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ANGOLA: Salesian missionaries are creating a center for young girls at-risk in Luanda

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries are mobilizing to help youth at-risk of exploitation who are living on the streets of Luanda, Angola. At night, a team of Salesian missionaries and staff drive around in a van in search of young boys and girls living on the streets. On board there is a nurse and an educator who treat wounds, talk to the youth and provide them with resources.

Sometimes youth have to be taken to the hospital. Young boys are persuaded to go to the local Salesian center which offers showers and hot meals. Currently, the center only serves boys. However, Salesian missionaries are in the process of equipping a center for girls so they will have a place to go to receive social development services and education.

The streets of Luanda offer little for the youth that live there. There is mud in the rainy season, dust in the dry season and garbage all year round. There is little hope for children who are forced by circumstance into the streets.

Many of these street youth have fathers who have abandoned them or who have passed away, violent stepfathers who throw them out of the house or force them to flee, mothers who are unable to face or deal with the hardship of life because they lack the economic means and cultural tools. The streets become the natural place to hide and seek refuge but they are full of danger, especially for girls who are often the victims of sexual exploitation.

For these girls, external injuries are treated much more readily than the emotional scars. Salesian missionaries aim to create a center where girls are safe and can receive the care they need.

“There are many barriers to education for young girls, especially those forced to live on the streets, but Salesian programs around the globe work to eliminate those barriers and provide supportive services and education to all,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries have seen that young girls who are able to access safety, shelter and education are more often able to achieve financial independence and make better and healthier choices that affect not only themselves, but their families and communities as well.”

Salesian missionaries in Angola have been rebuilding infrastructure that was damaged during a civil war in the country that lasted from 1975 to 2002. Much was destroyed during the conflict including schools, medical buildings and churches. Living within the communities in which they work, Salesian missionaries have been perfectly positioned to respond to local needs and lead projects for community betterment.

During the civil 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 children are working and child trafficking has become 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 nutrition programs.

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Sources:

ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)

ANS – Angola – Chance for redemption for Luanda girls

UNICEF – Angola