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Thursday, 17 October 2013 18:38

Street Children

Street Children

DON BOSCO HOMES AND STREET CHILDREN

Street Children

For some children the streets are where they look to find their home, their parents, their playground, their education, their health care, and their love. For others, the streets are where they work, from as early as sunrise to as late as midnight. To be street children is the plight of so many young people in the capital city of Liberia, Monrovia.

Don Bosco Homes in Liberia has worked for Monrovia's street, since 1992. At present we are in contact with some 500 street children. Our outreach workers visit twenty police depots daily to intervene on behalf of juveniles in jail. In a country where there are virtually no state-run juvenile correction centres, the situation is getting worse as more take to the streets. But who are these street children?

Categories of Street Children

Nobody actually knows the total number of street children in town; but some say they number around 3,000. As mentioned in the introduction Monrovia's street children can be broadly placed into two groups: working street children and children that live on the streets. Working street children comprise those who leave home in the morning to sell and then return home in the evening. These children are, in many instances, sent by their parents or relatives to earn money for the running of the home.

The second category, the children that live in the streets, comprises those who work and live there. They do some contracts of fetching water or washing dishes at cookery shops, and carrying short-distance loads for people; they steal and are involved in other forms of "hustle". They sleep in unfinished buildings, market stalls, old cars, football pitches and any safe places they can find. They are largely self-supervised, although in rare cases they have a group leader. In Monrovia you will find these children on the streets up to between 11 pm. and 1 am

Causes of Street Children

The unemployment status of many parents, peer pressure, unwillingness to submit to parental control, parental neglect leading to children running away are some of the many factors leading to children being in the streets. "But most of the time when we trace their parents, it is pathetic to see the poverty of the homes they come from. Many families just don't have the means to support their children," says Joe Hena, Welfare Co-ordinator of Don Bosco Homes. Taking some children back home is often not the best solution, "but as a rule. since we believe that the family settings are the best places for children to grow up, we take them home." Their ages often range between eight and fourteen, although this age group is sometimes lower or higher.

Effects of Street Life

Our social workers remind us that the negative impact of street life on children is enormous. Many street children lack basic rights such as education, family love, healthcare, good food, and safety. Other disadvantages include exposure to drugs, the risk of being knocked down by cars, harsh punishment for little offences, the early arrival of adulthood, association with the wrong people and criminals, and loss of family ties. Another big problem is exploitation. Joe Hena says Children are sometimes exploited by adults who hire them to work for wages payable at the end of the month, but often the contracts are terminated before the end of the month without good reason and the children remain unpaid,

 

The Intervention of Don Bosco Homes

 

In Don Bosco Homes, to be in contact with a street child means the child benefits from Don Bosco Homes programs: facilities and services. Monthly documentation figures show that Don Bosco Homes is reaching some 500 Monrovia street children with counselling, medical attention, advocacy, feeding, legal-aid, skills training for older boys willing to do so, family reunification, literacy, academic assistance, games, and football. The children themselves run to Don Bosco Homes centres when in trouble or when they are sick.

 

Shelters called juvenile reception centres and night-shelters. have been opened in parts of the city Paynesville, Duala, and Lynch Street- to draw the children from the streets and keep them doing literacy work and playing and so out of trouble. There are two night-shelters again in Paynesville and one or Lynch Street.

 

Regrettably, a number of obstacles has slowed down the work of Don Bosco Homes. For example, some people are calling the children `Don Bosco Children they need to be constantly reminded that they are Liberia's children; and Don Bosco Homes is only helping. Even some parents want to shift the responsibility for the upbringing of their children to Don Bosco Homes. They like to use the phrase placing them on the dorm. Again they need to be reminded that Don Bosco Homes does not run dormitories, and in general has little money for sponsorship. While trying to help transform these children for a better future, Don Bosco Homes has also been wrongly accused of harbouring rogues and criminals. The lack of funds, vehicles, and other logistics are also stalling the Don Bosco Homes efforts, Fortunately though, some parents, police officers, some who work in the markets, and others are gradually grasping the essence of what we are trying to do. Now they are beginning to help us with the street children so that we can take them back home.

 

By John T. Monibah

Liberia

Worldwide

Youth News

 

 

Published in Salesians Articles
Thursday, 17 October 2013 18:38

Street Children

Street Children

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Don Bosco UK
Province News
Liberia
Worldwide
Youth News
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Countering a Culture of Death

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by Michael Johnstone (Pastoral Assistant at St Georges, Norwich)

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They are not the sons of John Bosco for nothing

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Flowers are cultivated in the environs of Medellin. Flowers that are exported to the United States and elsewhere; a flourishing business. Drugs are exported from the city itself! Medellin is the distribution centre of most of South America's drug trade. Nearly all drugs exported to North America and Europe are controlled by the Drug Barons of this city.

