**Update: As of April 25, 2014, thanks to the generosity and sacrificial giving of ACV/CAA supporters and friends, this project is FULLY FUNDED! Our heartfelt thanks to all those who gave!**
You are a law enforcement officer, serving your country’s most vulnerable members. You are the most senior official in the country presiding over child and family protection. Spouse abuse, child abuse, abandonment, human trafficking are all issues you and your headquarters face every single day. There are 520 child protection officers in 200 divisions of child and family protection all across your country. All are accountable to your authority.
As the chief of Child and Family Protection in Uganda, you currently share a one-room office with four other senior members of your team. Unlike other departments of police leadership, facilitated in a new centralized headquarters building, your team has been housed in a room at a police school for some time.
You do not have means of transportation assigned to your office; if you need to get somewhere for official business, you must find someone to give you a ride or you must find public transportation.
Tools you need to minimally perform your job are only available to you if you ask for help from non-government organizations. An inordinate amount of your time and energy is spent trying to solicit support from non-profits to help. Without their support, you do not have basic means to do your job and care for victims whom you are charged with protecting.
Day in and day out, women and children are brought to you who have been raped, trafficked, or abused…or all three. Abused women come to you with their children, all most definitely needing food, clothing, medical attention and protection. Babies are abandoned on street corners or found in dangerous places. Lost children end up on your office doorstep because they have run away from abuse at home and do not know where to find a safe family member.
Your office budget from the government includes NO funding for emergency accommodations, food, clothing or medical care for the people you serve. Yet, with every day comes multiple emergencies affecting your country’s most vulnerable members.
At the end of the work day, you give up asking for help from surrounding orphanages, schools and shelters in your quest for them to help provide for the immediate needs of the victims you serve. It is a hit or miss situation: you’ve made lots of phone calls with no good solution. These victims need somewhere to go. Right now. They were brought to you for protection, and it’s the end of the day. So you bring these children and fractured families home with you. Literally, to your own home. You cannot just lock your office door and walk away.
A few weeks ago, one of your colleagues took a teen boy home because there was no place to refer him to. She took him home to her husband and her children, because there was no other option besides turning him back to the streets. That young, troubled boy robbed her family that night and ran away.
And just the other day you were an integral part in busting up a sex trafficking ring. You inherited the issue of finding a solution for numerous teen girls who had been regularly abused by a man in power and authority. At least one girl pregnant. All needing food, safe shelter, clothing and medical attention (including disease testing, prenatal care, psychological care). You and others on your team parceled them out and brought them home. You paid for their food and clothing out of your own pocket. Because what other option is there?
Can you even imagine yourself in such a situation? In a job that requires so much?
For Christine Alalo, Chief Commissioner on Child and Family Protection Uganda, this is real life. For Christine Owang, Head of Anti-Trafficking, this is real life. These scenarios are not only plausible – they are the way of life for these most senior officers at Central Child and Family Protection.
This is where Child Advocacy Africa comes in.
Early last week, Freda Luzinda and I* were given the honor of meeting with Commissioner Alalo at the current Child Protection Office. Child Advocacy Africa has an ongoing collaborative relationship with Child Protection regarding child advocacy and child protection cases. Yet, this was my first experience meeting with Commissioner Alalo to hear about the astounding challenges facing her unit and the victims of abuse that they serve each and every day.
During the course of our conversation with Commissioner Alalo, I learned that this team is faced with ongoing victim protection and placement needs as well as the need to facilitate a move into a different office space they have been assigned. Child Protection has not been able to achieve a new office space in the new police office complex, due to the stigma associated with the people they serve. However, they were very recently allocated a derelict former police barrack apartment from which they will now be serving their constituents.
These amazing people must raise their own funds, dig into their own pockets, and petition their own contacts in the private sector to assist with basic repairs and renovations to make it habitable. They must start moving in this week, regardless of the condition it is in. They will be occupying this property for at least the next few years and will serve countless children and familes from this space.
Freda and I paid a visit over to the site this office will be moved into; we were given a tour by Francis, Head Police Inspector. This is what we found:
We were kindly asked by Commissioner Alalo to help provide a semi-permanent canopy structure outside the office building, along with benches so that children and families do not need to sit on the ground, out in the elements. The area allowed is only the width of the apartment at the back– 13feet by a depth of 25feet.
When we arrived at this location, the overall condition of the apartment was beyond imagination. Foul odors, mold & mildew, broken waterpipes, no sink, broken doors, sewage-filled toilet and shower area.
In my years of visiting Uganda, I have witnessed some pretty rough conditions that wonderful organizations must operate out of. But this place in its current state is not even safe. It is mind boggling to imagine this place serving Uganda’s most vulnerable and exploited children and families, in addition to the officials charged with their protection.
The broader issues of victim protection and safe accommodations for witnesses, as expressed by Commissioner Alalo, are very much needed. However, the cleanup and repair of this abandoned police barrack apartment, soon to be the head Child & Family Protection office, is an immediate need. There is a total quoted budget of $4,000 needed to make these repairs happen. So far, another organization has pledged some buckets of paint. Many other NGO’s have been requested to help, but none have stepped up to sponsor this.
Together, Child Advocacy Africa and A Child’s Voice feel compelled to come alongside these child protection professionals and show our support of their incredible work so they can better care for the victims that we all care deeply about.
In the absence of any other organization stepping forward to assist with the sanitary and functional repairs of this location, we feel led to raise the funds needed to complete these renovations and also provide for the outdoor reception area in a timely manner since the office will be required to move to the above location in the coming week, regardless of its condition. Will you help us invest in this very worthy endeavor? Our goal is to raise $4,000 specifically for this cause. Please visit this link to make your designated tax-deductible donation now!
A breakdown is below:
Metal sun shade structure for seating: $1100
Window panes: $190
Cement, Sand & Lime: $630
Wood Benches: $100/each (6 desired)
Labor for the above; $500
Please, help us spread the word about this story and about the people we wish to serve through partnership with the Child and Family Protection Unit!
***Unless you request to remain anonymous, the names of each person who gives toward this need will be placed on a letter of dedication to the office, for display. Feel free to include any “in honor of” or “in memory of” details with your donation!***