For the last seventeen years of her life, Anna now aged twenty-five has been living in an orphanage since she was six years old. However, a little over two weeks ago, she left to start her new life as a care leaver. “I looked forward to leaving all my life,” Last week was the first day Anna came back to visit the place she had called home most of her life. “Living alone has been tough, but I love it,” she told us.
Anna was visiting the residential care home as part of a coaching and engagement session organised by Child’s i and attended by Phiona Bizzu the 2012 Miss World Uganda. Bizzu’s story is similar to that of the young adults she has come to talk to. She too grew up in residential care, something she says has not let define, who she is. “I own my story,” she told the group as she gave them nuggets of wisdom to prepare them for a life outside residential care. “Do not let anyone else define who you are. Once you start living on your own you have to work hard.”
The engagement session was held at St Michael’s, one of the residential care facilities that Child’s i is repurposing into a community hub. Child’s i is working in partnership with the Archdiocese who run the home, and the founder who supports their education to prepare and support the young adults at the home with life skills, access to employment, and setting them up with small businesses as they transition from living in residential care into independent living.
Olga is Anna’s best friend. She escorted Anna to her new home as she was leaving the orphanage. “I felt like crying as we settled her belongings in her new home,” she said. Olga just like Anna has also been living at the residential care home for 16 years. “I am hoping to leave soon and start my life,” she says with a smile. “This session has changed me. It has taught me to own my story, own what I have, and to be proud of who I am.” She hopes to be a hotelier and a social worker.
“We are empowering the young adults for the journey ahead of them after leaving the residential care home,” David Adoke, the Child’s i Foundation Project Manager Makindye said, “By supporting the young adults to complete their education, and through peer education and mentoring develop the life skills they need to live independently, including access to gainful employment, and where possible set them up with small businesses as they leave, we are ensuring that they can take that next big step to look after themselves and each other as they live independently.”