New Beginnings for Youth in Despair
Paulo was just 10 years old when he saw a friend fatally shot during an attempted robbery. Sadly, he wasn’t really shocked; the two boys, along with three other friends, had been spending the majority of their time on the streets where—with each passing day—their future prospects grew dimmer in a rearview mirror clouded by substance abuse and crime.
Fortunately, with help from A New Beginning, a Salesian-run program in Luanda, Angola, Paulo turned his life around. More than that, he’s helping other kids to do the same.
“I had a very turbulent and dangerous life because of what I was doing,” he reflects. “My friends and I caused a lot of sadness and pain. But thanks to A New Beginning I have gone back to school and am taking a technical course in mechanics, which is one of my dreams with which I hope to help my parents.”
A New Beginning protects and promotes the rights of children like Paulo who are in conflict with the law. Administered by Salesians in Angola and co-funded by the European Union, the project involves the collaboration of several organizations and institutions, both national and international. Currently, A New Beginning serves 208 youth—58 who are on probation; 83 taking part in community service; 28 with social protection measures; and 39 awaiting a court decision.
Among A New Beginning’s many activities, youth and their parents participate in workshops where youth tell personal stories of resilience and transformation. The program emphasizes personal development and parenting skills with the dual goals of reuniting and reintegrating families, and empowering youth to make a fresh start through job training and social skills.
Before discovering his own new beginning, Paulo was hardly alone on the streets. Today in Angola, where 45 percent of the population is under the age of 15, endemic poverty hits youth particularly hard. Only 20 percent of children between the ages of 12 and 17 are in school, and this lack of education quickly leads to despair. With no constructive way to spend their time, no potential for sustainable employment, and no vision for something better, thousands of young people fall prey to drugs, alcohol and apathy. For his part, Paulo repeatedly ignored his mother’s pleas to change. He simply saw no problem with how he conducted his life.
Today, however, he inspires youth like himself to embrace positive change through his own example.
“A New Beginning provided me with medical and psychological care, as well as technical training and practical courses, which have contributed greatly to my recovery with the full support of my family. Thanks to the Salesians, I am a new person, ready to help other young people.”
Learn more about our work in Angola.
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