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Creating a Home of Love and Compassion for the Marginalized Young
By Father George Miranda, sdb
Mumbai, Oct. 4.  Don Bosco Snehalaya, Gujarat: The work with the marginalised entails that we reach out to them in their particular situation and build a rapport with them. You need to have an open mind set in dealing with these youngsters and one would reach nowhere if we move with a fixed set of ideas.  We make initial contact through innovative child friendly approaches and outreach activities. We establish contact with the poor young on the railway platforms, crowded market area, tourist destinations, bus stands, etc. Contact is also made through telephone hotlines like the 'Child Line' where any child in distress can call and receive help. Once the initial contact is made they are provided a place to rest and given protection from violence and abuse, as well as given food and clothing.
Like other youngsters growing up in a family, these children (street youth) too have dreams and aspirations. Working with these youth over the years, I have realised that the majority of them want to start working early in life to earn money. They do not find education of much importance as they consider earning money as their only priority. I have noticed in most of the youth that they want to work just to meet immediate needs and they hardly keep any savings. They buy cell phones, vehicles, attractive clothes, etc. They also get into addictions, substance abuse, anti-social activities, etc. due to peer influence and emotional instability. They want to live a happy life just like others. However, the conditions around them create obstacles for them to rise up. All they need is positive encouragement and a little accompaniment.

At Don Bosco Snehalaya, we have established a home for these youngsters were they can grow and build themselves.  It is a "home away from home". The name itself Sneha means love. Our aim is- to love every child and youth in need, and ensure that they receive the opportunities for their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual development, that enables them to repatriate back into family whenever possible and reintegrate themselves into society. We give every child the opportunity to build their self-esteem and take control of their lives through counselling, creative sessions, formal and informal education as well as job training. We help the young to understand and protect their rights.

In our dealings with the youngsters and to make our efforts meaningful and effective we need to mould our actions on Jesus our Good shepherd and His compassionate heart. It would be right to say that Don Bosco was a sacrament of the Compassionate heart of Jesus. Every Salesian is called to be a sign and bearer of the love of God for the young people, especially the poor.In these years of working with the young I have realized that the Preventive System of Education of our Father Don Bosco is very effective in dealing with the young. Being with them in a loving way and making them realize that we care for them and entrusting them with responsibilities are different ways of bringing out the best in them.Sometimes, we do have instances of occasions for regret but to a large extent the compassionate way of dealing with them works. The other quality needed is 'Patience'. The children may at times not respond to our interventions so we need to be patient with them. A listening and a caring heart goes a long way in moulding their lives.

"Let the boys know that you love them..." I just want to share an incident that happened recently. The 19th of June is celebrated as Fathers Day all over, and the children made it a special one for us. They on their own, without any of us being involved in any type of guidance gave us a surprise. They made notice boards wishing us Happy Fathers Day and put up a small cultural programme. This gesture made me all the more convinced that the children are responding to the love that we are showering on them and the values that we are teaching them. I am convinced that our loving presence with the children in all areas- their meal time, recreation, games and the word in the ear are great tools. The love that you impart to these youngsters does not go waste, it reaps fruits.

Lastly, I would like to mention here that the source of our strength and energy to be with these children 24x7 is the prayer life in the community and our daily Eucharistic celebration. Yes without this great means that is at our disposal I think we stand in the danger of being burnt out. The Lord, our Master through the Eucharistic celebration that we have moulds us to be compassionate like him. Let us reach out to the marginalized, those in the peripheries of society with a compassionate heart. Long live the mission of Don Bosco to the marginalized youngsters!


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