By Reliefweb.int (Salesian Missions)
Youth attending the Don Bosco Center in Lungi, a small coastal town in the Port Loko District of the Northern Province of Sierra Leone, have access to better nutrition thanks to a partnership between Salesian Missions and Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit Christian organization committed to “feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit.” In addition to its feeding program, the center also focuses on providing socio-sports education for youth which is bolstered by the nutritional support.
Lungi is a poor community and the demand for nutritional rice-meals is at an all-time high. Most youth participating in activities at the Don Bosco Youth Center are malnourished and underprivileged. The feeding program ensures they have the nutrition needed to improve their concentration at school, participation in sports programming and interaction with peers while at the center.
Youth at the Don Bosco Center receive support that includes nutrition, sanitary items, educational/training materials and medical assistance that’s been made possible with the help of donations through Salesian Missions.
A 15-year-old boy at the center, Joseph Kamara, noted that since receiving the rice-meals he has been able to spend more time with his friends instead of working to pay for something to eat. He notes, “The feeding program at the Don Bosco Center every Saturday is helping us greatly. We used to go and work for farmers so that we can get something to eat. However, when we started receiving the food, we would no longer have to do odd jobs for people on Saturdays. The food gave us the opportunity to be together not only to share the meal but also to have a football team in our vicinity. The rice is helping us to develop our skills in football and to bring us together as a team.”
As Kamara indicated, the Don Bosco Center places an emphasis on socio-sports activities as a way for youth to connect with their peers and develop skills. The center offers structured training and learning programs in basketball and football as well as hosts various competitions. In 2018, there was tremendous growth in participation and results.
Last year, 125 young people (80 boys and 45 girls) received football training twice a week and 10 boys and 15 girls were trained in basketball twice a week. There were four friendly matches and three trophy competitions.
The Don Bosco center also provides additional academic and financial support. During 2018, 150 students received remedial classes in five subjects, 10 students received scholarship support and 150 students had access to free educational materials. In addition, three seminars were organized with close to 150 participants at each.
Salesian missionaries have been serving in Sierra Leone since 2001 when they began working to rehabilitate former child soldiers through the organization, Don Bosco Fambul. In the years since, Don Bosco Fambul, located in the country’s capital city of Freetown, has become one of the country’s leading child welfare organizations—offering food, clothing, crisis intervention services, shelter, educational opportunities, long-term counseling and family reunification.
Food security in Sierra Leone is undermined by chronic poverty. The UN World Food Program reports that over half of the population lives under the national poverty line of earning approximately $2 per day. According to the 2016 Global Hunger Index, Sierra Leone also faces an alarming level of hunger with nearly 38 percent of children younger than 5 years of age suffering from chronic malnutrition.
Young people, especially, face significant challenges in accessing education. With too few teachers and school buildings destroyed in the war, resources are thin. And persistently high illiteracy rates mean that an estimated 70 percent of Sierra Leone’s youth are un- or under-employed.