Of the suburbs of Medellin, Aures is one of the most violent. Ask a taxi driver to take you up its precipitous slopes after 8 o'clock at night, and like as not you'll get a surly refusal - unless he knows of Don Bosco City, and the work it does.

I don't know whether the farsighted Salesian founders of Don Bosco City 30 years ago deliberately chose Aures because of its reputation. But there it is! An oasis of calm, of constructive work, of hopefulness and of faith in a desert of gun fire, of destruction, of deprivation and of crumbling families.

Who are the people who get killed in the drug-related gun fights and brawls? Why, the fathers of the teeming youngsters in the slums. What happens to them when Dad gets killed? When Mum finds she has to spend long hours, from the very early morning till way into the night, hawking a few vegetables or some of those flowers on the streets of Medellin? When Mum perhaps takes in a new boyfriend who dislikes his stepchildren, or abuses them? When Mum possibly turns to prostitution to earn the housekeeping money? Why, they give up, they run away, they abandon the disintegrated family. They drift on to the streets. They become gamines - guttersnipes.

They live on the street it becomes their home. The gutter becomes their life, the filth of the gutter becomes part of their nature. The grime of the street gets ingrained in their souls. Within days they are on drugs themselves; glue as a minimum. A gang will buy a can of DIY glue and share it amongst themselves. They put it into bottles, and hide it under their tee-shirts. They guard it with their lives. They will sniff it constantly. It turns them high. It eases their pain. It masks their loneliness; it gives them security. It becomes their Teddy Bear, their comfort rag. And soon they are on to harder drugs.

How do they eat? Why, they pilfer, they shoplift. They become muggers. These are no angels these boys. They are filthy dirty. They are foul mouthed. They are aggressive , with one another no less than with those they meet. They smell. They are not popular. City worthies want to get rid of them. There are campaigns to 'street cleanse' them. They are the victims of violence. They disappear. Hooligans shoot them. Their bodies are found on dumps, in the gutter: Nelson, December 1993, Nancy, October 1994, Diego, November 1995, Herson, May 1996. All children I have known.

Trying to help them is not easy. Adults are the cause of their troubles. They took away their security. They are the source of the violence they suffer. They do not relate to adults they are suspicious. They are wary. But the Salesians are not in Aures for nothing They are not the sons of St John Bosco for nothing. Caring for street children is in Salesian blood. And they are not alone.

Working with them is Fr Peter Walters, an Englishman who is now secular priest of the diocese of Medellin, and whose vocation, too, is to work with the street children of Colombia. He is doing so, because they helped him in his need. As a young student for the Anglican ministry, exploring Colombia fifteen years ago, he found himself with his pocket money gone and two weeks to wait for his return flight. He ended up sleeping rough and eating every second day. It was the gamines who befriended him and showed him the ropes. When one of them had a fit and almost died at his feet, he carried him off to hospital, and found that the cost of the cure was only 10 pence! He had low blood sugar and all he needed was some glucose.

"Why was no-one else helping the street children?" he asked angrily. And he determined to do something about it. Fr Peter through Let the Children Live! has helped develop and finance the Salesian initiatives in getting the gamines out of the gutter. They have initiated a stairway, a rescue ladder of five rungs, aiming to raise the sights of the gamine from the gutter, gradually up the hillsides, to that pinnacle in Aures - to Don Bosco City - where there is hope, where there is a future.

Work begins when the boys are at their most vulnerable - very early in the morning and very late at night, three times each week. A little knot of people sets off from the playground of a former Salesian school, adjacent to the Church of our Lady Help of Christians (where Fr Peter said his First Mass last September), to find the bundles of rags and cardboard and plastic - looking for all the world like body-bags left by some defeated army - which are the sleeping children of God, and beginning to befriend them with a cheery joke, a cup of hot chocolate and some biscuits.

After many weeks of this some boys will be persuaded that some adults are trustworthy This trust, gained from these 'Friendship Walks' is the first rung on the rescue ladder. The second rung for them is to risk a step inside the school playground - to risk a day in safety! To take a step inside to a drug-free day, to a day of friendship, to a day with showers, to wash themselves and the rags they wear. A day with two hot meals and endless football.

