My work placement took place at S.A.L.V.E. International (www.salveinternational.org) a small charity, based both in Jinja, Uganda, and Manchester, which works with street-connected children in Uganda, where it runs small rescue centres for street-connected children. Its main objective is to get the children out of the streets, resettle them with their relatives or in other safe environments, and send them to school. During my work placement, I took over the role of Inequality Question Officer and I was in charge of one of S.A.L.V.E programs, the Inequality Question project (www.inequalityquestion.com).
This project consists of a child-safe online platform aiming to connect the Ugandan street-connected children and other people – both adults and children – across the world. Each month the street-connected children of S.A.L.V.E’s centre decide a question about a topic they are interested in debating, such as “What does inequality mean to you?” or “Does war help us to have peace and a better world?”. The question is then posted on the platform and, during the month, people all around the world can share their thoughts by answering the question on the platform itself or on social media, i.e. Twitter or Facebook. In addition, every last Thursday of the month, a two-hour live debate on the platform takes place.
During these two hours, the street-connected children in Uganda are provided with laptops and internet connection, and, assisted by S.A.L.V.E. social workers, they share their thoughts on the platform, together with other people around the world who might want to join. Among other roles, I was in charge of this platform, which can be considered an innovative project that embraces an empowerment approach toward street-connected children: instead of simply satisfying their basic needs and involving them in rehabilitating programs, this project offers a possibility to give them a voice, a particularly important element since street-connected children are often excluded from their society, becoming “invisible”.
During my work placement, it was very exciting to see the enthusiasm of the children in answering the questions, especially during the live debates. It also meant learning their names, watching photos or videos of them, in some cases taken or recoded by the children themselves, and better understanding the problems they are going through, such as drug addiction, abuses and social exclusion. Therefore, a work placement experience, such as mine at S.A.L.V.E, represents a valuable learning opportunity. Choosing this work placement instead of a taught module definitely represented the right choice for me since it did not only give me the possibility to develop and improve both practical skills, such as time management skills or image editing, and ‘soft’ skills, such as talking to colleagues, but it also enhanced my knowledge about sensitive topics regarding the life of street-connected children.