A Second Chance for Children on the Streets
Three years ago, Salesian Brother Lothar Wagner surveyed a plot of barren land and saw a promising opportunity. Today, nourished by his vision, hundreds of former street children are cultivating the seeds for more vibrant futures at the Don Bosco Kuajok in South Sudan.
This work is more important now than ever. In a country defined as endemically poor—more than 80 percent of the population lives on the equivalent of $1 per day or less—the challenges youth face are profound. Long before a protracted civil war first erupted in 2013, South Sudan suffered one of the worst literacy rates in the world. Today, more than 70 percent of children are out of school—the result of complex social and cultural conditions that together contribute to spiraling generational poverty and despair. Ultimately, thousands of precious girls and boys end up on the streets … driven there by hunger, violence at home, or the need to help support their families.
“Unfortunately, as our Salesian missionaries know from experience, children on the streets are incredibly vulnerable,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “In South Sudan especially, they are easy targets for recruitment as child soldiers—lured by the promise of food, shelter and ‘protection.’ But even those who escape this fate grapple every day with malnutrition, illness and having nowhere safe to sleep. The last thing on their minds is going to school, which of course is the one thing that could help them turn their lives around.”
This is exactly what Br. Lothar had in mind when he established the Don Bosco Kuajok. Here, a thriving Salesian community—the newest in the world’s youngest country—offers an oasis of hope for street children in the area. While Br. Lothar now serves homeless youth in Liberia, three fellow missionaries have enthusiastically assumed his role in South Sudan as champions of youth rehabilitation, education and family reunification.
Each day, nine dedicated teachers educate 300 impoverished children at Kuajok’s on-site primary school. Since 2019, more than 150 former street children have started school, overcome their traumas and addictions, and returned to their families thanks to a program specifically tailored to the needs of youth who roam the nearby open-air market.
“Now, instead of begging for food or money, these boys and girls have much bigger dreams and goals,” says Fr. Gus. “Some of them even want to become teachers themselves! The Don Bosco Kuajok truly is a second chance for children who hope for a better life.”
We can’t wait to see what they accomplish—for themselves, and their country.
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Learn more about our work in South Sudan.