Our Mission in Action for Homeless Youth
Fourteen-year-old Francisco has spent half his life begging for money at a busy intersection in Mozambique. René, 17, once hustled to clean windshields and load trucks in Port-au-Prince, Haiti just so he could eat. And young Juan in Freetown, Sierra Leone couldn’t help himself at all. He had to rely on his young mother Musu, who was penniless and seriously ill with tuberculosis and pneumonia, to care for him when she was unable to even care for herself.
These stories are as unique as the individuals themselves—yet they share two important things in common: each has stuggled to survive on the streets; and each now enjoys new hope thanks to the intervention of Salesian missionaries.
Ever since Saint John (Don) Bosco first immersed himself in this work, our focus has been on improving the lives and circumstances of homeless youth remains firmly at the center of our mission around the world. “I have vowed my life to these poor little outcasts,” Don Bosco once said—and, in stewarding his legacy, so do we.
“Sadly, the incidence of kids living on the streets continues,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “While it’s difficult to pinpoint exact figures, there are literally millions of them—most invisible to society—living a miserable existence in cities around the world. And it’s not just money that’s the problem; these children deserve to have basic human dignity, meaningful social support, and the ability to just be kids.”
These are the things our missionaries work to restore—when and where they can, for as many children as they can.
In Mozambique, for example—where nearly half the population is under 15 years old, and almost everyone lives in desperate poverty—Salesian missionaries focus on expanding educational opportunities for marginalized youth like Francisco. When he is ready, he can participate in a 6-week vocational training course at one of five Salesian-run centers that teaches market-ready skills to help students become self-supporting, and discover a brighter future away from the streets.
In Haiti, Salesian-run programs serve more than 25,000 children throughout the country. In Port-au-Prince, the Lakay House for Street Children provides shelter, education and food to hundreds of girls and boys with nowhere else to turn—including René. Here, he is learning carpentry and dreams of becoming a furniture-maker. “I am sure that after I finish my training at Lakay, I will have the opportunity to work and provide for myself and my family,” he says.
And in Freetown, Sierra Leone, missionaries are dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating youth and young people like Musu and her son, Juan—something they’ve been doing since 2001, when they first began serving former child soldiers. At Don Bosco Fambul, each year thousands of youth access holistic services including shelter, food, healthcare, trauma counseling, education and more. After Fr. Jorge Crisafulli discovered Musu and her son huddled under an outdoor table in the pouring rain, he helped them both get the medical attention they desperately needed. Once recovered, Musu was able to study to become a hairdresser while Juan—Don Bosco’s namesake—received the nutrition and care he needed to thrive.
The issue of homeless youth is a complex one that won’t be solved anytime soon. But, with the compassion of our many generous friends, our missionaries can ease the suffering of so many who experience it—and equip them with the skills and confidence they need to build better lives.
Our mission helps solve complex problems by first working to provide basic needs. What’s your mission?