Help Helpless Kids!

June 21 2021 | by

IN KOUDOUGOU, Burkina Faso, during the day, the street kids go begging door to door or at markets just to get something to eat. And when the sun goes down, they hide in garages where cars are repaired, using the cars as beds, or find a spot under a bridge to lay their weary heads. Whether it’s hot, cold, or rainy, rarely does anybody approach them. Some of them may have families, but nobody knows who they are. The children themselves, ranging from as young as 5 up to 17 years of age, often don’t remember having parents or anyone to love them. Many of the children would like to go to school – they beg in front of schools hoping someone will invite them in, but that doesn’t happen because there’s nobody to pay for them.

“A few months ago, we had the case of a young girl, perhaps just 12 years old, who had been abandoned by her parents because she had a speech impediment, and so she wandered around the neighborhood,” says Sister Luigina Cervino of the Sisters of the Nativity in Burkina Faso. “One day, we were walking back from Mass when we saw her sleeping under a tree, and even the people selling things nearby were not interested in her. She was undernourished, and had been lying there for a long time because she didn’t have the strength to stand up. She spent some days with us before the social worker found her a place in a hospital while looking for somewhere better for her. But unfortunately, this little girl – who we called Grace – passed away, unknown to anybody.”


No protection


Burkina Faso has limited natural resources. Its economy is mainly based on agriculture, which employs nearly 80 percent of the population. It faces enormous developmental challenges, in particular in the areas of health, education and security, ranking 144th out of 157 countries in the Human Capital Index, and with over 40 percent of the population living below the poverty line. The birth rate here is high – each woman has an average of six children. The women make their living from agriculture, commerce and animal husbandry to support their children. The poverty and misery are certainly one of the causes children are pushed out into the streets. Significant migration, both within the country itself and abroad, accentuates the prevalence of the street children. These kids have no protection, nobody to take care of them, and are at risk of exploitation. Drug abuse is rife. Prostitution marks many of the girls for life. Precocious sexuality in turn generates many young single mothers. And the boys’ destiny is to be recruited by gangs dedicated to violence or to become child soldiers.


Bishop Ouédraogo


To get close to these street children, the bishop of Koudougou, Monsignor Joachin Ouédraogo, set up groups – all wearing civilian clothes, and sometimes himself included – to visit them at night from one to three in the morning to offer them food, a blanket, and to chat about their daily lives. “None of the children know where their family is, but wandering around here and there they arrived in Koudougou,” says Sr. Luigina. “They live in small groups so as not to be noticed and, only when they have gained the trust of these people who want to help them, show themselves and say where the other groups live.”

In agreement with the Bishop, Sr. Luigina has already begun welcoming the youngest of the girls into the nuns’ house. It will accommodate up to 30 girls, but it is in serious need of renovation. “Street children need love, consideration and education,” says Bishop Ouédraogo. And this is what this year’s project for the feast of June 13 will give them. The Messenger of Saint Anthony, together with St. Anthony’s Charities, is committed to supporting the renovation of the nuns’ house as a first step. The project also includes the construction of a well and housing for one hundred children. Not only that, an individual recovery path will be created for each child providing each of them with a dignified future.


Five-tear dream


“The Bishop has donated a plot of land from the diocese for the development of a five-year ‘dream’ to help these street children,” says Sr. Luigina. “Of course, you have to start from nothing, from deserted land, to achieve the entire project, but little by little everything will change its appearance.”

The initial project consists of two parts which will run simultaneously through to December 2021. The renovation of the nuns’ house to accommodate the 30 street girls is the first part, including any necessary restructuring and the provision of furnishings to make it fit for the purpose. The second part is the development of the land. Access to drinking water is very precarious in Burkina Faso; little surface water is available, so the number one priority in the development is the provision of a well to exploit the ground water. A shelter will be constructed for a guardian, who will be recruited to protect the land and the well, and also a room for the storage of agricultural tools. “A guardian is necessary because thieves are everywhere,” says Sr. Luigina. “Otherwise, when the project begins, criminals will destroy it piece by piece, from the pump to the panelling, and so on. Even though we ourselves have raised our walls, we have positioned a guard day and night, and still have intruders from time to time.” The land itself, an area of two hectares, will be fenced. Towards the end of the first phase of the project, agricultural activities will commence, including the construction of a chicken coop, and storerooms for legumes and cereals to be grown on the land.


Continuing project


The project will develop further from 2022 onwards with the building of a centre to house 100 street children complete with dormitories, classrooms and training rooms. Here, the children will be welcomed, shown affection, and have the opportunity to go to school in the neighborhood. Those who have already passed school age will be able to attend a professional school to learn a trade. Additionally, there will be workshops providing entrepreneurial training in agriculture, gardening and animal husbandry.

Later, it is envisioned that the local population will contribute financially to the running of the centre through purchasing agricultural and livestock products offered for sale, and by paying a small fee for drawing water from the well. This will help the centre move towards self-sufficiency.


How can you help?


Your gift of $40/£25/€30 could help pay the bunk beds for the girls’ refuge. $60/£40/€50 could help buy bricks and pipes for the well or pay for damp proofing of the refuge. $130/£80/€100 could help pay for agricultural tools and equipment, seeds and plants, or uniforms and books. $650/£400/€500 would be generous enough to fund both projects in the first crucial months when there is much work to be done.

“These are important projects, in which we friars believe very much. But to make them happen, we need your help!” says Father Giancarlo Zamengo, General Director of the Messenger of Saint Anthony. “Please come to the rescue of Burkina Faso’s street children with a gift for as much as you can afford today.”

In the words of Jesus, “Everything you have done to just one of these little brothers of mine, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). A new future filled with hope. This is the special gift you can give to the street children of Burkina Faso today. Thank you for your generosity!


Updated on June 21 2021