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LIBERIA: Salesians build sports arena at prison

Monrovia Central Prison for Juveniles

Project is step forward in educational-pastoral work


(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries support inmates at the Monrovia Central Prison for Juveniles in Liberia. Their newest initiative is the construction of a multifunctional sports arena on the prison grounds. The construction project, which is supported by Don Bosco Mondo in Bonn, Germany, will be dedicated to Pope Francis.

“This project is a very significant step forward in our educational-pastoral work with prisoners, especially with young offenders,” said Father Augustine Okeke, rector of the Salesian community in Monrovia-Matadi.

Salesians have been giving support in the prison since they arrived in the country in 1979. Today, they provide food for those who are malnourished, medical assistance and psycho-social care in a specially built living area of the prison. For those who are wrongly held, Salesians help connect young inmates with lawyers who offer free legal assistance. Salesians also offer pastoral care including prayer, individual and group discussions, Bible lessons, the Sacraments of the Eucharist, and confession.

The prison is overcrowded due to the slow work of the judiciary system in the country. It was initially built for 325 inmates, but today, there are over 1,500 prisoners in the narrow cells. Overcrowding has led to a lack of food and water, poor hygienic standards, and a lack of psycho-social support. These in turn have led to increased aggression and frustration among prisoners, resulting in physical and mental illnesses and injuries.

Salesians hope that the addition of an area where prisoners can exercise and form sports teams will encourage working together and moments of peer-to-peer support. Prison officials are rallying behind the project.

Varney Lake, superintendent and head of the Central Prison, said, “It is only through this initiative that sport activities will soon return after so many years. That’s what I call a real Don Bosco celebration.” He emphasized the importance of sports as a therapeutic measure in the prison system.

Salesians noted that the donor was involved from the very first moment of planning. Fr. Okeke explained, “It is important to us that the donor is also involved during and after the project implementation. Even though he lives far away, he should know that he can make a difference with his own resources.”

The donor, 85-year-old Peter Friemel from Germany, has been collecting money from sponsors for his bicycle tours for many years. After some time, the project was granted permission to go ahead.

An estimated 64% of Liberians live below the poverty line and 1.3 million live in extreme poverty, out of a population of 4.6 million, according to the World Food Programme. Food security is also affecting 41% of the population and making chronic malnutrition high.

Whether working to rehabilitate former child soldiers or assist young women in overcoming barriers to education, Salesian programs in Liberia are providing opportunities for youth to live up to their potential through both academic and social programs.



ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS) 

ANS – Liberia – Salesians build “Pope Francis Arena” in Liberia State Prison

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