INT’L DAY FOR STREET CHILDREN: Salesian programs support and educate street youth around the globe
Celebrated each year on April 12, the day raises awareness of issues affecting youth forced to live on the streets.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 12, 2022) 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 with 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.
“Salesian missionaries around the globe provide safety, shelter and education for street children,” 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 2022, Salesian Missions is proud to share programs around the globe that provide shelter, nutrition, education and hope for a better life for street children.
The Mamma Margherita Salesian Center, operated by Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Cotonou, Benin, has started an introductory art course for street children from the Dantokpa open-air market. The project is leading children to discover their hidden talents, increasing their self-esteem and teaching them to establish themselves in society. Educators provide support and teach children to stretch the canvas, prepare the necessary material and paint.
The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians have been active in the Dantokpa market since 2001, where they have been working to reintegrate youth known as “vidomegon” into society and their families of origin. Vidomegon is a legacy of colonial custom. In the past, young girls from rural households were entrusted to a tutor to ensure the girls had access to a better education.
Today, these young girls are often sold into slavery by the poorest families and employed as low-cost laborers in private homes and in markets. They are victims of psychological and physical violence of all kinds. These young girls spend their lives working day and night, sleeping under benches, and are often exploited and abused.
In 2017, Salesians launched a new center for girls known as the Maison de l’Esperance. The main objective of the initiative is to provide young girls with a place where they can sleep in total safety, but also to raise awareness and provide support activities. In addition to receiving comfortable mattresses to sleep on, the girls have access to a psychologist and an assistant who will help them to overcome the traumas they have suffered. They also have access to skills training, and many go on to become bakers, cooks and pastry makers.
The Youth Services Organization, located in the headquarters of Bosconia, in the Los Martires area of Bogota, Colombia, was able to provide food service for more than 60 children and older youth each day thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions.
The children and older youth, ages 5-18, live in extreme poverty with their families or are homeless. They are at a higher risk of facing child labor, sexual exploitation, constant homelessness, food insecurity, limited adult supervision, family violence, and illegal activities.
To help carry out the nutrition project, Salesians established an agreement with Bogota’s Archdiocese Food Bank to guarantee availability of the required food products. The health and nutrition team from Bosconia also monitored the children and assessed them for good health and malnutrition.
Don Bosco Navajeevan, located in Hyderabad, India, received a donated ambulance for the medical and emergency needs of street children and orphaned and marginalized children thanks to General Insurance Corporation of India. The donation was made possible in collaboration with BoscoNet and Bosco Seva Kendra.
Don Bosco Navajeevan offers a range of vocational and technical training programs including electrical, carpentry and welding, tailoring, baking, garment making, and printing press skills. The organization works to ensure that poor youth have an opportunity to gain an education.
In addition to education, Don Bosco Navajeevan provides a youth center that places special emphasis on rescuing and rehabilitating children engaged in child labor. The program also offers shelter to child laborers and street children. Once a child arrives at the center, he or she receives shelter, food and clothing and is then eligible to participate in Salesian programs that focus on education and life skills training. The goal is to help the children break the cycle of poverty and go on to lead productive lives free from abuse and forced labor. Supplementary classes at Don Bosco Navajeevan cater to those who have missed school and have fallen behind academically.
Salesian programs in Rwanda are working to help at-risk youth who are often living on the streets. UNICEF estimates that there are about 7,000 street children in the country while close to 300,000 live in families where a minor is the head of the household. The economic challenges brought about by the pandemic have exacerbated many of these issues.
Street children face a life that is marked by uncertainty and a lack of education, food, protection and health care access. These children have no understanding of their rights and often fall prey to those who wish to do them harm. Street children have few prospects in life because they are not in school gaining an education and are on the streets begging or taking odd jobs to have enough food to eat. Most suffer from malnutrition and other diseases such as dysentery, malaria and scabies.
Salesian Brother Hubert Twagirayezu, economer of the St. Charles Lwanga Vice Province of Africa Great Lakes, which includes Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, said, “In Rwanda, we carry out our mission among poor children and young people. In Rango, in the district of Huye, we help more than 120 street children, but at the national level there are many more.”
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