“It is an illusion that drags many minors into insecure contexts and so they end up living on the street. Our objective is to restore dignity to the child, to educate him so that he truly finds his place in the society, as a man created in the image and likeness of God,” explained Fr Aurélien Ahouangbe, director of the Foyer Don Bosco of the diocese of Porto-Novo, in an interview with the Osservatore Romano and reported by Vatican News.
Fr Ahouangbe is committed to combating child labor and explains how the economic and labor exploitation of children is a worrying issue throughout Benin. To counter this phenomenon, the Salesians have built Counselling Kiosks in the markets, along national borders and in the most critical places. These are monitored by teams of government officials, policemen and social workers who check the age, working and living conditions of minors. If they ascertain that they are under the age of 14 or that they are being mistreated, then the minor is taken into the care of the Salesians.
“We listen to them, accompany them into the community and look for their parents,” explains Fr Aurélien. “We make the family aware of the laws that protect children and, if appropriate, we return their children to them and monitor them at home, ensuring their education and psychological assistance in case they have been mistreated.”
The objective of the Salesians is to ensure that young people rediscover the dignity and joy of being children of God: a nourishment thanks to which a new hope for a future of peace blossoms, a harmonious growth within society, and participation in the development of their city. This is the mission of the four Don Bosco Foyers in Benin. A home for minors is located in the economic capital Cotonou, while two more are in the capital Porto-Novo, and finally a structure in Kandi serves the entire north of the country and the border with Niger and Nigeria.
The reception in the Don Bosco Foyers begins with the psychological assistance of the minor through which they try to understand his or her family and work problems. Then, the children receive health care, food support, hospitality, housing, school reintegration and vocational training. Some young people study until their graduation while others receive skill training. In this process, these children also get closer to religion.
“The redemption of man must pass through the faith received, lived and transmitted,” adds Fr Ahouangbe. “We propose it through the values of the Gospel and above all with the culture of love.”
Source: Vatican News