SIERRA LEONE: Children and youth learn in safe environment
Don Bosco Youth Center provides youth access to educational and social support
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Youth Center, part of the Dwarzak Parish in Freetown, Sierra Leone, offers youth a space to enjoy leisure and sports, get help with schoolwork, have a nutritious meal, and find personal and spiritual support in a safe and healthy environment. Salesian missionaries also promote an attitude of service and teach children and older youth the importance of giving back to their families and community. They are being prepared to be good, honest citizens.
Youth in Sierra Leone face significant challenges in accessing education. With too few teachers and many school buildings destroyed in the war, resources are thin. Persistently high illiteracy rates mean that an estimated 70 percent of Sierra Leone’s youth are unemployed or underemployed. Programs facilitated by Don Bosco Youth Center help to ensure youth have access to the services they need to gain an education and to be able to connect with their peers.
Each day up to 100 children, between the ages of 7-18, participate in recreational, educational and spiritual activities. More than 50 youth receive nutritional assistance three times a week and 80 children receive educational and spiritual assistance six days a week. These activities promote an enriched environment where youth feel secure and free.
Don Bosco Youth Center also offers table tennis, educational films, storytelling events, spelling and quiz competitions, and brass band, keyboard and singing instruction. Sports programming is provided six days a week. Youth can take part in soccer and basketball training and engage in friendly matches in Lungi and Freetown, as well as league competitions. In addition to services for youth, Don Bosco Youth Center serves as a training and meeting place for educators.
“The activities and support provided at Don Bosco Youth Center decrease the risks for vulnerable youth who might otherwise lead dangerous lives on the streets,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “This serves as unique space for youth who lack connection to adults, academic assistance and access to safe places for play.”
Salesian missionaries have been serving in Sierra Leone since 2001 when they began working to rehabilitate former child soldiers through the organization Don Bosco Fambul. In the years since, Don Bosco Fambul, located in Freetown, has become one of the country’s leading child welfare organizations—offering food, clothing, crisis intervention services, shelter, educational opportunities, long-term counseling and family reunification.
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Salesian Missions – Sierra Leone
UNICEF – Sierra Leone