Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: July 11, 2022

A Second Chance for Homeless Youth

One of the poorest countries in the world, Madagascar is a place where nearly 90 percent of residents live in abject poverty—including 82 percent of kids under the age of 18. Far too often, this harsh reality forces parents to abandon their children—a situation our Salesian missionaries are working hard to resolve.

“It’s heartbreaking,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Parents don’t want to make this choice, but they simply can’t afford to feed their families. So kids end up living on the streets, where they’re vulnerable to all sorts of negative impacts including labor exploitation, violence, illness and so much more.”

With nowhere to call home, and no caring adult to look after them, many of these children end up in state-run “re-education” centers—sent there by authorities who lack other viable options or resources to address this growing problem. In Anjanamasina, a suburb of the capital city Antananarivo, more than 110 boys are housed side-by-side with adults who have committed actual crimes—a situation, explains Fr. Gus, that can have a lasting negative impact on children’s self-esteem and belief in their own potential.

That’s why our missionaries are working hard on their behalf. Recently, at the invitation of officials at one center known as the “House of Rascals,” these dedicated Salesians began providing ongoing support services for the boys.

Every Sunday and on mid-week Catholic feast days, they serve nutritious meals and organize musical, theatrical and sporting activities. These gestures help youth feel loved and important—rather than a burden to be cast aside and forgotten.

“Youth who are in these facilities because they were living on the street deserve a second chance at life,” says Fr. Gus. “By helping with their spiritual growth and offering meaningful social support, our missionaries are providing hope for a better future—exactly what Don Bosco himself would have done.”

The important work of our missionaries at the House of Rascals joins a variety of focused efforts throughout Madagascar to help youth change the course of their lives.

“With 60 percent of the country’s population under the age of 25, improving lives and futures in Madagascar starts with improving opportunities for its youth—through education, workforce training, and sustainable employment,” Fr. Gus explains. “Addressing these challenges from a holistic perspective means that we can successfully turn the tide on youth homelessness.”

Learn more about our work in Madagascar.

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