INT’L DAY FOR STREET CHILDREN: Salesian programs focus on giving street children hope for a better life
Salesian Missions highlights education and social programs supporting and educating street youth around the globe.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 12, 2021) 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 the focus is on “The Four Steps to Equality” and calls on governments to have equality for street children. The four steps are a commitment to equality, protection for every child, access to services, and creating new solutions through specialized services and new opportunities that are specific to the needs and challenges of street children.
“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 2021, 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.
As Angola faces the coronavirus pandemic, the most vulnerable in society are street children who have nowhere to turn and no one to care for them. Among the street children most at risk and most exposed are those in Luanda, the capital and largest city in Angola. These youth are supported by the Salesian International Volunteering for Development (VIS) and Salesian missionaries in the region.
To address some of the challenges, the Salesian “Let’s go together” project, which has been supported by the European Union and other benefactors, has opened a new emergency center where street children are offered a place live far from the dangers of street life.
In the center, boys and girls receive protection, nutrition, hygiene products and the attention of many social educators and volunteers who dedicate themselves to helping youth organize their daily lives, learn and respect the rules, and take responsibility for their futures.
The Don Bosco Center, located in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is changing the lives of street youth through education and social programs. One example is Daniel, who lived with his family in Goma. When M23 rebels occupied the city in November 2012, Daniel was just 10 years old. His family fled north, but when they were near the Virunga park, his parents decided to go back. Daniel lost contact with his family. He searched for them far and wide but did not find them.
Daniel ended up at the Don Bosco Center and was part of the first group of 20 young people welcomed into a family reunification project. The project, which started in April 2019, runs for three years and aims to reunify 20 street children with their families each year.
At the Don Bosco Center, Daniel had access to shelter, nutrition, education and a literacy program. Daniel adapted well and showed his desire to leave the street behind. A social worker from the Don Bosco Center searched for information about Daniel’s family. In time, they found people who knew of Daniel’s parents as well as a phone number. Daniel’s father had emigrated with his family to Nairobi, Kenya.
His father thought that Daniel was dead, but as soon as he learned he was alive, he asked Daniel to join them. After completing all of the paperwork, Daniel left for a long journey to Kenya, crossing Rwanda and Uganda. In Nairobi, he was warmly welcomed by his parents and brothers and sisters.
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, and health care, juvenile justice, transportation and legal providers, along with the media, to create awareness on child rights and provide child protection services.
The Don Bosco Child Protection Center in Lagos, Nigeria, is able to provide ongoing support for 25 boys thanks to funding received from Salesian Missions. The center provides care for boys, ages 7-15, who were living on the streets, had faced physical abuse in their homes or were rescued from child trafficking.
The funding from Salesian Missions provided tuition and skills training, counseling and psychological care, medical care, and clothing for the boys. Some funding also went to support the operational expenses of the center for such items as fuel, internet access, stationery and toiletries.
With the high rate of domestic violence, child abuse, poverty and negative environmental influences, many youth are living on the streets in Lagos and fighting to survive. Many have turned to crime, drug abuse and other risky behavior. These youth have been denied the opportunity of proper parental training, family love andeven education. The Don Bosco Child Protection Center supports these youth, bringing them off the streets, giving them access to education and skills training, and instilling hope for a brighter future.
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