Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Just Another Day in Paradise (04.12.2010)
So this past weekend I went to Jinja to celebrate my friend Nick’s birthday with some other PCV’s from my class. We had a blast spending time together, catching up and going out that night. We had Nick’s birthday dinner at The Source Café and then spent the rest of the night at the casino and dance club in town. It was a much needed weekend vacation after a long week at work!
Jinja is a gorgeous part of Uganda. Though I have not traveled to every part of this magnificent country I would probably have to say that Jinja is my favorite so far. It is the source of the Nile river with beautiful scenery, lush papyrus beds and flowers everywhere. Another nice thing about Jinja in my opinion is that all the locals are used to seeing ‘muzungus’ or white people because it is so touristy in places. That being said, because Jinja can be so touristy people forget the poverty that is in Jinja.
I learned this past weekend that there are approximately 100 children who live on the streets in Jinja. Most are between 11 and 15 years old and originate from Jinja itself or other districts in Eastern Uganda. The reasons why children take to the streets are complicated, varied and always case-specific. A major cause is poverty and sadly, children frequently come to the streets to avoid being mistreated by a relative. Although violence towards children from both parents is widespread, it is particularly common that stepmothers are the perpetrators. Therefore divorce; separation and the death of a parent are often significant contributing factors to children taking to the streets. Contrary to the widespread belief that street children make a living through begging, stealing and eating garbage, research shows that almost half of children living on the street in Jinja earn money through carrying out domestic duties for individuals and companies. A significant number also receive a small wage for collecting and recycling scrap metal. Research by a non-profit in Jinja shows that just over 1 in 10 children beg who live on the streets. Tourists play a significant role in keeping children on the streets in Jinja, as they are enticed by cash handouts.
It was eye opening to learn about this even though I basically see it everywhere I go in Uganda. At times you can become sensitized to what is around you and forget what is actually there.