Kampala's street children rehabilitated through music and art

M-Lisada is an orphanage in Uganda that empowers Kampala's street children through art.

Child homelessness is a major problem in Kampala, Uganda’s largest city. Poverty, war, terrorism, and a high birth rate have resulted in the displacement of millions of vulnerable children. One organisation aims to give at-risk children a better life through art. Called M-Lisada, Music, Life Skills, and Destitution Alleviation, the children’s home is mainly focused on empowerment through music but it also offers life skills in sustainable farming and more.

In 1996, 12-year-old Bosco Segawa’s story was not unlike that of children surviving in the city’s streets today. Orphaned, Segawa struggled to raise his three younger siblings on his own until he came across a children’s brass band at a private school. The school was at first reluctant to teach a group of street kids but Segawa persevered and he was soon taught to play alongside a group of his friends on weekends and public holidays. Soon they could play well enough to support themselves and in making a life for themselves, the group decided to open the rooms they occupied to more of Kampala’s vulnerable youth. Their initiative would later expand to an orphanage that has kept 400 children off the streets.

“M-Lisada strives to restore dignity and self-confidence through the teaching of life skills, music, and the arts, thereby improving the lives of vulnerable children, and their chances for the future,” reads the organisation’s website.

Music is what attracts children to the home. According to the organisation, it’s what rescues vulnerable children from a hard life. The children are taught music, take part in concerts, and go on to teach the next generation of vulnerable kids. “Music instills discipline and promotes teamwork, giving our children something to belong to,” says the home.

Alongside music, some children are also taught acrobatics, arts and crafts, cultural dance and cultural drumming. “Bright costumes, authentic, perfectly executed dances, and rhythmic music conspire to have the audience dancing in their seats. It’s quite a spectacle—be sure to see our residents perform,” adds the organisation.

The children of M-Lisada also produce cards, jewelry, art pieces, baskets, and small wallets and bags to exhibit and sell at craft exhibitions.

With a team of counsellors, peer-to-peer mentoring programmes and street concerts, M-Lisada hopes to build more schools and continue to offer the children of Uganda a place to grow, find safety, and find a place to belong.

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