DR CONGO: Former street youth builds new life
Don Bosco Center provides shelter, education and family reunification for youth living on the streets
(MissionNewswire) Jean-Claude Michaël Imani is a 17-year-old young man who had a second chance at life thanks to the Don Bosco Center in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Imani had a rough childhood. His mother died when he was two months old and his father was unable to care for him. Imani went to live with his aunt, but one day when he was eight, he was visiting his father and got separated. He lived alone on the streets for the next seven years.
During those years, Imani was often brought to different shelters and centers for street children, but he had a hard time adapting. He would leave them to return to life on the streets. That all changed in April 2019 when he arrived at the Don Bosco Center, directed by Father Piero Gavioli. After a period of adaptation, he was enrolled in the Nyota Center in level two of the school remedial program for the 2019-2020 school term.
While Imani was in the program, Salesians began the work of tracking down his father. They searched in Goma where Imani had lived, but his father was still unable to care for him. However, his cousin Félicien Shukuru, who Imani had thought of as an older brother, was able to take him in. Imani was welcomed into a loving and happy home with Shukuru and his wife and children.
At the end of the school term, Imani had an 85 percent grade point average and continued on to the third level of education in Goma. Like for the other youth reintegrated into their families, the Don Bosco Center provided him with a reunion kit including a bag of clothes, hygiene kits, sheets, a blanket, and a mattress and bed.
This is one of many family reunifications that Don Bosco Center has completed. The center is located near the main town square and a prison, and it is an ideal location for missionaries to meet the many street children who spend time in the square washing cars, carrying luggage and parcels, stealing and begging. Shortly after the inception of the Don Bosco Center, a Salesian school was opened on the premises which serves the local population.
Word has spread among the local population that Salesian missionaries are there to help. While they can’t meet every request, missionaries are focused on providing for the urgent needs of the community.
“Since our arrival in Bukavu, the door of the Don Bosco Center is always open. We try to listen to those who come from outside with their problems,” said Fr. Gavioli. “Our mission here is to welcome the children in the streets and offer them free vocational training. Moreover, with our resources, we help families to pay the school fees of at least one of their children.”
Despite its vast material wealth, the DRC 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 now 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 DRC 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