SIERRA LEONE: New Salesian short film “Love” debuts in Rome, highlights Don Bosco Fambul’s rescuing young prostitutes from the streets
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Fambul, one of Sierra Leone’s leading child-welfare organizations located in Freetown, showed a new short film titled “Love,” directed by Goya prize winner Raúl de la Fuente, near the Vatican on April 12. The video captures the work of Salesian missionaries in Freetown who are helping hundreds of girls forced into prostitution by poverty or neglect.
Father Jorge Crisafulli, director of the center, began this work as part of Don Bosco Fambul’s Girls Shelter in September 2016, when he launched the program aimed at searching for girls in their workplaces where they are surrounded by alcohol and drugs and at risk of danger and exploitation. The goal is to offer them shelter, health, nutrition, education and wherever possible, reintegrate them into their families.
“We realized immediately when we contacted them, that they are children,” he told journalists at a press event in Rome. “They feel like children, think like children, behave like children, and so the streets and prostitution are definitely not for them.”
Fr. Crisafulli described them as “the most vulnerable among the vulnerable.” Soon after working with these young girls, he learned that they were in need of not just economic help, but also medical and psychological attention. Fr. Crisafulli noted that nearly 100 percent of the girls carry STDs and some even have the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.
“No one is lost forever,” he says in the film. “While there’s life and the capacity to dream, there’s always an opportunity to get ahead… These girls have a real kindness in their hearts. They want to help their families, they don’t think about themselves. These girls are the real heroines of this story.”
Aminata was the first girl that Fr. Crisafulli met when he started the program, but she has yet to fully engage and come in off the streets. But Fr. Crisafulli hasn’t given up. He still invites Aminata to attend programs, access shelter when she needs it and receive a hot meal. Many girls have come and gone from the program with much success. Augusta worked as a prostitute to be able to have enough food to eat, but because of Don Bosco Fambul, she now has her own catering business and strives to help other girls make better choices like she did.
A Crux article about the program noted that there are only four Salesian missionaries working each day in the poor quarters of town. They are assisted by 110 staff members and three volunteers. They are also supported by a psychologist and counselors, but the cost is significant. Funding for the programs comes from missionary aid societies, especially Salesian Missions in Madrid, Spain. They also must rely on donations.
Fr. Crisafulli created the new film to highlight the work of Don Bosco Fambul but also to show the impact and why funding is so critical. During a trip showcasing the film, Fr. Crisafulli and his team are hoping to persuade the European Union and the United Nations to support the initiative. In the short term, they hope to employ doctors and gynecologists to be on site to provide medical attention, according to the Crux article.
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.
UNICEF – Sierra Leone
Photo: Still shot from the film “Love” by Raúl de la Fuente
View the film on YouTube