Rome (Fides Service) - For twenty years an Italian lay volunteer organisation AVSI, Associazione Volontari per il Servizio Internazionale has worked silently and diligently to alleviate suffering and to promote development in Africa.
During the national annual conference organised in Rimini by Communion and Liberation AVSI gave a presentation of its activity in Africa.
In Northern Uganda AVSI supports programmes for rehabilitating child-soldiers kidnapped by rebel troops and made to fight. The programmes include regular schooling at different grades, and professional training.
These children suffer from trauma after being taken from their families and made to fight or do other jobs for the rebel armed forces. Many managed to escape, others were rescued, but all still live in fear. However with proper care and assistance children have the ability to put the past behind them. Northern Uganda is experiencing a humanitarian tragedy. Civil war has taken at least 20,000 civilian lives; at least 20,000 children have been abducted and more than one million people are displaced and live in camps where even their bare necessities are scarce or lacking completely.
In Sierra Leone, AVSI collaborates with a programme started by Italian Xaverian missionary Fr Giuseppe Berton who has worked to rescue and rehabilitate child soldiers since 1977. At Lakka, on the coast of Freetown, in what was once a tourist village, Father Berton opened St. Michael’s Centre where former child-soldiers who escaped from the war are given assistance and counselling. The younger boys attend school classes while the older ones follow training courses in view of finding work.
In Rwanda AVSI began work in 1994, the year of the genocide, mainly supporting programmes for education, humanitarian aid, food aid, farming projects and aid at a distance. Education programmes involve children of all ages and also adults, especially in rural areas far from urban centres. The association has helped build libraries in more than 12 provinces with books in Kinyarwanda, English and French.
In the war scarred region of southern Sudan, an AVSI delegation made a five-week fact finding mission in the county of Torit to estimate needs. As a result AVSI has opted to support a network of primary and secondary schools. The first intervention will be in aid of St. Kizito primary school which should serve about 1,500 pupils. Assistance will start from basic needs, providing textbooks, exercise books, pens and pencils as well as formation for teachers already present and for new teachers who will be employed when new classrooms have been built to relieve the present situation of overcrowding. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 30/8/2004 righe 44 parole 517)