Imelda’s Story

After the tragic death of her sister, 15 year old Imelda* was accused of witchcraft and sent away from home. Forced to take refuge with a neighbour, Imelda became trapped as a domestic servant before fleeing to the street.

Following her parents’ separation, Imelda lived with her father and stepmother. Her step-mother alleged she had bewitched her step-sister, causing her death. Believing these allegations of witchcraft, Imelda’s father sent her to live with her grandmother, who also believed the story and treated Imelda harshly, preventing her from attending school.

Eventually Imelda’s neighbour found her work as a domestic servant. But she was made to work for long hours with no pay- later discovering her wages were being taken by the neighbour. Feeling she had no other option, Imelda escaped to the streets. Imelda wandered around aimlessly until a kind hearted person took her to the local police station, where police referred her to Retrak’s centre.

During Imelda’s time in the Bulamu Transition Centre she was an eager participant in all the activities, her sense of responsibility impressed her peers who elected her as the secretary and, later, Chairperson to the Children’s Council.

Retrak’s social workers tried repeatedly to contact Imelda’s father, by phone and home visits, but he and her step-mother continued to reject her. Determined to return to her family, Imelda led the social workers to her uncle who attempted to mediate, but sadly this also failed. Retrak assessed that reintegration with her biological family was not in Imelda’s best interests, and so found her a place on Retrak’s Foster Care programme. In collaboration with the District Probation and Social Welfare Officers, Retrak identified a foster family and also a vocational training school where Imelda could gain a catering qualification.

Now cared for and happily settled with her foster family, Imelda has the opportunity of a fresh start and a brighter future. Her school have praised her hard work and commitment, and she thanked Retrak for helping her even when all her family had rejected her.

* Name changed to protect the child’s identity.