Today I met Victoria Namusisi Nalongo. Here, when you are a twin, you add "Nalongo" to your name! Victoria founded and runs an orphanage called Sunrise Children's Villages and PSI partners with them to deliver clean water. Her vision is to give children from the streets and camps a better life, and boy does she do that! I felt like I was at an orphanage in paradise: She bought a plot of land with a remarkable view. She heads to the streets of Uganda, mainly near the post office, where she finds children as young as 10 sniffing petrol and selling sex. She also goes to the northern IDP camps and rescues kids who have perhaps been burned, abused, or abandoned.
Here are some of the stories I heard today:
Victoria found Ronald naked, suffering from cold, living with worms and malnutrition in an IDP camp in the North. He was 6 1/2 years old but looked like a newborn. His parents had both been shot. He could not walk or speak. Victoria nursed him back to health and with her care he is now a bright student, studying at boarding school but, when the subject of the refuge camps is brought up, he starts to cry.
Sharon and Evelyn
She came running up to me on arrival. She is 7. Her parents contracted HIV. Her father died of AIDS, and her mother is very sick. She has made friends with a girl named Evelyn who was covered in acid and burned from head to toe. The orphanage has cared for her and arranged for her to have cosmetic surgery to reduce the burns that cover her whole face and body. Sharon, Evelyn, and her friends, who all share little bunks in the cottages, have formed an orchestra. They all lined up and sang us songs about how they love to drink fresh water that is purified by our product, PUR. They were all wearing T-shirts with the slogan "I drink clean water" written on the back. It's something when you hear young children make up songs about something as simple as having water to drink!
It was sad to leave the orphanage, but two of our commercial sex worker "peer educators" were waiting for us at the office.
Florence, who agreed to be on camera, is 22 years old. She grew up with her mother, 6 brothers, and 5 sisters. Her mother was barely able to put food on the table, so when she was 16 she left home and shared a shack in the city with 4 friends. When she saw her friend leave in the evenings and come back with money, she decided to follow her. One night she went to a bar, met a guy, slept with him, and he started giving her money. With little education and newfound wealth, she decided to meet more men, and so began her life on the streets. She has more than 3 men a night, charging $22 per sex act. After a while her friend told her about a PSI VCT Centre (Voluntary Counseling and Testing Centre), and she really wanted to go but was so afraid she had AIDS that she kept putting it off! She thought that should she discover she was positive, she would kill herself. She was also afraid that if her clients knew she had been tested, they would not use her services anymore. Finally she plucked up enough courage to go and get tested and was so impressed by the staff and counseling there that she decided to apply for a job as a peer educator. She now works for PSI teaching the other girls about condom use and VCT. Florence has chosen to continue her work as a sex worker but now charges less, as she insists on using a condom.