ANGOLA: Salesian VIS volunteers operate shelter that helps young mothers have a second chance in life
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian International Volunteering for Development (VIS) has opened a new shelter for youth and young single mothers in Luanda, Angola. Young women are able to live in the shelter, receive services and be protected from the dangers of the street.
Every year, the shelter will provide support to 20 underage single mothers. They will be able to access medical support, psychological assistance and vocational training courses. Family reunification will be made possible when appropriate.
“There are many barriers to education for young girls, especially underage single mothers, but Salesian programs around the globe work to eliminate those barriers and provide supportive services and education to all,” says Father Gus Baek, 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.”
Dana is a 15-year old young woman from a broken home who recently came to the shelter. She was living under a bridge in Luanda with her baby daughter Sofia. While Dana found a family with other youth, she also faced violence and degradation, which only worsened with the spread of coronavirus.
Dana recently gave birth to Sofia at a small medical clinic on the outskirts of the city. Sofia’s first cradle was a cardboard box. Dana had few resources and knew she couldn’t raise her daughter in those conditions. She first met a VIS volunteer when Sofia was just a few weeks old.
When a VIS volunteer made the offer of the Salesian shelter, Dana wasn’t sure, but she finally accepted. Now, Dana feels at peace knowing she and her daughter are safe. They have access to resources they never had before, and Dana has a real chance to gain an education to be able to provide a better life for them both.
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 can be safe and receive the care they need, including rehabilitation and reunification with their families when possible.
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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UNICEF – Angola
Salesian Missions – Angola