SIERRA LEONE: Don Bosco Fambul helps youth living on the street access shelter, nutrition and education
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been serving in Sierra Leone since 2001, when they began working to rehabilitate former child soldiers. In the years since, Don Bosco Fambul, located in the country’s capital city of 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.
Don Bosco Fambul reaches out to an estimated 2,500 street children in the region each year. Transformation for street youth starts with the Salesian rehabilitation and reunification programs operated at Don Bosco Fambul. The success of the street children rehabilitation program is credited to the organization’s holistic approach focusing on attending to basic needs (food, clothing and 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. Parents and extended families are contacted several times by social workers before final reunification.
Osman has found great success through Don Bosco Fambul. He did not know how old he was, nor did he remember the last time he had learned something at school. He said he did not have a family. Osman first learned about Don Bosco Fambul while living on the street. He was told that a bus would arrive to take care of children like him, that it would stop at various points in the capital and that he could play there and even get something to eat. But Osman wasn’t convinced.
For a long time, he attended only the Don Bosco Fambul night program. Standing at the door, he talked to the people at the entrance. It was his way of feeling safe. He always asked, “What do I have to do to become one of Fambul?” He saw other street children come to the program and make great changes. Eventually, he wanted to be like them and grew to trust that Salesian missionaries could help him make the changes he desired.
When Osman entered into the program, he played with the other children and was fed meals. He was able to take a shower and was given clean clothes. He also started school. Even if he did not understand everything that was said in the classroom, Osman was learning little by little. Without realizing it, he ended up becoming a big part of the Don Bosco Fambul program, distinguishing himself for the joy and the effort he was putting forth to make changes in his life just like his friends.
Today, Osman is still at Don Bosco Fambul, attending school and wanting to find out more about his family. He says, “If they have not lost the hope of seeing me again, we will be very happy, given the desire I have to find them.”
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