It wasn’t what she expected. Certainly not from the man she loved! How dare he not be happy that she was with a child? His child. Did their love not mean anything? Barely an adult then, Aline’s life as she knew it was over. She was stuck. As if that was not bad enough, the love of her life had fled leaving her with the task of raising their child alone. Even worse, war broke out, and the young Congolese mother found herself at the Nakivale refugee settlement in Isingiro District with not more than a dollar in her purse.

How was she going to look after a child without a skill? One day an idea occurred to her, and out loud, she said it: “I should just go back to school here in the camp.” That was a good thought, albeit what she urgently needed was a vocational skill that would enable her to provide for her child. Aline visited the Humanitarian Initiative Just Relief Aid (HIJRA) office seeking support, and luckily for her, she was referred to Windle International Uganda.

Light at the end of the tunnel

“Windle International Uganda provided me with a scholarship to study saloon and hairdressing at Nakivale Vocational Training Centre,” she narrates. She studied for the first year (2018) and got her first Directorate in Industrial Training (DIT) certificate in saloon and hairdressing. “I later went back in 2019 and acquired another certificate from the same institute,” she narrates. Her life was finally on course; the future that seemed bleak glimmered with hope.

Aline started off working as a freelance hairdresser within her neighborhood. She offered hairdressing and salon services at relatively lower prices while still pursuing her course. “As time went on, the number of people I worked on each day increased from two to three and I was still able to complete the tasks,” she narrates. Besides learning the craft, Aline had been told about the benefits of saving.

When her savings accumulated, she opened up her saloon within the settlement. “I bought equipment, hairdressing items and a mirror for the saloon,” she recounts. This was a great idea and today Aline is a go-to person for people seeking saloon services within the Nakivale settlement.

Every day, Aline works on an average of five people and earns about twenty-five thousand Ugandan shillings. Yet, her expenditure is no more than ten thousand shillings. “I am saving for my child, but I am also saving to expand my saloon,” she tells of her dreams. The young mother, who could barely raise ten dollars a month, now earns $200 and is an active member of her area savings group.

“In the future when my business grows and gets more equipment, I will offer training in hairdressing to other youth within my neighborhood,” the soft-spoken Aline says. “Especially girls, such that they can also use the same skills to change and improve their lives.”

Aline has wise counsel: “I wish to tell my fellow refugees especially the young mothers like me who have been given a chance to access education to concentrate and work hard,” she says. Quickly, she tells of a time she had to tolerate men she didn’t trust in the hope of getting money to feed her child. “Not today!” she exclaims. “I can fully support myself.”

Her voice drops to a whisper, and her lips spread into an infectious smile. “I am really happy and grateful for the opportunity I was given by Windle International Uganda,” a grinning Aline says. “I can now take care of myself, my child and my mother when the need arises.”

The betrayal from the father of her child has slowly become a distant memory as there is so much to do and little time to worry.

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