ANGOLA: Salesian Missionaries Host Roundtable Discussion on How to Effectively Assist At-Risk Youth
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries, in collaboration with the Salesian-run International Voluntary Service for Development (VIS), organized a roundtable discussion in June on “Advocacy for the Protection of Children in Risk Situations.” The event also presented the manual, “Educational-Pedagogical Project for the Reintegration of Children and Adolescents of and on the Streets,” which explains in detail the steps needed to pursue a path of re-education and reintegration for youth into society. Many institutions, including those in governmental and civil society, participated in the discussion.
Adjaime de Freitas Cadete, coordinator of the Salesian Network, addressed the topic of understanding and helping children living in the streets of Luanda, Angola. The talk illustrated what the children’s living conditions are in the streets of the city, the reasons motivating them to leave their families and what the proposals of the Salesian Network are to assist youth.
Paulo Kalesi, of the National Institute for Infancy, explained the child protection system for street children provided by the Angolan government. Salesian missionaries have been working with this agency for years to help ensure the safety and welfare of children. Kalesi further reflected on the family situations that push children to run from their families. He identified that the primary cause is weak and fragmented family ties and relationships that are often characterized by an unstable economic situation.
Professionals in the field determined that the best way to help youth in at-risk situations is through the collaboration of organizations and institutions that are actively supporting minors, and through the continued work of Salesian missionaries that focus on education, reconciliation and reunification. At the end of the roundtable discussion, stories of children who have been helped by Salesian programs were presented through photographs and video. Several older youth, who participate in the programs at the Salesian-run welcome center for street children Casa Mamã Margarida, provided musical performances and testimonies of their experiences.
“At-risk children, teenagers and young adults across Angola are achieving in the classroom and through alternative programs that fit their specific needs,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “The goal of Salesian missionaries is to have youth participate in programs that promote social inclusion, emotional development and access to education.”
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.
UNICEF – Angola