The Salesians first came to Rwanda in 1954, recognizing the damage wrought by the colonial powers of the world. The focus of the Salesians in Rwanda is to join the people as they seek to move their nation forward, 28 years after the brutal genocide that left vicious scars.

The trauma of Rwanda’s past is evident through the nation; half of all children drop out of primary school - 2.2 million of them. Along with many other of the poorest nations on Earth, COVID-19’s ugly tentacles have made life significantly more precarious.

Child labour, disease, hunger and abuse are just some of the realities of street children. Scavenging to survive, perennially tired and hungry and no sense of security, it can be a terrifying place to be a young person.

In Rango, Butare (Southern Rwanda), the parish of St John Bosco and the Vocational Training Centre, offer vocational courses of all kinds: construction, tailoring, welding, carpentry, hotel-related skills, mechanics, cooking and hairdressing.

'Don Bosco Children Ejo Heza' is a program that was initiated in response to the pandemic in the spring of 2020. Ejo Heza is a common saying on local tongues, which translates to “tomorrow will be better”, and it is with this hope that the program unfolds.

Young people are first approached on the streets, as Salesians make contact with them in a caring and friendly manner. If the young person accepts the invitation for a better tomorrow, the next steps on the path are of psychological, educational and social rehabilitation that culminates, if possible, in family reunification.

The program has seen such success that is no longer uncommon for young people from the street to knock on the parish door! Word of the special treatment provided by the Salesians spread amongst the young people and they now come in large numbers.

It is always the intention of the program to intervene where it is needed most, and then guide the young people into reintegration into school and family life. These cornerstones are what give a young person the best chance of enjoying their childhood and establishing a foundation for them to transition into adulthood with the best interests of all at heart.

Republished from the Australian Salesian Bulletin - Autumn 2022
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