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14/10/2015 - Ghana - With Don Bosco hope returns to victims of child trafficking

(ANS - Ashaiman) - What is the most painful reality you have to face in West Africa? This is the question that was put to the Salesians of the Blessed Artemide Zatti province with its headquarters at Ashaiman, Ghana, in 2013, after the Pope's appeal for a church that would reach out to the margins. The answer was: child trafficking. This is why last year the Salesians of Don Bosco started a new initiative: the Don Bosco Child Protection Centre.

by Gian Francesco Romano

Right from the beginning the Salesians have been collaborating with the Police and the Ministry for Social Welfare. "We take care of rehabilitation, for a period of six to nine months. Sometimes children come with nothing, with only the clothes they are wearing. We give them a decent place to sleep, a backpack with a little money and some food. From the first day they are given a general check-up, to assess any disease or injuries that may have" says Fr Jorge Crisafulli, SDB, Provincial of the English-speaking Province of West Africa (AFW).

Child victims of trafficking are among the last and most forgotten of society. They are children who have been abandoned, or taken by fraud to relatives with the promise that they're going to study in the city. In other cases their own families "give them for rent" for a few years, for a monthly fee. Instead of studying and playing, the children end up working full-time as shepherds or in plantations, or risking their lives every day in illegal mines, or diving in Lake Volta. Then there are those who suffer sexual abuse and prostitution.

The Salesian programme is not meant just to offer a brief respite from the suffering of these children, nor to be a permanent refuge from the evils of the world. It is meant to create a turning point in their lives and to give these young people the chance to dream. "They come to us with dull eyes and long sad faces, but then after two or three weeks you can see the change in their faces! (...) There are children who have come here with no self-esteem, without even the strength to walk, and then at the end of their stay they have new motivation, new goals and fresh hopes ... a girl who wants to be a lawyer, a boy who wants to become President of the Republic, and so on" said the Provincial.

This is because in the Don Bosco Child Protection Centre they get a new start in life. "They have school in the morning and then theatre, music, dance, sports, and games."

These young people are the greatest satisfaction Fr Crisafulli finds in his missionary work. "The greatest joy for me is to see them smile again, to see boys and girls who arrive here without hope, and after meeting Don Bosco they say: 'Here I feel loved.'"

Published 14/10/2015

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