DR CONGO: Don Bosco Center is working to reunify street children with their families
(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Center, located in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is changing the lives of street youth through education and social programs. Daniel lived with his family in Goma. When M23 rebels occupied the city in November 2012, Daniel was just 10 years old. His family fled north, but when they were near the Virunga park, his parents decided to go back. Daniel lost contact with his family. He searched for them far and wide but did not find them.
Eventually, Daniel reached Bukavu by boat and had no one to turn to. All alone, he ended up living among the children on the streets. He transported waste and looked for abandoned pieces of iron to be sold to metal traders. One day, a friend told him they were welcoming street children to the Don Bosco Center. The friend accompanied him there and Daniel was accepted. That friend changed his life.
Daniel was part of the first group of 20 young people welcomed into a family reunification project at the Don Bosco Center, which has the support of the nongovernmental organization Louvain Coopération. The project, which started in April 2019, runs for three years and aims to reunify 20 street children with their families each year.
Father Piero Gavioli, director of the Don Bosco Center, said, “Boys and girls who are living on the streets and the margins of social life have a second chance at the Don Bosco Center. This new project also helps them to reconnect with their families if it’s possible.”
At the Don Bosco Center, Daniel had access to shelter, nutrition, education and a literacy program. Daniel adapted well and showed his desire to leave the street behind. A social worker from the Don Bosco Center searched for information about Daniel’s family. In time, they found people who knew of Daniel’s parents as well as a phone number. Daniel’s father had emigrated with his family to Nairobi, Kenya.
His father thought that Daniel was dead, but as soon as he learned he was alive, he asked Daniel to join them. After completing all of the paperwork, Daniel left for a long journey to Kenya, crossing Rwanda and Uganda. In Nairobi, he was warmly welcomed by his parents and brothers and sisters.
The director of the Salesian-run Don Bosco Boys’ Town in Nairobi agreed to include Daniel in a carpentry course so that he could continue his education. In November 2019, Daniel started the program, which finished in March 2020.
Despite its vast material wealth, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has long been a very poor nation. Half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, living on less than $1 a day, especially those in rural communities. More than 4.1 million Congolese are displaced with 620,000 seeking refuge in neighboring countries. More than 7.5 million people do not have enough food to eat.
Salesian missionaries have been working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than 100 years ensuring that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten. Salesian primary and secondary schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs offer many youth the opportunity for a stable and productive future.
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Salesian Missions – Democratic Republic of the Congo
UNICEF – DR Congo