SIERRA LEONE: Don Bosco Fambul holds marathon in honor of St. John (Don) Bosco feast day
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Fambul, located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, celebrated the feast of St. John (Don) Bosco this year with a variety of activities for youth. On Jan. 27, more than 100 youth participating in Don Bosco Fambul’s programs took part in a marathon in honor of Don Bosco. The event was an opportunity for youth to engage with their peers in a fun and active way.
Salesian missionaries have been serving in Sierra Leone since 2001 when they began working to rehabilitate former child soldiers. Today, Don Bosco Fambul has become one of the Sierra Leone’s leading child welfare organizations and offers food, clothing, crisis intervention services, shelter, educational opportunities, long-term counseling and family reunification.
Don Bosco Fambul has a 120-person staff that includes mostly social workers who reach out to thousands of street children in the region each year. The organization has implemented several interventions for children who have been abandoned, experienced violence and abuse and/or have found themselves in situations of prostitution.
“Don Bosco Fambul provides services to an estimated 2,500 street children in the region each year,” explains Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Transformation for street youth starts with the Salesian rehabilitation and reunification programs operated at Don Bosco Fambul. From there, youth are able to access other programs including education and technical training enabling them to successfully enter the workforce.”
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. 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.
One of Don Bosco Fambul’s most recognized programs is its Girls Shelter. 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 these crises. In September 2016, Father Jorge Crisafulli, director of Don Bosco Fambul, launched a program to help girls caught up in prostitution. The program is run out of Don Bosco Fambul’s Girls Shelter 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, healthcare, nutrition, education and wherever possible, reintegrates them back into their families.
The UN World Food Program reports that over half of the population in Sierra Leone lives under the national poverty line of approximately $2 per day. According to the 2016 Global Hunger Index, Sierra Leone also faces an alarming level of hunger with nearly 38 percent of children younger than 5 years of age suffering from chronic malnutrition.
Young people face significant challenges in accessing education. With too few teachers and school buildings destroyed in the war, resources are thin and persistently high illiteracy rates mean that an estimated 70 percent of Sierra Leone’s youth are un- or under-employed.
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UNICEF – Sierra Leone
UN World Food Program – Sierra Leone