SIERRA LEONE: Mobile Outreach Provides Counseling and Medical Care to Street Children in Freetown
Don Bosco Fambul, one of Sierra Leone’s leading child-welfare organizations, launched surveys in Sept. 2016 and Feb. 2017 to better understand the reality of street children’s lives in Freetown, the capital city. As a result, Salesian missionaries have noted that close to 2,000 children are living on the streets facing physical suffering and emotional and sexual abuse on a daily basis.
“Girls as young as nine to 17 years old are engaged in prostitution. Some have been forced into the trade by poverty, cliques, mafias or as a result of maltreatment by their relations. The number of street kids is on the increase at an alarming rate,” said Father Jorge Crisafulli, the director of Don Bosco Fambul in a recent article from Awoko.
In 2015, thanks to a bus donation from Stadt Werke Trier in Germany, Don Bosco Fambul staff was able to operate a mobile unit that went out into the streets to assist children in need. During the outbreak of Ebola, the program was stopped to focus on the epidemic and prevention education. Following the outbreak, the bus was no longer operable so the program wasn’t able to get back off the ground. Thankfully, a recent city bus donation from the city of Badajoz, the capital of the Province of Badajoz in the community of Extremadura, Spain, has relaunched the project.
The city bus will be used as a mobile unit that will help thousands of children at risk of exclusion who are living on the streets of the city. The bus has been repainted and renovated. Inside, there’s space for education programs, counseling, and other programs. A generator provides power to PA systems, allows for phones to charge, and music to be playing.
Fr. Crisafulli noted that the bus would be operated by five social workers with six junior staff, a nurse, a driver, and two security personnel. The bus will operate on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays between 4:00pm and 10:00pm. He added that Wednesdays are focused on a family day to assess whether street children in the program are able to reintegrate with their families.
The bus will park at strategic points in close vicinity to the slums and places where street children sleep. In addition to social development services, youth will be provided with free HIV/AIDS counseling and testing, a free meal, and free legal services for those children that are in conflict with the law. The overall goal of the mobile outreach is to help reintegration children back with their families, if possible, or to connect them with foster families or alternative residential care for those who have spent a long time on the streets.
According to the World Bank, more than 60 percent of Sierra Leone’s population live 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.
Awareness Times – Sierra Leone News : Don Bosco Fambul Launches Mobile Programme
World Bank – Sierra Leone