Household care takers – bringing home life to disadvantaged children

Giving parental care to children is a step in nurturing tomorrow’s leaders.

One elderly lady is on a mission to give disadvantaged children a second chance. On the sidelines of CALM Africa’s “Child Headed Household Care Takers” training at the organisation’s headquarters in Nangabo, Wakiso district, Jajja Nassali Noelene revealed her story:

I am a resident of Masoli, in Kasangati, Wakiso district. While attending a church conference in neighboring Nansana, I was approached by my daughter, who runs the church and told me of a mother who was abandoned in the house with six children. I requested to be given 2 of the children. They were very malnourished, with skin diseases and many signs of poor feeding.

When we reached home, the first thing I did was to give them deworming tablets, preparing herbal medicine to cleanse their bodies and shaving their untidy hair. Within 2 weeks the neighbors were already appreciating my efforts. This work gave me a lot of satisfaction and happiness. My act was a signature of love.

When members of the church saw the improved children, they really appreciated my work. Then one church member, a young girl, told me of how his brother of about 14 years was being mistreated by their step mother and requested me to look after him. Because of my soft spot for children, I agreed and brought him as well. He had even developed bad manners. I told him bad manners are not tolerated under my roof. With time he has improved and is a now a good behaving boy.

After about a month, a tenant moved in a house near my residence. The landlord had given them the room temporarily after failing to pay rent for their former rented room. The husband disappeared a few days later. The abandoned woman would only cook porridge for the children, of which they took one meal a day. The last born of these are twins. One day, one of the children stole a cake from the nearby shop. The mother was so angry and decided to take the child to the village to stay with her relatives. I realized this was not the solution because even in the village, this 11 years old child might even develop more bad habits.

I first prayed to the Holy Spirit for help and then requested the mother to give me the boy. Within a week, she brought me the second child. This one was 4 years old. She could not manage to ease herself or even attempt to speak.  She could not just take herself to the toilet. I had to teach her. Now she even helps in cooking, washing utensils, and is very lively.

When I went back to the church, one of the members of the congregation had been evicted from her room for failing to pay rent. She was sleeping on the church’s verandah with her three children. It was very stressful. Then the pastor decided to take one of the children as I took the other two. One of them, a boy, is 11 years old but has just joined middle class.I wonder why people are more interested in giving birth before assessing whether they can manage looking after the children.

The mother of twins would bring them at my home whenever we had overnight fellowships. But you could only see the heads. At two and half years, these twins were stunted. They were always crying and any pleas of having her to take them to the hospital were ignored. One day, we decided to take her to Kasangati police station for help because community members got very concerned.

Even though my own son was involved in an accident and bed ridden, I first joined community members at the police station before going to attend to my son. At the police station, the mother of twins was forwarded to Mulago Hospital for medical attention. Theyare now admitted at the hospital in the Mwana Mugimu Nutrition Unit; a ward that medically handles nutrition complications in children. At least now we know they are in safe hands. Mulago Hospital is the national referral hospital.

I feel bad when I see people suffering and have always prayed to God to make me rich so that I could help more people; start an orphanage for abandoned children so that I personally take care of them and not in hospitals or with maids.

I have five children of my own. The two eldest girls are married. The last born is in senior six. My husband passed away four years ago. One of my in-laws temporarily gave us the house we are staying in at the moment so that I raise the children. Alongside the house are 4 acres of land. We dig and cultivate our food. I also rear broilers (chicken) in the compound, have 2 goats and sell home baked snacks to raise some money.

My love for children is big, I would love to cater for more children but my resources are limited. We share two rooms and a garage; the girls and I share one room, the boys sleep in the garage plus one multipurpose room.My children would ask me; “mum we hardly have what to eat, why are you bringing other children to be with us?” Over time, they are used and even support me in looking after these children.

I believe that if I make a child happy, God is happy with me and this gives me the morale to get up and cater for these children. I am so happy that CALM Africa does recognise my efforts and is now training me to be a good foster parent and understand good parenting. I am ready to support children live a better life and reach their full potential.

Training more foster carers enables children to remain with siblings and within a home environment, rather than going to orphanages. Having more foster carers will reduce demand on those, like Nassali Noelene, taking care of so many children which this on-going programme is working towards.