Members of the Don Bosco Fambul and SLIP met with the Irish Ambassador to Sierra Leone Her Excellency, Lesley Ni Bhrian, to discuss ways in which the Irish Government might assist with the work being carried out in Sierra Leone. It was agreed that the Ambassador would visit the Don Bosco Fambul Project in Freetown.
The visit took place on 12th May 2021 as the Ambassador visited the new facilities of Don Bosco Fambul at During Town, Western Area Rural District to get a firsthand view of the activities of Don Bosco Fambul in Sierra Leone. The following is a report of that visit written by Father Jorge Mario Crisafulli, the Director of Don Bosco Fambul.
Don Bosco Fambul is a local non-governmental Organization registered in 1998 to look into the affairs of child soldiers during the National Commission for Disarmament Demobilization and Reintegration programme (NCDDR). Later it restructured its mandate to look at the affairs of street children in Sierra Leone and has created other projects all geared towards changing the lives of young people
The Diplomat had a brief discussion with the Director of Don Bosco Fambul, Father Jorge Mario Crisafulli where a series of issues, including the different projects and services rendered to vulnerable and disadvantaged children were discussed. She was later taken on a conducted tour of all the shelters to see the facilities that are available to the children. During the tour, Father Jorge Crisafulli explained to Madam Lesley the different categories of beneficiaries housed in the various shelters and their level and type of vulnerabilities.
After the conducted tour, the Director explained the focus of each department or project in the organization and what they have been doing over the years to ease the suffering of street children and other vulnerable young people especially girls, who are often forced into prostitution. The Project that was central to all the others, was Don Bosco Mobil, known as Don Bosco on wheels. The Mobil project has a bus which social workers are using to visiting slum communities and crime prone areas where vulnerable children and young people can be located.
Don Bosco Mobil has been the conduit between the public and the organization and its importance cannot be overemphasized as it has helped identify vulnerable children and young people in the street whose lives have been transformed over the years by the Project. Many of these are now useful citizens who are contributing to the socioeconomic development of Sierra Leone.
The Hope Plus Project,is a non-residential project which mainly deals with young adult girls in situations of prostitution and extremely vulnerable school going girls. In January 2021 it graduated 240 girls trained in different skills, including tailoring, hair dressing and catering across various vocational training centres in Freetown. All those graduates were identified in the street by the Mobil project. The Hope Plus project has over the years transformed the lives of close to a thousand young people through skills and formal education. Over the last year the Mobil project has experienced challenges in relation to funding and as a result has had to cut down on its activities in visiting communities to identify vulnerable young people in the streets. Don Bosco Fambul is the biggest child protection agency in Sierra Leone, with the largest, most comfortable and conducive retention facilities. As a result of lack of funding it is experiencing serious challenges in locating vulnerable street children and their numbers are on the increase.
Madam Lesley Ni Bhrian in her statement afterwards, declared that she was impressed and overwhelmed by what she saw at the Don Bosco New Land. She described the facilities as a textbook example of infrastructure for child protection. She expressed her admiration for what she saw and she praised the Director, management and staff for a wonderful job well done. She urged Don Bosco Fambul to share their experiences with other child protection agencies in order to ease the suffering of children in Sierra Leone.
It is hoped that the Ambassador and the Irish Government may be in a position to provide some financial aid to assist in this project.
The 27th April 2021 was the 60th Anniversary of Sierra Leone independence. The occasion was celebrated by members and friends of SLIP by a zoom meeting where a number of people spoke about their memories of their time in the country and their hopes for its future. Rev Dr Sahr John Yambasu, recently elected President-Designate of the Methodist Church also attended and addressed the meeting. We were delighted to be joined by some of the Sierra Leone students who are studying in Ireland. They spoke about their experiences living in Ireland and were very impressive as they outlined how they might help in the development of their country on their return. The meeting was also addressed by two young boys from Sierra Leone who together with their families are living and attending school in Ireland. A PowerPoint presentation showed the connection between Ireland and Sierra Leone which goes back over 150 years and stressed how important it was that this link should be maintained and encouraged. Finally a video was shown of newsreel footage of the Independence Day celebrations in April 1961. The video may be accessed on Youtube by searching for “Sierra Leone Independence Day 1961”.