At five years old, this little boy was forced to rummage for food in bins and sleep on cold, hard floors often exposed to the elements. Every day he lived with the very real risk of being exploited by child traffickers and sexual predators.
Sudan's street-child problem
No-one is sure how many children live on the streets of Khartoum, but the number seems to be growing. The country’s bloody past and continuing outbreaks of violence have left many children without their parents. Displaced and with no-one to care for them, many gravitate towards the capital where they end up homeless.
Sudan also has one of the highest poverty rates in the world; 46.5% of the Sudanese population live below the poverty line and many families are unable to provide adequate care for their children. As in Suleyman’s case, many of these children end up living on the streets of Khartoum. Social service provision for these children is virtually non-exist and sadly the majority slip through the cracks.
A loving home
Luckily for Suleyman, the team from SOS Children’s Villages Sudan found him and brought him to our Village in Khartoum.
Thani Mudasir, one of the team members, remembers the day six-year-old Suleyman arrived at the Village. “He did not have any basic skills when he came to us. He could not eat properly, put on shoes or even name common everyday objects,” she says. “He was angry and communicated only through violence. It took him a while to understand what a family was, who a mother was and what siblings were.”
Initially withdrawn, sad and angry, Suleyman struggled to trust anyone – particularly adults. He was suspicious of everyone and didn’t know how to form friendships or build relationships.
In his first few weeks in the Village he would isolate himself and watch from a safe distance as the other children played and laughed together. If anyone moved anything that belonged to him he would lash out.
“I had to encourage Suleyman to treat his SOS brothers and sisters with care and kindness,” says Fawziya his SOS mother. “I taught him how to deal with his anger, his fears and insecurities in an acceptable way.”
Part of the family
This little boy had been through so much in his short life and had known nothing but fear, but with the help and love Fawziya, he slowly but surely began to adapt to his new circumstances. “I was patient and gentle with him,” she explains. “I did all I could to make him feel safe and a part of the family.”
Two years later, Suleyman is a smiley, happy little boy. He is always the first to welcome new children in his class at school and does everything he can to make them feel at ease and comfortable.
“The SOS Village is fun to live in and I have lots of friends,” grins Suleyman. “My family is nice and I feel safe with them because I love them and they love me. When I grow up I want to be a policeman so I can help and protect people and make sure they are safe.”
We have been working to protect and care for vulnerable children like Suelyman in Sudan for over 45 years. Discover more about our work there.