Helping Girls Reclaim their Futures in Angola
They are sisters in misfortune: the hundreds of orphaned, abandoned and abused girls and young women living on the streets of Luanda, Angola. Surrounded by garbage, dust and the harsh realities of having to search for food while fending off gangs, traffickers and violence, it’s nearly impossible to escape despair. But now, they have a reason for optimism.
In a televised report aired recently on Euronews, Adjaime de Frietas, coordinator of the local Salesian Network, explains that the main reason for the rising number of homeless youth in Luanda is the accusation of witchcraft. “There are plenty of kids on the streets because of this kind of accusation,” says de Frietas. “Other causes are extreme poverty and breakdown of the family.”
Every day, hundreds of these children congregate amid the physical and societal debris, seeking camaraderie and safety among their peers. They sleep under tattered sheets wherever they can—although their sleep is often disturbed by police driving them out of sight. They engage in menial labor—shining shoes, washing windows, hauling groceries and other items—hoping to earn enough to buy a sandwich, or a soda. When the hunger and despair become too great, they sniff gasoline to escape it. And, while the dangers to their health and lives don’t discriminate, surviving on the streets is especially difficult for girls, who almost always risk physical exploitation and abuse.
Since the early 1990s, Salesian missionaries serving in Luanda have worked to rescue and rehabilitate homeless youth. Each evening, a small outreach team from the St. Kizito House drives a van around the city’s streets and alleys, searching for such children. With help from a nurse and an educator, the team offers food, medical attention and other resources. Boys who are willing, can elect to stay at the St. Kizito House, which functions as both a day and night shelter for youth accustomed to living on the streets. As many as 20 boys, ages 10-15, can stay at the shelter at one time.
And yet, despite the crucial need, there had never been a similar shelter for girls…until now. With help from international donors, Salesian missionaries in Luanda have begun equipping a center for homeless girls where they can access the care and attention they need to heal their physical and emotional traumas, and begin to learn the skills they need to turn their lives around. Once completed, this long-term shelter will serve 20 girls each year. It will also accommodate young women with children.
“Around the world, Salesian missionaries have seen that girls who are able to access safety, shelter and education are more often able to achieve financial independence and make better and healthier choices that affect not only themselves, but their families and communities as well,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “This new program in Luanda will offer the same promise to so many deserving children who once could only dream of a brighter future.”
We are grateful to our many compassionate friends, who make dreams like these become a reality.
Our mission provides real hope and opportunities to at-risk girls and young women and gives them the means to escape poverty. What’s your mission?
Learn more about our work in Angola.