Sierra Leone

Don Bosco Fambul provides young women job starter kits after they finish their education

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(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Fambul, located in Sierra Leone's capital city of Freetown and one of the country's leading child-welfare organizations, provides job starter kits to young women who complete their education. The young women, who have come from situations of vulnerability, receive training in tailoring, tourism, catering and hair care through Salesian education.

Don Bosco Fambul has been on the forefront of efforts to help save young women who have faced abuse and prostitution, as well as to 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.

Don Bosco Fambul has a new therapeutic center with four large buildings, a clinic, accommodations for volunteers and social workers, a house for the Salesian community, and a chapel. Police agencies, lawyers and child protection agencies are working collaboratively with Don Bosco Fambul in the fight to protect children. Don Bosco Fambul's clinic issues forensic reports about abused minors arriving at the center so that police are able to conduct investigations early.

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. Don Bosco Fambul's Girls Shelter was developed to 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.

Don Bosco has also been helping young women caught up in prostitution come in off the streets. Father Jorge Crisafulli launched the program out of Don Bosco Fambul's Girls Shelter in September 2016 with the aim of searching for girls in their workplaces where they are surrounded by alcohol and drugs and at risk of danger and exploitation. The program offers them shelter, health, nutrition, education and wherever possible, reintegrates them back into their families.

"Education helps break the cycle of violence and poverty," said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. "This program helps young women who have faced poverty and exploitation to 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."

Salesian missionaries have been serving in Sierra Leone since 2001 when they began working to rehabilitate former child soldiers through Don Bosco Fambul. Young people also face significant challenges in accessing education in the country. With too few teachers and school buildings destroyed in the war, resources are thin. Persistently high illiteracy rates mean that an estimated 70 percent of Sierra Leone's youth are unemployed or underemployed.