ANGOLA: Salesian VIS volunteers launch new center to help support street children
(MissionNewswire) As Angola faces the coronavirus pandemic, the most vulnerable in society are street children who have nowhere to turn and no one to care for them. Among the street children most at risk and most exposed are those in Luanda, the capital and largest city in Angola. These youth are supported by the Salesian International Volunteering for Development (VIS) and Salesian missionaries in the region.
“At this moment, our main concerns with the coronavirus are the structural deficiencies of the national health system and the devastating effects that the new instability is creating among the population, especially among the poorest and most vulnerable groups,” said Sergio Pitocco, a VIS representative.
To address some of the challenges, the Salesian “Let’s go together” project, which has been supported by the European Union and other benefactors, has opened a new emergency center where street children are offered a place live far from the dangers of street life.
Pitocco added, “For several years, we’ve been carrying out a reintegration program where children and adolescents are reintegrated into the family through several phases. The first phase of the program takes place on the streets with our educators and psychologists and is aimed at those who are starting along this path.”
Pitocco noted that street children are increasingly exposed to the risks of the street including diseases and violence from adults and often law enforcement, and they lack means to support themselves.
“About 50 children and adolescents have been welcomed into this new center that was once the Refugio House of the Salesian Center São Domingos Savio,” explained Pitocco.
In the center, boys and girls receive protection, nutrition, hygiene products and the attention of many social educators and volunteers who dedicate themselves to helping youth organize their daily lives, learn and respect the rules, and take responsibility for their futures.
Pitocco concluded, “We’re trying to ensure that this emergency can be transformed into an opportunity to carry out more empowerment for children and adolescents who are living in the streets and prepare a way for them to return home with their families.”
Salesian missionaries began their work with street children in Angola during the 1990s when groups of children fleeing the war flowed into the capital. Today, long after the war has ended, children are still fleeing their homes for a variety of reasons. Many run away from home because of parent neglect, some as a result of abuse and others because they are thought to be sorcerers or witches who bring misfortune to their families.
Once on the street, these children wander from neighborhood to neighborhood, sleep wherever possible and survive due to small jobs like shining shoes, washing windows and carrying bags. Many girls end up prostituting themselves. Virtually all inhale gasoline and glue to calm the pangs of hunger and find relief from a sense of emptiness. Salesians created shelters and programs where street children are safe and can receive the care they need, including rehabilitation and reunification with their families when possible.
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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Salesian Missions – Angola
UNICEF – Angola