My name is Julius Kamanga, and at the age of seventeen, I have experienced a life filled with struggles and adversity. I come from a family of four children, with three boys and a girl. Unfortunately, our family was torn apart when my parents divorced, and the reason behind it was unimaginable. My father had planned to sell me to a wealthy man living in the UK, lured by a substantial sum of money he couldn’t resist.

Left in the care of our single mother, my siblings and I faced daily hardships as she had no source of income. Life became a constant battle, and things only grew worse as days went by. In desperation, my mother made a heart-wrenching decision and sent me to live with my father and his new wife. Little did I know that my stepmother’s presence would bring nothing but pain into my life.

From the moment I stepped into their home, I was subjected to physical and emotional abuse. My stepmother withheld basic necessities from me, and instead of providing the support and care I needed, she hurled insults and belittled me, constantly reminding me of how unlucky and illegitimate I was. My father was present, but he remained silent, failing to protect me from her cruelty.

As time passed, the situation only worsened. I couldn’t bear the pain any longer and decided to reach out to my mother for help. With great courage, she rescued me from that nightmare. However, seeking justice through legal means proved futile as my father refused to cooperate, leaving us without recourse.

The following two years were filled with uncertainty as I stayed home, unable to attend school. But my mother’s love and determination never wavered. She arranged for me to live with her sister and her husband in Salima, hoping for a better life. Unfortunately, my aunt and uncle had their own conditions. They expected me to sell local donuts (mandasi) for a meager salary. Yet, after working tirelessly for five months, they broke their promise, leaving me hungry and without any payment for my efforts.

Living with them became unbearable. My uncle’s hostility grew, and he demanded that I leave their home, refusing to provide any support until I did so. Faced with hunger and mistreatment, I made the painful decision to leave. I sought shelter with a friend, hoping for some solace. However, my aunt’s interference forced my friend to expel me from his home, accusing me of being cursed and a witch.

Now homeless and with nowhere to turn, I reached out to my father for help. But his response shattered my heart. He coldly rejected me, instructing me never to contact him again. I was lost and desperate until, by chance, I encountered another friend who had faced a similar rejection. He had found temporary shelter at the DC’s place, and he kindly extended his hand to me.

Although given a place to stay, we were left to fend for ourselves. Food, fees, and clothing were luxuries we couldn’t afford. It was in this moment of despair that I learned about Youth Empowerment and Support Initiative (YESI). I humbly reached out to them, hoping for assistance with fees, food, and even a potential future place to stay.

I am in Form two now and my dreams remain intact despite the hardships I’ve endured. I yearn to become a doctor one day, not only to secure a better life for myself but also to help children who face similar struggles. With YESI’s support, I hope to build a brighter future, one where no child has to suffer as I have. Julius Kamanga is one of the 24 students from five schools supported by YESI under the Janet Allan Educational Fund, a scholarship program that was established to educate brilliant young students from Salima. The fund comes with support from the Allan Family and other well-wishers in memory of their mother and friend, Janet Allan, who died at the age of 73 in February 2022.