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It masks their loneliness; it gives them security. Glue becomes their Teddy Bear

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There are always some who daren't risk it. At six o'clock comes another decision time "Do I return to the comfort of the streets I know? Or do try Rung 3 on the ladder?" No one can force a gamine to climb onto the bus, for a journey up the hillside to the Albergue , the night shelter. He has to find the strength within himself. For you and me that would be an easy decision to make - especially if you saw the Albergue - swimming pool, green lawns, climbable trees, television, and hot supper being prepared. You and I don't understand the pull of the drugs, the strength of the gang-friendship, the power of the snakes in this real life game of Snakes and Ladders, to tempt the boys back to what they know!

Those who can find the inner strength to stay on the ladder, to be regular at the night shelter, to be free of glue-sniffing, will be selected by Fr Peter and the full-time workers, (two of whom are ex-street children themselves, and jointly funded by Ciudad Don Bosco and Let the children Live!) to go on to the next rung. Higher up the hillside they will go - to a full-time residential home, called the Hogar, to be initiated into social living, to a regular life, to regular meals and here's the rub - to schooling.

The Hogar is the gateway to Ciudad Don Bosco itself, that High on the heights of the mountains surrounding Medellin. Here is free education up to age of 18, as well as training in a trade - metalworking, carpentry, computing, machining, printing. Not all the 800 young people here are ex-street children. Many come that way, others come from Aures itself, and yet others are bussed in from adjacent suburbs but here are found energetic, enthusiastic and optimistic young people all under the wing of Don Bosco, many of whom have come there through a co-operative venture to learn that there is a way outward and upward from the vortex into which they has been sucked by the western world's apparently insatiable appetite for drugs. We can help them find the inner strength to climb the ladder to Ciudad Don Bosco through our prayers and support.

Don Bosco City. AA 11541, Medellin, Antioqia, Colombia.

Fr Peter Walters: c/o Let the Children Live! PO Box 11, Walsingham, Norfolk, NR22 6EH

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Salesians of Don Bosco UK is a Registered Charity. Number 233779.

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Published in Salesians Articles
Thursday, 17 October 2013 18:37

Street

Street

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Don Bosco UK
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the STREET

Alan was glad they had met up before they went off to the pub on the other side of the ring road. They all knew that it had a dodgy reputation but they'd agreed to try some of the real ale they brewed on the premises. They were almost within reach of "Foxy Fallon's" when they noticed a group coming out of a side-street, obviously heading towards the very same isolated dimly-lit pub surrounded by open space for the local park-and-ride scheme. You could almost feel each group stiffen as they saw each other. In the distance a police car cruised past unconcerned. They headed on towards the light but slowly enough to let the locals arrive first. As they went in they realised it was quiz night and the other group had merged into a very mixed and noisy atmosphere.

They signed up for the quiz and bought a few drinks and cigarettes. Alan kept away from the bar because he was only just 15. He let his older sister Paula get his and sign them in for the quiz. Paula was 16 and looked a lot older. She flirted with the barman as she picked up the pen and quiz sheet and then came back to the table. In the quiz they were lucky, all the questions seemed easy and yet they were totally surprised when their team won. The prize was a large jug of their famous home-brewed beer and the team celebrated their victory with renewed thirst and great noise. Paula went to the loo and came back with a worried look on her face. She told them that the group they saw on the way in was their local quiz team, and they usually won. One of the girls from that group had just told her, in no uncertain terms, that they would never get back across the ring road in one piece.

An hour later they stumbled out into the night, more sober and serious than they expected. They were frightened, and any bravado they felt evaporated in the fresh air. The gang was nowhere to be seen. Their eyes hunted the shadows for signs of attack. All the horror stories they heard on the news came back in too much detail. The chimes of the parish clock reverberated in the darkness as they crept towards the bridge over the ring road. As the empty neon-lit bridge got closer they began to believe they would avoid trouble. When they got to the other side Alan was dripping with sweat and shaking; though he said nothing to the others. Paula noticed though and realised that he wasnt quite as old or tough as he looked. She would remember that frightened-child look on his face for a long time.

One in four males (16-24) have been victims of violent crime

41% of violent youth crime involves family or friends

Police cautions are falling for 10-17 year olds but rising for 18-20 year old males

44% of 15-year-old boys drink alcohol at least once a week

In 1993 the average weekly intake for 16 year old males was 9 units in 1999 almost 15 units

Today 25% of 16 year old girls smoke. This percentage has stayed the same since 1990.

Source: Key Data on Adolescence Coleman 1999

 

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Salesians of Don Bosco UK is a Registered Charity. Number 233779.

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DON BOSCO TODAY

Summer 2017

DBT summer edition FINAL Page 01

 

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