BENIN: New Salesian Program Works to Enhance the Child Protection System and Provide for Youth at Risk
(MissionNewswire) Youth in Benin face overwhelming challenges in combating poverty. According to UNICEF, Benin remains one of the poorest countries in the world with close to 70 percent of its population living in poverty. Almost 20 percent are chronically undernourished, and the effects of poverty in rural areas are severe. Child labor and trafficking are also concerns with about half of all children between the ages of five and 14 engaged in some form of labor.
In May, the Salesians at Foyer Don Bosco launched a new program as part of a European Union collaborative initiative called, Development and Action in the Republic of Benin. The program focuses on the protection of youth at risk in the areas of Littoral, Ouémé and Alibori.
A four year initiative that culminates in February 2017, the Salesian program’s goal is to strengthen the collaboration and coordination of the state and non-state organizations engaged in the protection of children. It will also work to identify children at risk and offer them advice, education and the opportunity to be rehabilitated. In addition, the program will work to create awareness among local authorities, community leaders and the general population on the protection of children and the need for community programs to safeguard children’s rights.
“To see real success in the protection of youth, an entire community must be involved,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “The program works to engage community leaders, unify the systems protecting children and work with youth one on one, giving them the tools and resources to achieve a brighter future.”
The Salesian program was officially launched in early May with three other programs included in the same European Union initiative. The first, Handicap International, will focus on the participation and integration of people with disabilities into the local community. The second, Protos, is working to improve the water supply, hygiene and sanitary services in the area. The third program, Plan Benin, is focusing on the participation of citizens in local development and water services.
At the launch event in May, each of the organizations gave a brief presentation of its history and proposed program, concluding with a short dramatization. Youth from Foyer Don Bosco provided a short sketch on the rights of minors. The main focus of the event came later in the day with several speeches and more in depth information on the Salesian program provided. The event also included cultural, sporting and recreational activities for youth, including street children, at the Salesian Center.
This is not the only program the Salesians have in Benin. Through the Vocational Training Center Laura Vicuña, Salesian Sisters are providing shelter, education and training in skills and trades to young girls, many of whom have been victims of trafficking, to give them the opportunity of a more stable life. Other Salesian programs exist in Benin as well, providing poor youth shelter, nutritious meals and education.
“Salesian programs are adaptable to the communities they serve,” says Fr. Hyde. “Education remains at the forefront. Our programs strive to keep youth safe and provide them an education, which is a direct path out of poverty.”
UNICEF – Poverty in Benin