(MissionNewswire) The Bosco Children Project in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, provides supportive and educational services to boys who are orphaned or live on the street. The program—although stretched financially—provides an outreach orientation center and a hostel.
“The Ethiopian government appreciates the work of Salesian missionaries but our programs struggle financially because of the poor economy in the country, so we provide as many services to as many boys as we can reach,” says Father Angelo Regazzo, treasurer of the Salesian community in Ethiopia. “We appreciative the many donors that support our work ensuring boys who live on the street can have safe shelter and continue with their education.”
The Bosco Children Project has established a new orientation program called “Come and See” which serves close to 30 boys who are living on the streets. Every morning the boys are picked up by bus and taken to the center. At the center, boys work, play sports and attend classes where they learn to read and write. They also receive life skills training on social morality, civic responsibility, hygiene, and professional ethics. In the evening, the boys return to the streets. The goal is to provide boys with enough information and support to help them make the decision to enroll in the three year regular education course offered by the program.
If a boy is ready to enter the three-year course, he is provided a place to live in the Salesian-run youth hostel. His basic needs are provided for and he attends school and learns a trade. Salesian missionaries also provide workforce development services to help youth transition from the classroom into stable employment. Some students go on for further study at the university. For boys who do have a family, Salesian missionaries also offer assistance helping youth to reconnect with their families and settle into school in their village. When needed, Salesian missionaries will offer financial assistance so the boy can continue his education.
One of the biggest challenges the program faced this previous year was a lack of water. Two of the center’s water pumps were damaged. Recently, a donor from Italy has agreed to send the center a solar pump with the necessary panels, which will provide both water and savings on electricity.
To raise funding for the program, Salesian missionaries started an agriculture course where they teach boys farming skills and then sell the vegetables that are grown locally to earn revenue. The center also rents out space and offers a kitchen where goods are made and sold locally. This also helps the students apply the lessons learned in the classroom into a real working environment.
“We’ve also started repairing cars for religious and charitable organizations. As soon as the government gives us permission, we’ll start an auto-repair service for private individuals,” adds Fr. Regazzo.
Salesian missionaries have a long history of providing educational and supportive services to poor youth inn Ethiopia. Missionaries operate six primary schools, three secondary schools and six vocational training centers for older youth. At all these Salesian-run educational facilities, youth are able to gain an education while having access to supportive services, including family sponsorship and school feeding programs, that provide care for them and their families all with the goal of keeping youth in school as long as possible.
“Education is always our primary focus,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “We know youth in Ethiopia are dealing with much more than just having access to education. Salesian programs are tailored to meet the needs of the youth in the communities they serve. Homeless and malnourished youth are simply not able to focus effectively on their studies while they struggle to meet their basic needs. Our services provide food and shelter so youth are able to focus on the education provided.”
Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than 38 percent of its population living in poverty, according to Feed the Future. Close to 85 percent of the country’s workforce is employed in agriculture but frequent droughts severely affect the agricultural economy leaving more than 12 million people chronically, or at least periodically, food insecure. In addition, more than two-thirds of the population is illiterate.
The country has 4 million orphans which account for nearly 12 percent of all children, and according to UNICEF, more than half a million of these were orphaned as a result of the HIV/AIDS crisis that has affected the country. Thousands more children run away each year seeking a better life on the streets.
UNICEF – Ethiopia
Feed the Future – Ethiopia
Salesian Missions – Ethiopia