SIERRA LEONE: Don Bosco Fambul offers life-changing social services and support for poor and at-risk youth
(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 Sierra Leone’s leading child welfare organizations—offering food, clothing, crisis intervention services, shelter, educational opportunities, long-term counseling and family reunification.
Don Bosco Fambul, which has a 120-person staff that includes mostly social workers, reaches 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.
A Child Hotline offers around-the-clock counseling and is staffed by social workers along with other trained professionals, offering hope and services for children who are living on the streets. The hotline was invaluable during the Ebola epidemic as it provided vital prevention information. Staff working for the Child Hotline field close to 700 calls each week from children in crisis situations asking for advice and support. Roughly 100 to 120 of the calls require immediate attention and follow-up.
Once staff have engaged young clients, there are a number of programs they can access including Salesian rehabilitation and reunification programs. Using a holistic approach, the Salesian programs focus on meeting the basic needs of each child as well as offering personalized medical, psychological, pedagogical, social and spiritual care.
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.
In total, Don Bosco Fambul rescues 500 girls from the streets every year to reunite them with families and reintegrate them into society. The Girls Shelters has supported more than 330 girls over the last year, 196 of whom were rescued from situations of prostitution.
Don Bosco Fambul has also initiated a new Don Bosco on Wheels program which consists of a bus staffed with professionals providing medical, food and psychosocial assistance traveling around Freetown seeking to assist children in need. This program has reunited 220 boys with their families while also initiating supportive relationships for those who are unable to rely on their families. These interventions illustrate Don Bosco Fambul’s goal to provide guidance, hope and resources to help children succeed and positively influence their communities.
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