly had enough poor governance in our country, we were fed up of the Kony killing in the North, we felt enough was enough and we could bring the change. But In the year 2002 there was a lot of killing for the high ranked officers in the army and in our hearts we felt all deaths were from one tribe. This scared us a lot and that is when we threw away the idea of the army. We used to follow the history of the country!
At school I was poor but I had two friends Noeline and Sarah who supported financially. Noeline had enough pocket money and always she could share it with me. Sarah every after school at her home they had a shop and she could work in the shop every evening after school but the next morning she would come with about 5,000 UGX or more and every morning she reported to me this money. I didn’t take the money in my pocket but always I could decide how to share the money. At lunch I could buy for Sarah a lunch of 500 UGX or less and the rest of the money I share it among those students who came without lunch. I am so sorry that we stole from Sarah’s family.
I can’t forgive myself because I also one time stole food from the neighborhood. I was hungry for two days, I had nothing to eat and no one could give it to me. I went into the neighbor’s kitchen and stole their food. I sometimes want to ask God forgiveness but I feel I will bear the consequences for that I did. I am scared God will never forgive me!!!
From this time at school my heart had already grown strong to help others, I loved to help children. And then I asked for teaching in an orphanage school, I was just a boy but I always raised my age when they asked me because I wanted to be fitting those places, I had got this on streets. They accepted me but up to now I can’t tell how, only what I can add on is that my love for children was extremely marvelous, therefore children and the founders loved me so much. The head teacher didn’t like the way I was growing up in the hearts of the founders. He felt like I can take his job in a little future but my heart wanted peace, I then shortly quitted that school. It was at the end of year, the following year I got in another school but I felt it was not enough for me. During that time I met with the former chairperson of the Division and it was coming to the general elections in 2009, when I met him I remembered he was the man whom I asked to give me a bursary and didn’t. I didn’t push him away I helped him and lucky enough he was elected into office into 2011, I felt well because I went on helping his work in the office as political assistant and here I had got the opportunity to tell him about helping the needy children, now many children have got education support through his office. He has really done it.
I again never stopped; I started Ssuubi Ly’abato Voluntary Organization (SAVO). Ssuubi ly’abato means ‘hope for children’. Now we care for 22 kids at our new shelter which we built in 2012. Despite all the challenges that still go on in my life, like meeting the needs for these children, I thank God that I am here for them and many other great friends have been with us all this time.