Madagascar

Madagascar: Support gives hope to homeless youth

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Salesian missionaries provide support to homeless youth who have been sent to state re-education center

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been providing services for youth in Anjanamasina, a suburb of the capital city Antananarivo, Madagascar. They are working at the invitation of prison authorities to help children and youth who have been sent to the state re-education center, which houses more than 100 youth.

At the prison, youth who were living on the street because they have no family support often are put in the same house as those who have committed a crime. Poverty and a lack of education contribute to the rising numbers of children in this circumstance. Many families cannot afford to care for their children, and education is seen as an afterthought to providing for basic needs.

Every Sunday and on midweek Catholic feast days, Salesian missionaries distribute meals and provide musical, theatrical and sporting activities. They also provide spiritual services with the celebration of Mass and the sacraments, catechism, and special religious and educational projects. Missionaries help youth feel loved and important to someone, not a burden to be cast aside.

Don Bosco Mission, in Turin, Italy, has committed to supporting Salesian activities in Anjanamasina, guaranteeing Sunday lunch and recreational and sports activities.

"Youth who are in these facilities because they were living on the street deserve a second chance at life," said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. "Salesians help youth with their spiritual growth, social support and provide hope for a better future."

Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of eastern Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. Seventy percent of Madagascar's almost 19 million people live in poverty with 5.7 million of those being youth between the ages of 10-24, according to UNICEF. This number is expected to double by 2025.

For close to 80 percent of the country's inhabitants who live in rural areas and practice subsistence farming, living conditions have been steadily declining in recent years, particularly when it comes to access to transportation, health services, education and markets. Because of the lack of hygiene and access to safe drinking water, coupled with chronic malnutrition, people in Madagascar often suffer from respiratory ailments, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

In order to help youth break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness, Salesian missionaries in Madagascar operate elementary, middle and high schools throughout the country. The focus of the schools is on providing educational opportunities, increasing literacy and laying a foundation for education well past the compulsory education in the country. Access to education and training in social and life skills encourages graduates to find livable wage employment, breaking the cycle of poverty.