SIERRA LEONE: Don Bosco Fambul Continues Successful Street Youth Rehabilitation Program
(MissionNewswire) Transformation for street youth starts with the Salesian rehabilitation and reunification programs operated at Don Bosco Fambul. Located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, Don Bosco Fambul is one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations and has been on the forefront of efforts to help rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families. In December 2016, 28 youth who were in the program were reunited with their families. At the start of 2017, given the openings in the program, Salesian social workers went back out to the streets, slums and marketplaces to engage with other vulnerable youth and encourage them to join the successful Salesian program.
Many of the youth who were contacted during this time filled out the required questionnaire and 30 of the most at-risk youth were admitted into the program. Salesian missionaries chose youth who have few other options and are most in need. This includes youth who are orphans, sick, weak, those who had spent longer on the street, and/or victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse. After evaluation, youth are assigned into the appropriate educational levels, are given thorough medical exams and necessary treatment, and receivee their housing. Youth also engage in listening sessions and counseling, group discussions, prayer, talks, sports and recreation, which are all a part of the rehabilitation process.
The success of the street children rehabilitation program is credited to Don Bosco Fambul’s holistic approach focusing on attending to basic needs (food, clothing, a safe place to sleep) as well as personalized medical, psychological, pedagogical, social and spiritual care of the children. This gradual process includes formal classes, daily games, sports, music, singing, drama, dancing, counseling and prayer. Their parents and extended families are contacted several times by social workers before final reunification.
On reunification day, an agreement is signed between parents and Don Bosco Fambul in order to secure a safe environment for the child to continue his personal growth, including ensuring the youth will have the food, clothing, shelter and education they need. Social workers continue to visit the youth and their families until they finish secondary school.
“Education helps break the cycle of violence and poverty,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “This program helps youth come in off the streets where they face poverty and are at-risk for exploitation, and have a chance at a better life. The aim is to help them live safely while getting the emotional support they need and the education that will help them live independently.”
According to the World Bank, more than 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s population lives in poverty with many living on less than $1.25 per day. The literacy rate is only 41 percent and 70 percent of young people in Sierra Leone are unemployed or underemployed as a result. The country was hard hit by the Ebola crisis. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that there were more than 14,124 total cases of Ebola and 3,956 deaths from the virus in Sierra Leone alone. Don Bosco Fambul was on the forefront of efforts to help prevent Ebola in communities throughout Sierra Leone and provide care for children left orphaned by the deadly epidemic. The organization recently received Sierra Leone’s Presidential Award in recognition of its contribution in fighting Ebola.
World Bank – Sierra Leone
World Health Organization – Ebola Stats