Savio Village is a rehabilitation and transit centre of Don Bosco Homes and temporary residence of up to 30 boys aged 5 to 18. Our second visit to Savio began with a walking tour of the local community and adjoining farmland, eagerly led by the 16 boys we’d met the day before. For three of them this was still their first 24 hours at the village after having been collected by us from the police station where they had been accused of theft. We could already see a change in them after one night at the contrasting safe and caring environment of Savio Village, where they await rehabilitation in the near future. The story of these three 14-year-olds is typical of the cases that Savio constantly deals with, as well as that of street children who are picked up by Robert, Louise and the Don Bosco team.
The vibrant, happy and welcoming atmosphere of the village is contagious – the boys talked and played with us as if we’d known them for weeks and you can’t help but feel immediately attached to them. Probably one of the warmest welcomes we received was from one little boy who was picked up a few months ago after he’d got lost.
Nobody knows his name or where he comes from, as he has no verbal communication and would probably be described in the UK as having severe special needs. On our first arrival at Savio he ran into the room where we were sitting, jumped up on the table and ran around squeeling and giggling with excitement. The next day when he was a bit more used to our
unfamiliar prescence, he joined us and the other boys on our walk, running between Becca and Maria, hugging their knees and letting out more explosive squeels of excitement. The older boys are all very protective of him and look after him like a little brother. One of the lads even carried him for most of the walk, even though at times he was clearly struggling.
Among the smallest of the boys are two little lads who we’re told are about 5 or 6 years old, but the team aren’t sure of their ages as their dates of birth are unknown.
They were picked up over a year ago at an “orphanage” full of children being illegally trafficked and advertised as orphans to Western couples desperate to adopt. Don Bosco picked up about 30 children from the same orphanage, all of whom had living parents but had been used as part of an illegal money making scheme. Most of these boys have now been reunited with their families but our two little friends are still living at Savio Village. They were thrilled to see Ged, who they remember from last year but as we laughed and played with them we were left wondering whether it’s foolish to hope that they still have a chance of reunification with their families.
Robert is confident all the boys will one day be reunited with their families. Last year, there was another boy at Savio also with severe special needs, by the name of Warren. One day, they brought in a street kid from the market who recognised Warren straight away. He kept telling the staff he knew him from Buchanan, a city two hours drive southeast of Monrovia. Nobody believed him, but he persisted with details of Warren’s Ma and Pa. In the end, the DBH staff were persuaded to take him to Buchanan. Within ten minutes, they’d found his parents. The whole community came out in celebration and carried Warren shoulder high round the community, like the winning scorer in the Cup Final.