Salesians in Benin Offering “hope, Safety” to Victims of Child Labor

Don Bosco Foyers give dignity and rights to exploited minors in Benin. Credit: Salesian Missions – Benin

Members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) ministering in the West African nation of Benin are offering hope and safety to victims of child labor.

In a Wednesday, September 8 report obtained by ACI Africa, SDB members share about initiatives at four Don Bosco Foyer centers in Benin.

Among the four centres, SDB members say, “Two are located in Porto-Novo, one in Cotonou and another in Kandi.”

“Most of the youth in the program had left their poor families and were looking for work,” they add.

Some parents had entrusted their children to craftsmen to learn a trade only to find that the children were treated like slaves, SDB members say, adding that in other times, children are forced to work to help the family


“All of these children have dropped out of school and face exploitation and abuse,” they add.

Don Bosco Foyer in Benin’s Porto-Novo Diocese is a residential home for children coming directly from the street, the officials of the St. John Bosco-founded Religious Institute say in the September 8 report.

They add, “Children’s most basic needs are met, including shelter, proper nutrition, clothing, and access to adults who help them feel safe and protected from the exploitation and violence many faced while living on the streets.”

“Don Bosco Foyer first provides psychological assistance when a child enters the program. Staff members work to understand the family or child labor issues facing each child,” SDB members say.

Later, they continue, “children receive health care, food support, hospitality, housing, school reintegration and vocational training. Some young people study until their graduation while others receive skills training.”

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According to the Director of Foyer Don Bosco, Fr. Aurélien Ahouangbe, “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,” Fr. Ahouangbe says.

In order to combat child labor, Salesian missionaries in Benin have also built counseling kiosks in the markets and along national borders. 

These kiosks are monitored by teams of government officials, police officers and social workers who look into the age and living conditions of minors. If they determine that the youth are under 14 or that they are being mistreated, the minor is taken into Salesian care.

“We listen to them, accompany them into the community and look for their parents,” Fr. Ahouangbe says.


He continues, “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.”

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.