Elly Armagos and Andy Moulton are youth workers from Melbourne currently volunteering in Kampala with Youth Aid Uganda. Here, Elly shares her observations of the challenges facing young people and the importance of their work.
Kampala is the city that truly never sleeps, where the church doors stay open as long as the nightclubs; where you wonder if there is a war currently in progress from the heavy presence of armed camouflage clothed soldiers, cradling intimidating AK-47s; where wooden, outdoor food stalls line the side of the roads in the evening, lit up only by soothing candles, reminding me of the comforting carols by candlelight from home; where it is impossible to walk and talk at the same time as my mind is busy avoiding boda boda’s, trucks, taxis, pot holes, rocks and random chicken feet; where children run and hug my legs as I walk to work, waving bye instead of hi; where I receive 12 marriage proposals a day and where people assume I speak their language and begin having a conversation with me in Luganda.
My work as a volunteer at Youth AID Uganda is steadily progressing and I am learning a great deal about the human rights violations affecting vulnerable young people and those described as the ‘urban poor.’ Where does one start? It is enough to even bring salty tears to the eyes of those who are not yet parents. Child labour, physical, mental, sexual abuse, rape with family members and outsiders as the perpetrators, torture, female genital mutilation, child prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse, human trafficking, crime, unemployment, no access to education or skill development, abandonment, orphans, HIV/AIDS, homelessness and poverty.
At Youth Aid Uganda, we are working towards freeing children and youth from these human rights violations. One such method is through the current Child Labour Prevention and Rehabilitation project. It aims to eradicate the destructive use of child labour in the everyday lives of children and youth. It works under the premise that young people deserve an equal opportunity to thrive in a healthy and happy environment. Together with the Youth Aid team, I hope to continue to pass on my skills in identifying vulnerable young people and their needs through sensitively welcoming them to share their stories. In time these bright young people will be placed with local artisans to obtain skills in useful professions such as tailoring, hairdressing and carpentry. A number will be connected back into education, while their families have the option to be provided with capital to start a small business. We progressively work towards a strong generation of liberated young people.