(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Foyer in Porto-Novo, the capital city of Benin, serves boys and girls in very complex situations, including youth who have been abandoned by their families, victims of abuse and those who are victims of forced marriages. The organization received funding from a donor through Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, to help support Salesian missionaries’ work with street children.
The program is a residential home for children coming directly from the street. Children’s most basic needs are met, including shelter, proper nutrition, clothing and access to adults who help them feel safe and protected from the exploitation and violence many faced while living on the streets. Salesian missionaries also operate Foyer Magone, which is another residential facility for youth who have stabilized after spending time at Don Bosco Foyer.
At Foyer Magone, youth are able to go to school and gain an education including taking workshops that help prepare them for the workforce. Youth are able to take workshops in subjects like carpentry, motorcycle mechanics and welding. Salesian missionaries also operate three accelerated learning schools focused on youth who have left the state-run schools or dropped out of the educational system altogether. Missionaries try to reach youth where they are while living on the street. The Salesian-run organization Foyer Maman Marguerte operates in the market of Cotonou, helping minors who are working instead of attending schools and those who have been exploited into human trafficking.
In May 2013, Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Foyer launched a program as part of a European Union collaborative initiative called Development and Action in the Republic of Benin. The program focused on the protection of youth at risk in the areas of Littoral, Ouémé and Alibori.
The four-year initiative culminates in February of 2017. It aims to strengthen the collaboration and coordination of the state and non-state organizations engaged in the protection of children. It identified children at risk and offered them advice, education and the opportunity to be rehabilitated. In addition, the program created awareness among local authorities, community leaders and the general population on the protection of children and the need for community programs to safeguard children’s rights.
“To see real success in the protection of youth, an entire community must be involved,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “The program engaged community leaders, worked to unify the systems protecting children and worked with youth one on one, giving them the tools and resources to achieve a brighter future.”
Children in Benin face significant challenges gaining an education within the country’s poor educational system. According to UNICEF, Benin remains one of the poorest countries in the world with close to 70 percent of its population living in poverty. About half of all children between the ages of 5 and 13 are engaged in some kind of forced labor in the country and almost 20 percent are chronically undernourished. Youth in Benin also face overwhelming challenges in combating poverty, one of the root causes of child trafficking.
PHOTOS courtesy of Don Bosco Foyer
UNICEF – Poverty in Benin