Rwanda – "Ejo heza": Salesians at work as "tomorrow will be better"

10 February 2022

(ANS - Butare) - Child labor, disease, hunger, mistreatment are just some of the contexts in which street children find themselves in Rwanda. “They don't go to school, survive by offering their labor and dedicating themselves to small trades and businesses. They ended up living on the street as a result of separations, mourning, or simply because of too much misery,” testifies Fr Daniel Antunez, Argentine Salesian, President of "Missioni Don Bosco" in Turin, about the sad reality that unites so many minors in the African country.

“They carry heavy bags, fetch water, collect and sell pieces of metal, empty plastic bottles, glass. Most of them suffer from malnutrition and other diseases. They sleep with one eye open for fear that someone will steal the few, meager things they possess. They are frightened, abused, perennially tired, hungry,” said the Salesian.

Present in the country since 1964, the Salesians have for over fifty years dealt mainly with hospitality, education and vocational training, with projects dedicated to the very young, children and street children.

In Rango, in the city of Butare, in Southern Rwanda, since 1996 with the parish of St John Bosco and the Vocational Training Center, the missionaries have been offering vocational courses of all kinds: construction, tailoring, welding, carpentry, hotel-related skills, mechanics, cooking, hairdressing, a large number and variety of courses to try to build a better future for children in street conditions - about 7,000, according to Unicef, throughout Rwanda, a number that has seen a significant increase with the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, school closures, and the rising level of domestic violence in recent years.

“My confreres in Rango have started the 'Don Bosco Children Ejo Heza' for them, a program that provides for a first approach of minors on the street and inclusion in a path of psychological, educational and social rehabilitation that culminates, if possible, in family reunification.”

"Ejo heza", which in the local language means "tomorrow will be better", was started at the beginning of the pandemic in the spring of 2020. “Children from the street started knocking on our parish door in Rango. By word of mouth, as their comrades had been treated well, they now come in large numbers. We want them to go back to school and start living with their parents again because they have the right to a present as peaceful, trusting children and a future as respectable adults,” concludes the Salesian.

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ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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