“Once you realise you can actually use your life to make a difference, then why wouldn’t you”
The baby of the family, painfully shy and partially deaf. That was Nicola, growing up. A long way away from the African streets where she focus’s so much of my time nowadays.
Nicola received an incredible education and was adamant that when qualified, she would give something back by volunteering for a significant period of time. This was sparked from a trip to South Africa when Nicola was 16: she saw huge houses surrounded by security systems and barbed wire, across the road from families cramped in one room. It highlighted the disparate inequality of opportunities in the world. It was a huge eye-opener.
The opportunity arose for Nicola to work with an Education Charity in Uganda. It was there she met Helen and Mike. We saw the full extent of poverty; children living on the streets with no adult care, food or education. Every day we witnessed violence and abuse towards the children, due to the fact they were living on the streets and thus associated with crime and drugs. There is no social care safety net in Uganda. The three of us knew we could not simply turn a blind eye, so S.A.L.V.E. was born, to try to do something to help.
S.A.L.V.E. was officially founded in February 2008 with the motto “Support and Love via Education”. Nicola was 23 and like Helen, British. Mike is Ugandan.
The aim, if safe and possible to do so, is always to reintegrate the children with their extended families. Where this isn’t possible, we try to help them into foster care. We believe children grow up better in families rather than institutions. The youngest child we have seen on the streets has been just four years old. Usually, they are between ten and sixteen – but many of them don’t actually know their birthday and how old they are.
To put it into perspective, last year S.A.L.V.E helped 73 children off the streets and to resettle back home within a loving family and we have an 88% success rate. They have helped more than 400 children to leave the streets since the beginning.
“This wasn’t the journey I expected to take, but no matter how dark and difficult the road has been at times, I am glad that it did.”