Tessa Finds Hope
De facto orphans is a concept we so rarely come across in our sheltered western lives. Our parents, for most of us, do their best to love and care for us, even if they don’t do it perfectly. Public stories of uncared for children make national media and these little ones are swiftly re-homed and taken in. On the other end of the spectrum, the street children of Uganda is largely a community of de facto orphans. Abandoned by their parents, uncared for and alone, unsheltered by the state.
“Lots of the street children aren’t true orphans but their parents don’t care for them so they end up in town.” – Lillian, Hope Street Social Worker.
Tessa (pseudonym) is a young girl who grew up in such circumstance; abandoned multiple times by her mother and largely ignored by an alcoholic father. The most attention she received was in times of abuse, her earliest memories those of regular beatings. Tessa was forced to help her father harvest drugs. If she refused, the violence escalated. One day Tessa was lying on the ground attempting to recover from a severe beating when her father hit her head with a machete. The scar will be with her forever.
Tessa was sent to live with her grandparents, a new village and a change of scenery. But the violence and abuse didn’t change. Her grandmother would get drunk on a regular basis and beat her. There was little food and no money for Tessa to attend school.
One day, her mother came back to find her;
“She put her hands on my neck and kicked me. I managed to run away and I hid inside a burnt house. There were lots of white insects there, they scared me.” – Tessa.
A young girl, who had become completely isolated from her family. Scared, alone, and left to survive off nothing.
“The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.” – Psalm 146.9
Tessa began to harvest grass in the bush, making brooms to sell for food. People would ask why she carried such a heavy load all by herself, but no-one intervened. She found other children like her, they would play in the dirt and forage for food together. One day, Tessa was toking some fish they caught when a group of unknown adults approached her.
The adults had little trouble persuading Tessa to go home with them. Hungry and desperate, she grabbed their hands and ran along willingly.
When she arrived at this new house, she was allowed to bathe. The adults gave Tessa tea and rice, even new clothes to wear!
Luckily for Tessa, these people were Hope Street’s social workers. However the story of her rescue highlights how easily this vulnerable child could have been taken in by traffickers.
Today, Tessa is full of hope. She wants to become a nurse or a teacher and is very much enjoying school. The Hope Street team have re-engaged with her grandparents, who have been going to church and been sober for over a year. If this emotional and spiritual rehabilitation continues, Tessa may be able to live with them once again in a loving, healthy family environment.
“We were really struggling in life, but now we can see with our own eyes what God is doing… it really encourages us. Once the Hope family started meeting me personally, my life really changed” – Tessa’s grandmother.
Hope Street is able to work on the ground in Uganda to enact real change in people and communities. The story of Tessa is sadly just one story of many, where there are so many children living in vulnerable situations. We believe that de facto orphans are in fact, something worth writing home about. What can you do to bring hope into a lost child’s life?
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” – Psalm 82:3
Partner with us today, in hope, prayer and through project sponsorship. We thank you for all you have done to help Tessa and her family.