A 12-year-old boy was one of 12 children forced to train as an acrobat after being trafficked from a small Ugandan island to a slum in the country’s capital, Kampala.
The children were exploited and made to work long hours, dancing in bars and performing open-air shows, often going without food.
At the time he was trafficked, George* was living in extreme poverty under the guardianship of his maternal grandmother, who was the sole carer for a further seven grandchildren.
A member of staff at global anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice said: “George’s mother and father separated while he was young, and both went their separate ways, handing their son over to his grandmother who lived on an island in Lake Victoria, one of the African Great Lakes.
“However, his older relative was in poor health and her only means of income was the small amount she earned working on nearby farms.
“So when a stranger offered to support George’s education and train him to dance, his grandmother took up the offer in the hope of securing him a better life.”
But George was transported to Kampala for child labour, forced into acrobatics and dance, and denied the education that had been promised to his guardian.
The trafficker kept George and the 11 other children, boys and girls aged four to 16, in one small room, living in horrendous conditions.
It was a member of the community, who Hope for Justice had previously trained to spot the signs of human trafficking, who alerted the police to their plight.
Officers arrested the male perpetrator, who remains in police custody and is due to go on trial for child trafficking.
All 12 children were rescued and referred to Hope for Justice for care and protection. They received medical care, counselling, catch-up education and life skills at one of the charity’s Lighthouses – short-term care facilities.
Just days after being referred, George became sick and was admitted to hospital, later being diagnosed with anaemia – a condition which meant he did not have enough red blood cells or haemoglobin to meet his body’s needs.
The charity arranged for George’s grandmother to travel and attend the child in the hospital.
She said: “Thank you so much to the Hope for Justice team for the support you have rendered me and my child in such hard times.”
George was discharged after six days and the family has now been reunited. Hope for Justice is continuing to support George’s enrolment at school, and helping to develop his grandmother’s capacity to care for the other children in her household.
A nurse at the Lighthouse is monitoring George’s condition through regular phone calls with the family.
George hopes to one day become a teacher.
He said to a member of Hope for Justice’s team: “Thank you so much for bringing me back home.
“I am happy to be with my grandmother again.”
*Name changed to protect identity of victim