The Difference A Shower Makes

Showering in the slum of Kisenyi is not free. It costs 500 Ugandan Schillings (UGX), about 14 cents. For most of us, that doesn't seem like a lot of money — but when you are a kid living on the streets, just trying to survive, 14 cents is hard to come by. And when a child can raise that money — they prefer to spend it on food or drugs instead of showering. And who could blame them?

Mugerwa Ashraf

"I come from Masesse Island Kisima. I left home when I was 10 years — I am now 14. My mother is at home, and I lost my dad while fishing on the lake. I don't really know the reason as to why I left home, I was brought here by a friend. I can't go back home by myself now. I lost interest in school in primary three level, though now I wish to resume school at any level."

When I first laid eyes on Ashraf, my initial reaction was one of sadness. Here is this tiny boy, who I mistook for a 10-year-old (he's actually 14), looking defeated and wandering around in a drug-induced haze. His clothing didn't help either. The darkness of his clothes accentuated his overall aura. Dark brown baseball cap, black t-shirt, black pants, over-sized black sneakers and what looked like a once-heavy dark gray winter jacket that was now disintegrating. Overtime it became apparent that this was the only outfit Ashraf owned, though he'd occasionally switch-up the baseball cap.

One afternoon we got to talking; he informed me that he had been wearing the same clothes for more than a year (though, now I think he might have been deceiving me), and he couldn't remember the last time he had showered — he told me as he laughed.

WHAT? Who doesn't shower? Prior to that moment, the issue of showering, for me, was always a choice. It never occurred to me that people, let alone kids, might not have the option to bathe.

Just another thing I have learned that I take for granted.

When I asked him if he wanted to shower, he smiled. "Auntie, I have lice. Why would I shower? I'm gonna put these clothes back on and still have lice!" As he is telling me this, he is looking for lice he can pick off his body to show me.

Not wanting to get lice myself, I informed him, "It’s not necessary, I believe you."

Determined, he finds one and with a smirk, shoves it in my face. "Look, lice, why shower?"

Who could argue with that logic? Because unless you can shower with hot water and put on new clothes, showering would be a waste.

But I convinced him to take a shower anyway — or so I thought.

Having to leave, I put one of the older kids, Roxanne, in charge. I gave her 10,000 UGX ($2.77), selected 20 kids — Ashraf includedwith strict instructions that the money was only to be used for bathing. And off they went.

When I returned the next day, I asked Ashraf, "Did you bathe?"  

"Auntie," he said, looking as if he is going to cry. "No, the others kids refused to let me bathe, and they kept the money."

Blinded by his cuteness, and having convinced myself he wouldn't lie to me, I confronted Roxanne.  She told a different story. "This boy refused to shower, and demanded I give him the money. When I refused, he stormed off."

Realizing he had been caught in lie and how much it hurt me, he wouldn't look at me. I explained, I had come back to give him money for new clothes; but realizing I could no longer trust him, I couldn't give him the money.

With Ashraf on the verge of tears, I agreed to take him shoppingon one condition: he would shower afterwards. He reluctantly agreed.

Check out Ashraf's transformation. This young boy goes from doom and gloom, to a smile so bright it outshines the sun. For me it was a magical moment. If for only an afternoon, I was able to give this boy his dignity back.

Before

After

Fortunately for me and you showering is a choicebut for the 10,000 kids living on the streets of Uganda, it is a luxury not afforded to them.

So on July 22, Shule Foundation will host our Christmas in July event, the first health and hygiene initiative benefiting the street kids living in Kisenyi in partnership with Alive Medical Services, Dignity Dreams and The Outflow. We will also launch our Day of Beauty with a Purpose program that will allow the boys and girls of the slum to shower on a daily basis, using quality skincare products. 

For only $75 ($50 for showering; $25 for products), a child living in the slum can shower for an entire year. Learn more about our Christmas in July event, and how you can help. 

Together let’s give these children their dignity back. And make showering a choice, not a luxury just like it is for you and me.

Please share this post! Though showering every day is not a necessity, not showering at all can, over time, wreak havoc on your skin and overall health. Read about what happens when you don't shower for a few days, a month, or even for a year.