Building New Hope for Homeless Youth
Today in Zambia, over one million girls and boys are living a life they did not choose: a life on the streets, where they struggle alone and try to survive. Many come from abusive or broken homes. Others have been orphaned. Soon, a new shelter run by Salesian missionaries in Makululu will offer new hope for these vulnerable children.
“The traumas that young children suffer on the streets are truly heartbreaking—and profound,” says Father Gus Baek, Director of Salesian Missions. “The anxiety over what and when they’ll eat, where they’ll sleep, and whether they’ll be victimized by gangs, their peers, or even (in some cases) law enforcement, can lead to mental health issues and even substance abuse, which kids often see as their only means of escape.”
Sadly, as in so many other places consumed by despair, this is the case for homeless youth in Zambia—many of whom turn to alcohol, drugs and even inhalants to numb their pain. “The relief they feel is welcome, but it’s only temporary,” explains Fr. Gus. “Worse, these behaviors only serve to further endanger girls and boys who have nowhere to turn for help.”
Since 1982, when they first arrived in Zambia, Salesian missionaries have been supporting some of the country’s poorest children—particularly orphans. In Makululu, the country’s largest informal settlement, missionaries operate Ciloto House (which means “Dream” in the local language) for 40 formerly homeless youth. In addition to safe housing, meals and other basic necessities, residents participate in counseling programs that help them cope with their experiences, learn valuable life skills, and prepare either to reunite with their families (when possible), or re-integrate into society.
Still, not every child rescued from the streets is ready to live at Ciloto. In some cases, they need intensive intervention to address their addictions and psychological challenges first. That’s why our missionaries will soon build a new House of Hope, which will serve as the first step toward full rehabilitation for youth requiring specialized care.
Located next to Ciloto, House of Hope will serve 10 children between the ages of 8 and 15. Here, skilled mental health professionals will evaluate their needs and design individualized, three- to six-month rehabilitation programs. After successful completion, residents will be eligible to join their peers at Ciloto and continue their journey toward brighter futures.
“We are so grateful for the many friends who support our efforts around the globe to help at-risk youth transform their lives,” says Fr. Gus. “Through programs like House of Hope, we are making a real difference for precious children, together.”
Our mission helps address the complexities of youth homelessness, one child at a time. What’s your mission?
Learn more about our work in Zambia.