Music to the rescue: 20 years of helping street children

Thursday June 7 2018

Music rescue 20 years helping street children

Bosco Ssegawa has helped street children for twenty years. 

By David S. Mukooza

The sound of different musical instruments welcomes you to the premises of M-Lisada, a non-governmental organisation founded by Bosco Ssegawa.
M-Lisada is derived from the words music, life-skills and destitution alleviation. The organisation was founded by three former street children who came together because of their love for music and decided to leave the streets.

Ssegawa, one of the founders and now the chief executive officer of (Mlisada), says life on the streets was not easy. They suffered cold nights, hunger, diseases, public discrimination and harassment for so long. He adds that because they hated life, they did not value the life of others. “We saw people as a means of survival and we would harm you as long as you were our means of survival at that time,” says Ssegawa.

Starting out
One evening in 1996 as Ssegawa and his colleagues roamed the streets of Nsambya, a city suburb, they noticed a brass band at St Peters Primary School in Nsambya carrying on with their evening practice. The boys were glued in place listening to the tunes being played by their fellow young ones who they thought privileged. They decided to befriend the band’s trainer Peter Sendawula, who they told their story. Ssegawa says after listening, Peter was touched by their story and later started teaching them how to play the brass instruments.

However their breakthrough came after they met a German student, Christopher, who was in Uganda for his academic research.
“On his evening walk one day, Christopher heard the brass band playing. He gained interest in what we were doing and engaged us after the training. We asked him if he could procure instruments to help us start our own band through which we would earn a living and help other underprivileged children as well. Fortunately, he sent the instruments through the German Embassy and this was the beginning of M-Lisada,” Ssegawa narrates.

They started off by playing at weddings and parties and owing to their unique musical talent, the boys attracted the attention of MTN, a telecommunications company, who decided to sponsor their education at the Kampala Music School. With their acquired ability to read music, M-Lisada eventually became a top-notch-brass-musical ensemble, able to play cabaret and concert music for VIP audiences.

Helping others
“We then started looking out for less privileged children and taught them music. We have supported more than 2,000 youth and children and most of them have become successful. We take them to school and also try to teach them music because this is what made us. We support 518 children from Kampilingisa Children Rehabilitation Centre and also set up a branch in Kalangala that helps children who have lost their parents to HIV,” Ssegawa says.

“We provide guidance and counselling services and help them live a normal life. M-Lisada has enjoyed support from both local and international partners such as the US and German Embassies, Masomo Denmark, MTN, Brass for Africa, Interkultura, Torfs, M-lisada Africa Foundation, Rotary clubs, and private individuals among others.

Ssegawa boasts of the huge numbers of children they have helped since they started. He adds that the fact that they started in a one-room rented house and now have a number of established centres with the main one in Nsambya is a great achievement. “We have also been able to attract many supporters because of the trust that we have exhibited. Some of our children have become music teachers at various schools across the country. Above all, we have been able to restore the hope of many children who are less privileged,” he adds.

M-Lisada will be celebrating 20 years since its inception through organising a series of events including a walk to Bombo where the organisation will construct a Shs2b school and a vocational institute. The organisation has also produced the “Dance of Hope Tour” that started in North America on January 05, 2018.

Through this, M-Lisada children are leading workshops and performing in schools, universities and performing arts centres across the United States. “This has improved our relationship internationally and has also helped us to fundraise for our children,” Ssegawa says.