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From the Streets of Uganda to a Leadership role
When I grew up we had to feed on leftovers thrown on the streets
My name is Solomon muganzi, 23 years old from Ugandan. I was raised by a single mother after my parents divorced years ago together with four of my siblings. My mum was not well educated though she could speak a few words in English.She worked as a casual labourer around the town of Mbale in eastern Uganda, at a small eating joint in Mbale town, where I grew up but stayed in the biggest slum of Mbale called Namatala. My mum was earning USH1,500 which was less than 1USD that could not help her meet the responsibilities she had to handle. This led to suffering and pain as we grew up feeding on leftover food which she bought at a cheaper cost than fresh food. This went on for a long time, but we did not mind even going to school with empty bellies. Life became unbearable and mum could not cope with what she was earning. This eventually forced her to start picking-up used charcoal from the garbage, which she sold and the proceeds used to take care of us, no matter how little it was.

 

One day our mother fell sick and had nothing to eat. Nobody could take care of us not even our father could remember we were his children. After a couple of days struggling with her without help; she passed away (Died). What hurt me the most was not her passing away, but the way she was wrapped in a mat and buried in a wet land out of the favour from the chairman representative of the area who requested for a place where we could lay her body to rest. This brought tears in my eyes and has never gone off my mind knowing all this time my father was with his new wife and family.

After the burial and with 8 months rent debt to pay, we had no one to turn to for help. My brother and myself were forced to the streets of Mbale town and parted ways with our sisters...it was life for the fittest . Later on we heard that a church had adopted them and they were sleeping in this church. This was a new church which was made of papyrus reeds. This was the only available place for them to sleep, a place they had to call home.

After three and half to four years after I was picked from the streets by Child Restoration Outreach Uganda (CRO), they identified my talent and passion for sports. I then joined their under-12 team where I got comfort in playing with other street kids in this project. After one year through rehabilitation, they took us somewhere to stay and school. I continued playing at the school that I was admitted and got a lot of friends as well gained fame because of playing soccer. I remember neighboring high schools that came to speak with my sports teacher, and eventually booked me while in primary school to play for them.

Despite this refuge, it was not easy to change my personality from the street, as that had become my life. I think I was not human by then yet was still young. With my young brother still struggling and surviving on the streets, life was something else. It took me time to change my perception and attitude to becoming a normal child. Light began to shine again in my life, and rays of hope filled me after spending days and weeks in the rehabilitation centre. That is when I realized I needed to be a better person and become somebody in future. I became appreciative as I became even more aware of self and the privilege of life, as many of my street friends died out of different circumstances.

When I joined secondary school, all the people in Mbale town and the school including teachers and students had already known me.I played in the first eleven of the school team and this made me proud. I was selected as captain of CRO Under 17 boys team and won several awards as best player and top scorer during different tournaments. During my final year,I was given the arm ban in which I became the new school team captain. During that year, I led my school to the regional finals where I scored two goals. This win resulted to our school team playing in the Copa Coca Cola National post primary schools competition, where we won the trophy for the first time in the tournaments history. I was among the best eighteen players selected at the tournament and had tours in uganda and Nairobi with the Uganda Copa Coca Cola selected team.

Having gone through all the above experience in sports as a player and a bit of leadership as captain,I got encouraged to start coaching other new junior colleagues from the street within CRO and later took courses in coaching which improved my coaching techniques. After the course at district level, I was given the first opportunity to train the Under 16 girls for the East Africa Cup tournament in Moshi Tanzania in 2010 under CHRISC Uganda. This was my first coaching experience in a big tournament in Tanzania.I took the girls and we were only able to reach quarter finals where we lost 5-0 to Super Mary of Tanzania who were by then the defending champions and even won that year.

In the year 2011, using the experience of what we lacked to have won the previous year,we reached finals where we beat Mathare United of Kenya in penalty short-outs after drawing nil, nil in the normal 90 minutes of play. This was great time for me being the first team to win the East Africa cup for my district under CHRISC Uganda. In the same year, I maintained the team and played in the first edition of Airtel rising stars and emerged as champions of eastern Uganda as well represented CHRISC Uganda at national level where we lost in the semi- finals.

In 2012 in the 2nd edition of Airtel rising stars,I coached CRO girls who won in the region of which we represented our region in the national tournament and emerged as champions in the country. The same year I took charge of the U13 boys to the East Africa Cup and made it to the finals though we lost 3-1 to Mathare United boys.

Having had some sports skills as a player and coach I heard of kicking AIDS Out!concept from CHRISC Mbale by Nasana Irene around 2008-2009 who was said to have had training in Kicking AIDS Out! in South Africa but I did not know exactly what it was. I got encouraged to know more about this theme (KAO) in one of the workshops she organized for Peer leaders. It was interesting and explaining Path ways, I knew I would make it to the highest level because it was easy for me to cross it with the sports programs I had with my participants especially when it comes to movement games. Irene encouraged me to do Kicking AIDS Out! activities and always visited and monitored my Kicking AIDS Out! program activities and sports in Mbale secondary school playing ground. Several other Kicking AIDS Out! workshops were conducted for Peer leaders at the district level and being one of the facilitators, Kaddu John Bosco recommended me to go for leader level one Training which he had organized in Ndejje District in 2010 which I attended, completed successfully and went back to share and implement the knowledge both in the field and several workshops thereafter.

In early 2012 during my vacation, I heard of an advertisement of YSEP program, I applied and was among the three short listed for final interviews in Kampala of which I still emerged as best for YSEP in Zambia. I am now attached to NOWSPAR. During my placement, in NOWSPAR, I have been able to conduct training of Peer leaders in various NOWSPAR chapters of which I have organized and conducted one under the supervision of Noah Mabutwe, a Master Trainer in the Kicking AIDS Out! Network. To expand my knowledge on Kicking AIDS Out! programs and activities, I have also been able to travel outside Zambia to Zimbabwe to find out how they run their programs and activities through interaction with one of the former YSEP volunteer Tapiwa manhango and Becky Jerry currently on YSEP program in Zimbabwe from Kenya. This gave me an over view of other options of conducting sessions both theoretically and practically based on ideas I got from Zimbabwe.

From all I had gone through am now more thankful. During rehabilitation, I was taught how to read and write, life skills, God’s word through discipleship and how to associate with people. Later on they traced and found my sisters. The eldest sister was at school under church support but one of them had passed away. This made me burst into tears because I so much loved my sisters though I could not support them. I am so thankful to Child Restoration Outreach, Uganda for taking us from the streets, providing us with food, shelter, clothing, and medical assistance. Through CRO, I was able to complete High school in 2011, yet they found me still in Grade three in primary school. What a great transformation I had. I now hope and believe that one day I will continue with studies in the university and hope to up grade to higher coaching levels like intermediate,CAF and other professional coaching levels given the opportunity and to upgrading my leadership in the Kicking AIDS Out! ladder.