INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR STREET CHILDREN: Salesian Missions highlights education and social programs impacting street youth around the globe
Salesian programs ensure that youth living on the streets have access to the education and social programs they need to have hope for the future.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 12, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian and international organizations around the globe in highlighting the plight of homeless children on the International Day for Street Children. The day provides organizations and the millions of street children in countries worldwide an opportunity to have their voices heard while ensuring that their rights are not ignored.
Celebrated each year on April 12, the day was established by the United Nations to raise awareness of issues affecting youth forced to live on the streets. The Consortium for Street Children founded the International Day for Street Children in 2011 and is the leading international network dedicated to realizing the rights of street children worldwide.
This year’s theme is #SafeSpacesforStreetChildren and calls on governments to ensure that children have access to safe spaces where they are sheltered and have their most basic needs met.
“Youth who are able to access programs that help them come in off the streets where they face poverty and are at risk for exploitation have a chance at a better life,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian programs aim to help children live safely while getting the emotional support they need and the education that will help them live independently. It’s a second chance for these children to have hope for a better life.”
In honor of the International Day for Street Children 2020, Salesian Missions is proud to share some of its programs around the globe that provide shelter, nutrition, education and hope for a better life for street children.
The Don Bosco Foundation in Santiago, Chile, created the Registro Circuito de Calle (Register of Streets Circuit) app to help improve intervention for street children. The app was developed by the Don Bosco Foundation in collaboration with Fundación País Digital of Microsoft Chile and DonaTec, an online donation program for the nongovernmental agency, CDI Chile.
The app allows users to update mapping within a territory, providing intervention teams with online information that will increase their knowledge of the territories and enable support to reach street children more effectively.
It also helps teams better plan their actions and social operations on the road so they can choose the most effective strategies for intervening with youth who are living in even the most hidden areas. In addition, the app will characterize the territories to better show the transit of minors, as well as track what they do and what they are exposed to in those areas.
In the first four months of use, the app has helped Salesian staff reach and serve 10 percent more children. The app is being considered for use at the national level.
Salesian missionaries in Mekanissa, an area on the outskirts of the capital city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, operate the Don Bosco Center, which provides access to education, nutrition and health services to 400 poor youth. Most of the youth, aged 2-15, are street children who have no place else to live or anyone to take care of them. Brother Donato Galetta, a Salesian missionary, has been welcoming these youth for 30 years.
All 400 children enjoy daily lunch and close to 40 children, mainly orphans, also have dinner at the center. Salesian missionaries are actively working to fight malnutrition and undernourishment. For the past two years to guarantee everyone a meal, Salesian missionaries have not purchased meat, which in Ethiopia has prohibitive costs. This allows missionaries to buy the food they require for their annual needs while keeping costs down.
The Don Bosco Center also offers a small medical dispensary, which is managed by a nurse. Youth receive first aid, routine health check-ups and medicine when needed. Youth can take a hot shower, and hygiene and sanitary supplies are available.
Youth also have assistance with their education at the Don Bosco Center, including a school uniform and school materials such as textbooks, notebooks, pens and pencils. For older children who attend vocational training courses, Salesian missionaries provide transportation to school. In addition, Salesian missionaries pay the school fees of all the center’s children and older youth.
Don Bosco Ashalayam provides support and rehabilitation for street children in India. More than 500 children currently reside in the 23 shelters in Ashalayam and benefit from educational and recreational opportunities. Through its presence on the streets and with courses and programs offered in slums and railway stations, Don Bosco Ashalayam assists thousands of street children every year. More than 80,000 children have benefited in three decades.
Don Bosco Ashalayam also provides the Childline hotline, a free telephone line that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Street children can call anonymously to seek support and ask for assistance. Bosco Delhi, through the Don Bosco Ashalayam Center, operates Childline.
Salesian staff members work tirelessly every day of the year to ensure the rights of the children in need and give them special care and protection. They work collaboratively with law
enforcement, healthcare, juvenile justice, transportation and legal providers, along with the media, to create awareness on child rights and provide child protection services.
Located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, Don Bosco Fambul is one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations and has been at the forefront of efforts to help rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families. The organization is directed by Salesian Father Jorge Mario Crisafulli and has a staff of 120 including Salesian social workers who go out to the streets, slums and marketplaces to engage with vulnerable youth and encourage them to join Don Bosco Fambul’s successful program.
Many of the youth who are contacted during this time fill out the required questionnaire and those most at risk are admitted into the program. Salesian missionaries seek out youth who have few other options and are most in need. This includes orphans, victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, and those who have spent longer on the street or who are sick and weak. After evaluation, participants are assigned to appropriate educational levels, and are given thorough medical exams, necessary treatment and housing. Participants also engage in listening sessions and counseling, group discussions, prayer, talks, sports and recreation, all of which are a part of the rehabilitation process.
The success of Don Bosco Fambul’s street children rehabilitation program is credited to its holistic approach which focuses on meeting basic needs (food, clothing, a safe place to sleep) in addition to personalized medical, psychological, pedagogical, social and spiritual care. Rehabilitation is a gradual process that includes formal classes, daily games, sports, music, singing, drama, dancing, counseling and prayer. The parents and extended families of participants are contacted several times by social workers before final reunification.
On reunification day, an agreement is signed between parents and Don Bosco Fambul to secure a safe environment for the children to continue along a path of personal growth, including ensuring they will have the food, clothing, shelter and education they need. Social workers continue to visit the children and their families until they finish secondary school.
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