Mariko has just started secondary school and he’s feeling pretty chuffed with himself. He’s a young man who’s had a tough start in life and has struggled with being orphaned, being let down, negative peer pressure and a lot of struggles. But life is heading in the right direction and he’s determined to keep going.

Mariko is 14 years old. He can’t remember anything about his father. His mother moved to Namatala with him and his three siblings when he was just a few years old, so all he can remember is living in a slum. His mum struggled to send him to primary school but after the first year, she ran out of money and he had to stay at home whilst watching his mates go off to school every day. Another local charity then offered to help pay for his primary school fees.

During this time, his mother died. Child of Hope stepped in to help with accommodation and food, etc (as they were already sponsoring his sister) but requested the other charity to continue with his education fees. However they also ran out of money and so, although he’d managed to reach P7, he only completed the first term. Again he was stuck at home … and getting into bad company. He would spend every day hanging out with dubious friends and getting into trouble. Meanwhile, his sister (Daidai) was doing well under the care of Child of Hope. Of course, our welfare team couldn’t bear to see her brother struggling… so we decided to make an exception. We checked Mariko’s academic ability and realised that he needed to go back and repeat P6 before trying the final and important year of primary education.

This time, Mariko worked hard. He received lots of counselling, love and fast-track education at Child of Hope and he started to excel. With an encouraging set of friends who were focussed on working hard, he knuckled down and joined in. That was at the start of 2014. At the end of last year he took his primary leaving exam and achieved division 2 (that’s very good … division 1 is awesome!)

When he sat and chatted with me this week, he told me his dream future. He wants to be married (to only one wife!) with two or three children. He’d like to live in a house with a big garden. He’s interested in perhaps becoming a doctor, although wants to find out more… and on the side, he’d like to keep cows and goats and rabbits (with a few dogs)!

He told me that coming to Child of Hope allowed him to have a new start with a good life. He’s made lots of new friends and they all help each other with their studies. But he still loves playing football and plays defence for the Child of Hope team! At the end of our conversation he said: “Auntie Bex, please thank everyone at Child of Hope for helping me with my studies, accommodation, food… and all my other needs.”

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