SIERRA LEONE: Don Bosco Fambul Girls Shelter gives girls caught in prostitution a chance for a better life
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Fambul, one of Sierra Leone’s leading child-welfare organizations located in Freetown, has been helping young women caught up in prostitution come in off the streets. Father Jorge Crisafulli launched the program out of Don Bosco Fambul’s Girls Shelter in September 2016 with the aim of searching for girls in their workplaces where they are surrounded by alcohol and drugs and at risk of danger and exploitation. The program offers them shelter, health, nutrition, education and wherever possible, reintegrates them back into their families.
Betty is 14 years old and has lived on the streets of Freetown since she was 9 years old. She survived in the only way a young girl on the streets could, by prostituting herself. Betty has been abused and discarded by most of society. Because of her rough and challenging start in life, she harbors an immense amount of anger and frustration. Her life started to turn around after she met social workers with Don Bosco Fambul, but it has been a long, slow process of recovery.
At the Don Bosco Fambul reception center, the social workers and other staff found Betty difficult to handle and often clashed in discussions with her. From time to time, she would run away, but then would return to the director’s office feeling guilty for her outbursts. Betty speaks of her pains and her internal struggles with Fr. Crisafulli who has deep and infinite compassion for her and her continuous emotional pain.
After her last outburst at the center, she wrote a note to him to express how sorry she was and how much she cares for him and asked for his forgiveness.
“How can I not forgive her? What fault does she have if the circumstances of life have dragged her into prostitution? I never stop saying to her that it’s not her fault, that she is beautiful and intelligent, that God loves and cares for her. I encourage her to not stop dreaming,” says Fr. Crisafulli.
At Don Bosco Fambul, Salesian missionaries realize Betty’s need for attention and affection and the importance of her knowing with certainty that she is not judged or discriminated against and loved for who she is. Missionaries have noted that people start to change when they are treated with affection and accepted for who they are.
Close to 200,000 young girls and older women were sexually assaulted during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, according to UNICEF. And although the war has stopped, the sexual violence against women continues. Young women are at risk for sexual violence, trafficking and forced pregnancy, among other atrocities. Today, one third of girls are forced into marriage and often sexually assaulted by their husbands before their 15th birthday. In addition, 90 percent of girls are subjected to female genital mutilation. The Girls Shelter, which has been in operation for five years, was developed in response to this crisis.
Salesian missionaries, professional social workers and pastoral workers provide crisis intervention and follow-up care for girls and young women who have been victims of sexual assault. Girls that access the shelter services are also able to attend educational programs that are a part of the broader Don Bosco Fambul network of programs. These educational programs give young women the skills necessary to find and retain employment.
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UNICEF – Sierra Leone