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Salesians in DR Congo Resettling Children Evacuated following May Volcanic Eruption

Some women and children at the Salesian farm in Shasha in DR Congo. Credit: Salesian Missions

Members of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are resettling hundreds of children who had been evacuated from their Centre following the May Nyiragongo volcanic eruption in Goma.

“Youth who were evacuated from Don Bosco Ngangi Centre in Goma, during the Nyiragongo volcanic eruption have returned to the Centre,” SDB members at the facility say in a Tuesday, July 27 report published by Mission Newswire.

When the volcano erupted on May 22, the leadership of Don Bosco Ngangi Centre recall in the report, “Salesians, Salvatorian Sisters and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians had to remove all of the children from the Maison Ushindi orphanage and the young residents of the Saint Kizito Institute in order to keep them safe.”

“Lava reached several villages, destroying homes, cultivated fields, electrical lines and water tanks. Many people left their homes not knowing how long they’d be gone or if they would have a home or possessions when they returned,” SDB members say in the report.

During the evacuation period, they say, “for a week, 283 children, 187 older youth and 82 adults found refuge in the Salesian farm in Shasha, where the living situation was difficult due to lack of space and sanitation facilities.”

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“Hygienic conditions were precarious, and people lived with the constant fear that COVID-19 might spread among those displaced,” the SDB members further recall.

The situation is now that of “post-evacuation”, a representative of Mission Don Bosco in Turin in Italy, which facilitates activities at Don Bosco Ngangi Centre, has been quoted as saying in the report, adding, “Here there is less fear, but more misery. We still have children begging in the streets and older people who need support wandering the city all dirty and covered in rags.”

“Even if the worst danger has passed, it is now necessary to intervene to help people find a home and dignity,” the representative says, and adds, “We need to make sure children have a safe place to live, wash, feed and grow. There is a need for mattresses, blankets, food and powdered milk for babies.”

Home to 250 children across to Congolese cities, Don Bosco Ngangi Centre was spared any damage, SDB members say in the July 27 report.

However, they add, family members “who were receiving help from the Salesians had their homes destroyed. Hundreds of houses and goods have been reduced to ash, and many families lost the few possessions they had.”

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“Faced with this new situation and need for humanitarian aid, Salesian missionaries in Goma have launched an appeal for aid to help the youth they serve and the families who have sought help and safety,” SDB leadership says in reference to the Congolese mission that has been ministered by Salesian Missionaries for more than 100 years.

Over the decades, SDB members say in the report, Salesian missionaries have ensured “that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten.”

“Salesian primary and secondary schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs offer many youth the opportunity for a stable and productive future,” they add.