In Uganda, human trafficking is on the rise. Predators have preyed on vulnerable families and children during the pandemic when children were unable to go to school. A 2020 report estimated around 12,000 children had been exploited through trafficking; from 2020 to 2021, the number of suspected victims of human trafficking rose by 30%.
From trauma and loss…
Doreen knows the trauma and challenges that come from living in poverty. Her father was shot and killed when she was just six years old. Her mother had never worked outside the home, and had six children to raise, so they were forced to leave their comfortable home.
“My mother became unwell with the worry and hardship of it all,” says Doreen. “We lived in one room together, with no electricity or proper flooring. We were the poorest among the poor. I remember her serving us food, saying she’d eat hers later – but when I looked in the pot, it was empty.”
The move to a different area, and the need for money forced Doreen out of school, which is a fee-paying system in Uganda. From the age of six, she was breaking rocks on the side of the road to sell to builders, earning a meagre amount of money. “This was a very traumatic time for us. It felt like there was no hope for our family.”
… to hope restored
Wonderfully, Doreen’s mum learnt about Compassion and two of her children were enrolled onto the programme at the local church. “I remember dancing at home because I was going back to school! Hope was revived for us as a family!”
Doreen’s sense of possibility began to grow through her interactions with the project staff and volunteers. “They showed us so much love. We didn’t just get educational support, we got medical care, mosquito nets for our home, amazing meals at the centre, the chance to have fun. The love there was strong, and it was genuine. The fact my brother and I got a full education meant we could support our whole family. As adults, my siblings now all have jobs, and we take care of our mother. She is my hero.”
As a teenager, Doreen began to dream of how she might help others in the future. She knew for herself that healing after suffering was possible. She could bear testimony to the fact that when caring people invest in a person, give them love and the right support then that individual can gain the capabilities and self-belief to move towards a brighter future.
Doreen wanted to support others who’d also experienced the grief, hardships and dangers of poverty. She shared her dream with her project tutor who suggested a career in social work, and with remarkable determination, Doreen pursued this course at university alongside working to support herself and her family.
At Compassion, we want every child to be given all the care, skills and encouragement they need to reach their God-given potential. When you sponsor a girl, like Doreen, you get to join the incredible team who surrounds them, coming alongside their parents, Compassion project tutors, church pastor and wider community—sparking hope of a brighter future.
Safety and hope for at-risk girls
“I had times of being disheartened by many setbacks,” says Doreen. “It’s challenging to fund a project like I had in mind, but incredibly, God has provided.”
Lupins Africa—a hostel for restoring girls who’ve faced sexual exploitation through trafficking and abuse—began in 2021. “It was only after I had registered our charity name that I discovered this flower symbolises healing from trauma. It felt like a powerful endorsement from God that He is for us.”
Since they first opened, Doreen has rescued 71 girls. Weekly, new cases are brought to their attention by police and other government organisations. The girls come to the shelter and they each get an individualised rehabilitation programme.
“The first thing we say to the girls when they arrive is, ‘you are safe now.’ Every girl’s journey of healing from trauma is different, and we’ve learned to let go of expectations,” says Doreen. “Most of the girls are not in education, so we have a teacher who helps them learn to write and prepare to start school. We also support them in pursuing justice through the courts.”
When the girls are ready, Doreen and her colleagues (two of whom are also Compassion graduates) find safe homes for them, away from the households where they faced abuse. Doreen continues rigorous follow-up care to ensure the girls remain safe and well.
How you can help us fight against exploitation
Without support, a girl living in poverty can be vulnerable to exploitation and feel powerless to change her circumstances or her future. Global inequality continues to rob many girls of the opportunity to fulfil their potential. All children living in poverty are vulnerable, but girls face higher risk of abuse and exploitation.
This summer, during the Women’s World Cup, we’d love you to help us highlight the need to champion girls and Be On Her Team. Together we can surround girls with a team of advocates; people like Doreen—counsellors, tutors, healthcare professionals, trusted caregivers, new friends, and sponsors— together, we can equip and empower a girl to fulfil her God-given potential.
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