SIERRA LEONE: Youth start reunification process with their families at successful Don Bosco Fambul street children program
(MissionNewswire) On June 11, the first group of youth taking part in rehabilitation and reunification programs at Don Bosco Fambul started the pre-unification process (the step before reintegration) with their families. The Don Bosco Fambul program helps street children reunite with their natural families or pursue adoption procedures.
Located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, Don Bosco Fambul is one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations and has been on the forefront of efforts to help rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families. The organization is directed by Salesian Father Jorge Mario Crisafulli and has a staff of 120 including Salesian social workers who go out to the streets, slums and marketplaces to engage with vulnerable youth and encourage them to join Don Bosco Fambul’s successful program.
Many of the youth who are contacted during this time fill out the required questionnaire and those most at-risk are admitted into the program. Salesian missionaries seek out youth who have few other options and are most in need. This includes orphans, victims of physical, emotional and sexual abuse and those who have spent longer on the street or who are sick and weak. After evaluation, participants are assigned to appropriate educational levels, are given thorough medical exams, necessary treatment and housing. Participants also engage in listening sessions and counseling, group discussions, prayer, talks, sports and recreation, all of which are a part of the rehabilitation process.
The success of Don Bosco Fambul’s street children rehabilitation program is credited to its holistic approach which focuses on meeting basic needs (food, clothing, a safe place to sleep) in addition to personalized medical, psychological, pedagogical, social and spiritual care. Rehabilitation is a gradual process that includes formal classes, daily games, sports, music, singing, drama, dancing, counseling and prayer. The parents and extended families of participants are contacted several times by social workers before final reunification.
On reunification day, an agreement is signed between parents and Don Bosco Fambul in order to secure a safe environment for the children to continue along a path of personal growth, including ensuring they will have the food, clothing, shelter and education they need. Social workers continue to visit the children and their families until they finish secondary school.
“Education helps break the cycle of violence and poverty,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “This program helps youth come in off the streets where they face poverty and are at-risk for exploitation, and have a chance at a better life. The aim is to help them live safely while getting the emotional support they need and the education that will help them live independently.”
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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World Food Programme – Sierra Leone