DR CONGO: Salesian staff at Bakanja Ville helps to reunify one young boy with his family
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian-run Bakanja Ville is part of the local Salesian Bakanja Center for homeless children in the city of Lubumbashi in the southeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is the first stop in the process of welcoming children into the Salesian program. It acts as a drop-in center and reception center for homeless youth who are looking to escape their challenging life on the streets.
While the city of Lubumbashi has both agricultural and mineral resource wealth, the area faces numerous economic and social challenges. The city and surrounding areas have close to 8.2 million people, most living in poverty. More than 60 percent of the population is less than 20 years old. A large percentage of children and young adults have dropped out of school because they are unable to pay for tuition, uniforms and school supplies. This leaves many young adults unemployed and living on the streets. Often their only shelter is the market stalls and cardboard boxes.
The doors of Bakanja Ville are always open. Youth can access the program to take a shower, sleep, eat, wash their clothes and engage in activities. A personal file is opened for each young person. Then Salesian missionaries begin a search for the family to see if reintegration is possible with the help of social workers. Salesian missionaries also go out into the street twice a month to help connect with street children in their own environment to tell them about the program and offer them a safe place to stay.
“Children who are living on the streets experience discrimination and exclusion every day,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Children who are able to access programs that help youth come in off the streets—where they face poverty and are at-risk for exploitation—have a chance at a better life. Salesian programs aim to help children live safely while getting the emotional support they need and the education that will help them live independently.”
For one young boy named Joseph, Bakanja Ville was the lifeline he needed to reconnect with his mother.
“Joseph arrived at Bakanja Ville last May,” says Delphine Morin, a volunteer at the center. “A street kid found Joseph and took him to the center. The child was in a bad state. He had continuous epileptic seizures, which left him weakened and frightened, and a nasty wound to the tibia that prevented him from walking. Communication with him was not at all easy. Joseph has a development disability that limited his ability to speak and explain what had happened to him.”
At first Joseph slept a great deal to recover from the epileptic episodes and to heal his leg. With the help and work of many people, Joseph healed and started to feel better. At Bakanja Ville he was given a cure to control and reduce his epileptic episodes until they disappeared completely.
During his recovery, social workers tried to establish a dialogue with him, but Joseph insisted only on repeating “Mwambui” when he was asked about his mother, a term that in the local language refers to a woman who has had twins.
Elie, a young boy recently welcomed at the center, said he knew Joseph’s mother, a street vendor at M’zee Kabila’s market. For days, social workers went out to look for her, but without any positive result. Another newcomer to Bakanja Ville said he knew Joseph and his family as he had been a neighbor. The social workers went back out with this new information, and in the end, they managed to track down Joseph’s family.
The mother, who had thought her son was dead, was now being reunited with him. Joseph had wandered away from home and could not find his way back. It was through the help and determination of the staff at the Bakanja Ville that Joseph received the care and treatment he needed and was able to reunify with his family.
UNICEF – DR Congo
*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.