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ANGOLA: New Performing Arts Program Helps Street Youth Tell their Stories

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries living and working in Luanda, the capital city of Angola, have a long history of providing programs to help youth get off the streets, gain access to education and nutrition and find a way out of poverty. A new performing arts program called The Road to Life is being operated out of Casa Magone, a Salesian center for street youth in the city. Through the program, participating youth learn to tell the stories of their accomplishments in accessing shelter and gaining an education through Salesian programs.

The Road to Life program was started by the Salesian International Voluntary Service for Development (VIS) and is co-financed by the European Union. A recent theater production was performed by 10 participants in the program who shared their stories in front of an audience of more than 60 youth between the ages of 10 and 15. By performing their stories, these former street children are able to overcome the trauma they have suffered in the past.

“At-risk children, teenagers and young adults across Angola are achieving in the classroom and through alternative offerings like The Road to Life program,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “The goal is to have youth participate in programs that promote social inclusion, emotional development and access to education.”

The Road to Life program helps young people share their stories including who they are, where they come from and how they have achieved success in their lives. The stories are performed as songs, plays, poems or other creative outlets chosen by each participant. By performing their stories, participants are aided in their recovery while helping to encourage other young people to succeed. Marco, one of The Road to Life participants, read a poem he had written about his experience living on the streets and his success finding shelter and education at a Salesian center resulting in renewed hope for a better life.

Five other participants put on a collaborative play about their past experiences, the challenges they have overcome and their hopes for the future. The play focused on their educational pursuits, the job training they have received and the support from Salesian missionaries, volunteers and educators from VIS.

Casa Magone provides shelter and a safe place for youth coming in off the streets. Salesian missionaries at the shelter work to meet the basic needs of the youth who live there while helping them access counseling and education and later job training and stable employment.

“Our programs for street youth go beyond providing shelter and meeting basic needs,” says Fr. Hyde. “Salesian centers like Casa Magone provide a stable, nurturing environment that enables former street youth to access education and find a way out of poverty.”

The people of Angola are still recovering from a civil war that ended 13 years ago. During the war, educational disparities were widespread but recent reforms have paved the way for more youth to have better access to education and social equality. According to UNICEF, more than 36 percent of the population lives in poverty. In addition, more than one in 10 children under the age of 14 has lost one or both parents and 43,000 are separated from their families. As a result, nearly a third of these youth are working and child trafficking has been an emerging problem in the country.

With a 67 percent illiteracy rate, the educational opportunities provided by Salesian programs can be truly life changing. Through these programs, both youth and adults have access to schools and educational programs. Classes range from simple lessons in reading and writing for adults in refugee camps to shelter and education for street children. Students are also able to access life skills training, workforce development opportunities and nutritional programs.



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