Sierra Leone – Church expands to meet needs
(ANS – Freetown) – Salesian missionaries with St. Augustine’s Parish, located in the Dworzark community within Freetown, Sierra Leone, have partially completed construction of a new church thanks to donor funding provided by “Salesian Missions”, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. As the number of parishioners and the size of the community have increased, Salesian missionaries embarked on a multi-phase project to expand their outgrown church.
“St. Augustine’s Parish” is one of the poorest parishes in the Archdiocese of Freetown and parishioners are making personal efforts to bring the building to completion. The church is still in need of funding to complete the last phase of the project, which includes windows, doors, flooring, painting, plumbing and electrical work. Salesian Missions is seeking donor funding to help finish this project.
The church serves more than 700 members of Dworzark Catholic community, and with the larger church, this number is expected to grow. In addition, more than 150 youth come to the parish compound to attend activities at the Don Bosco Youth Center from Monday to Saturday. The parish also has two schools, St. Augustine’s Pre-School and St. Augustine’s Primary School.
“We appreciate the funding donors have provided to date to help with the construction of this church,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “With the construction of the building, Salesians in Sierra Leone are now in need of funding to finish the internal parts of the church to make it operational for the community. Our donors are generous and we hope to provide the funding to finalize this project.”
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. Don Bosco Fambul, located in the 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 also face significant challenges in accessing education. With too few teachers and many school buildings destroyed in the war, resources are thin. Persistently high illiteracy rates mean that an estimated 70 percent of Sierra Leone’s youth are unemployed or underemployed.