Our team crossed paths with London based Erina Nalwoga while working on a joint adoption project. On hearing her amazing story about being raised in foster care, we could not help but ask her to share her life story with our supporters. Below we bring you Erina’s story in her own words:
Who is Erina?
My name is Erina, I am 28 years old and was born in Kampala, Uganda. I came to London at the age of 4 and was in foster care by the age of 5. I remained in long term foster care with the Government holding parental responsibility for me until the age of 23 when I graduated from University. I hold a BA Hons. in Creative Advertising Strategy and am currently studying part time for a Masters degree in Migration and Diaspora Studies at SOAS, University of London.
Since the age of 18, I have been committed to re-shaping the care system for those that follow and not only inspiring other young people to do the same but empowering them to step forward and make a difference. I currently work for the UK’s oldest running children’s charity Coram as a Programme Manager.
Tell us about your childhood
Being only 4 when I came to London, my memory of Kampala as a child is limited. However, I do have vague memories of my grandmother’s blue house where I stayed in Kagoma and the nursery school I went to just a few minutes’ walk from the house. My dad is an aircraft engineer and my birth mum still owns a small shop somewhere in Kampala.
My dad came to London first and I followed with my uncle maybe a year or so after that, leaving my mum in Kampala. Due to ongoing incidents, I was placed with a foster family from the Caribbean in East London. Although this was initially meant to be a short term (interim) placement that was only supposed to last up to five weeks, I ended up staying with this family for five years. Many of my morals and values which I carry today were formed whilst with this family.
Although I lived with other families thereafter, the upbringing from that first family always stayed with me.
How has growing up in foster care shaped your life and career?
Being fostered allowed me to experience the love of a stable, well-functioning family, along with other families that did not work so well – which I learnt so much from also. Growing up in family care has given me a very balanced view of life and what can be achieved, no matter what your start in life was like.
Tell us about your work
Whilst I was at university I started working with the international charity Barnardos in their Children’s Rights Department along with some other young people and for the first time, I noticed the solidarity, perseverance, resilience and power that care-experienced young people have and how that can be used to advocate for change within the system.
So, since the age of about 20, I have been committed to making a difference in the lives of children and young people coming in after fostering and adoption. All the work that I do is to show that these young people are inspired, ambitious, determined, intelligent, and hardworking and have the fact that they were raised in foster care only as an addition to their profile; not the opening line.
Why do think it is important for children to grow up in families?
I think it is extremely important for children to grow up in families. Children need to feel loved, they need attention, they need stability and they need to have a sense of belonging. Growing up in an orphanage with many other children, each with different individual needs does not echo how the majority of their peers grow up, nor does it give them a well-rounded, balanced upbringing. Not every child is the same, and that statement shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, should there be a choice of whether to raise a child in an orphanage or in a committed and loving family, I would choose the latter every time.
Any last words for the Ugandans Adopt supporter who is thinking about taking that first step towards foster care or adoption?
If you’re thinking about it, your heart is already there. Take the leap and make a difference to a child who is unable to speak up for what they really want.