Faith was abandoned by her mother when she was just 18 months old.
She was left in the care of her grandmother and aunt who were already looking after many of her siblings and cousins.
The family were living in poverty and by the time she was 12 Faith was behaving badly and stealing. It was a desperate cry for help but it didn’t work – instead she was beaten by her aunt. Soon she was skipping school too and when she did go she was beaten again as punishment for her absence.
Eventually she ran away and started living on the streets of Mwanza where she was in danger of violence, abuse and exploitation every day.
Nowhere to go, scared and alone
Survival on the city’s hostile streets is a daily challenge – vulnerable children stick together in gangs for protection, often from the police and other adults who attack and beat them, but girls rarely last long.
In danger of being raped and exploited they are normally forced in to sex work where they can be hard to find and difficult to rescue. Faith was lucky. After three weeks she was identified by an outreach worker from one of Railway Children’s partner projects. They took her to our girls’ centre where she was safe.
On the streets I was always hungry and scared. I didn’t know where to go and didn’t have anyone to trust.
Faith was fed, clothed and kept from harm - but that was just the beginning. She was scared and angry so lied about her background and it took many months for project staff to earn her trust and gradually learn her story.
The staff at the centre work to give the girls some self-esteem, often for the first time in their lives, and teach them vital life skills as well as school lessons. Able to read, write and cook for themselves, they develop a sense of responsibility and progress is praised and rewarded. While the girls live at the centre, our teams work to find and prepare a better future for them, whether that is returning home or finding an alternative solution.
Learning to love
For Faith, returning home has been a success. A dedicated family worker, Kissa, helped her re-establish a relationship with her family. Regular visits helped them acknowledge what the issues were and work through their problems.
Soon Faith was leaving the centre to spend time at her grandmother’s on weekends and now she is preparing to move back into the family home. She is still shy and reserved but she is going to school, she has stopped stealing and no-one beats her anymore.
Our workers have helped the family change the way they use discipline and how they communicate with each other.
Their bonds are stronger than ever and Faith is proud that she can now offer to help prepare food for the family. In turn they have said how proud they are of her and the whole family have been introduced to the simple pleasures of playing and laughing together.
Now Faith dreams of being a nurse and has a future to look forward to.
I am so happy to be going back home. Kissa has helped me and my family so much and taught us how to get on better. Now I can help my grandmother so we can all stay together.