MYANMAR: Don Bosco Friend Youth Center Shelters and Educates Boys Living on the Streets
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries operate the Don Bosco Friend Youth Center in Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar. The center was developed in 2013, and aims to help boys who are living on the streets access services and education. According to an article by UCANews.com, the center operates 24 hours a day with six paid staff and provides temporary shelter, food, healthcare and formal and non-formal education. Close to 30 boys, aged 4 to 18, live at the center permanently while dozens more access services on a drop-in basis.
The center, which received its official registration in Mandalay in 2015, hopes in the future to be able to house up to 100 boys. At the heart of the center is its outreach services. Salesian Father Peter Myo Khin and other staff visit railway stations and bus terminals to help boys living on the streets access the program and other services they need. The boys come from various backgrounds. Some have run away while others are from broken homes. All of them are living in conditions of poverty.
“We do the outreach program two or three days a week, and we make friends with street children and find out about their daily lives and family backgrounds,” said Fr. Myo Khin in the UCANews.com article. “The outreach program is the first step in helping these children and giving them a better life beyond the streets. The youth center is safe place for the boys and we treat them as family members.”
Patrick Zaw Tan, a project officer, told UCANews.com that he meets with each boy on a daily basis and talks to him like a close friend. The aim is to give the boys as much structure and information as possible in the first two weeks, but because the boys have been living on the streets, they are more focused on playing games rather than engaging. He notes one of the issues for some boys is sniffing glue, which is common among the urban poor, and the center helps them to break this habit.
Zaw Tan also notes that most families are poor so they force their children to work and earn money. Some parents beat the children if they refuse to do so, which can lead a boy to running away. The Salesian center does offer a family reconciliation program if the boys have a willingness to go home and the parents are ready to accept and care for them.
In the article, Fr. Myo Khin said that they encourage the boys to attend school as some have had to drop out due to their families’ poverty. If the boys do not want to attend school, they can pursue a non-formal education at the center. Of the 30 boys currently attending the program, 22 are in formal education while eight have chosen a non-formal education path.
While Myanmar is the second largest country in Southeast Asia and rich in natural resources, it is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranking 148 out of 188 countries according to the 2015 Human Development Report. More than a quarter of Myanmar’s population still lives in poverty with the poverty rate rising sharply to 70 percent for those living in rural areas. Myanmar also has the lowest life expectancy and the second-highest rate of infant and child mortality in the region. Just one-third of the population has access to the electricity grid, and only about half of school age children complete their primary education.
World Bank – Myanmar