(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Foyer has launched its “Improvement of equipment” project in Kandi, a town in the Alibori Department of eastern Benin. The goal of the project is to improve the educational capacity of the Salesian school to better provide basic education and skills training to youth. Don Bosco Foyer serves boys and girls in very complex situations including children who have been abandoned by their families, victims of abuse, and those who are victims of forced marriages.
In many parts of the world school has become a place for the elite who have economic opportunities. In 2015, UNESCO released a report that noted there are 124 million children and young people who are not in school including 52.9 million in Africa. 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 five 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.
“Most people ignore the problems in the educational system in Benin, which is often based in violence and threats,” says Father Elie Assogba, director of Don Bosco Foyer. “The violation of children’s rights is normalized. Therefore, it is critical that educators work with families and with the other institutions in society to coordinate services and protect the rights of children. Youth may be the best vehicle to raise awareness of their rights among their classmates and peers.”
Don Bosco Foyer offers a home that protects and educates youth, and seeks to create new opportunities so graduates of the program will have the opportunity to build a better future. 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 focuses on the protection of youth at risk in the areas of Littoral, Ouémé and Alibori.
A four year initiative that culminates in February 2017, the Salesian program’s goal is to strengthen the collaboration and coordination of the state and non-state organizations engaged in the protection of children. It will also work to identify children at risk and offer them advice, education and the opportunity to be rehabilitated. In addition, the program will work to create 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 works to engage community leaders, unify the systems protecting children and work with youth one on one, giving them the tools and resources to achieve a brighter future.”
This is not the only program the Salesians have in Benin. Through the Vocational Training Center Laura Vicuña, Salesian Sisters are providing shelter, education and training in skills and trades to young girls, many of whom have been victims of trafficking, to give them the opportunity of a more stable life. Other Salesian programs exist in Benin as well, providing poor youth shelter, nutritious meals and education.
“Salesian programs are adaptable to the communities they serve,” says Fr. Hyde. “Education remains at the forefront. Our programs strive to keep youth safe and provide them an education, which is a direct path out of poverty.”