14 December 2002
More than 70 of Luanda’s street children gathered at an old church in the centre of Luanda, Angola’s capital and largest city, to celebrate International Volunteer Day (IVD). For the children, it was a special time marked by presents, food and other treats, and for the organizers it was a chance to provide the children with hope and free them for a few hours from life on the streets.
It is estimated that thousands of homeless children are living in Angola’s capital. Products of war, Luanda’s street children resort to begging and working small jobs in order to survive. Many are victims of sexual and physical abuse.
Organized and animated by Jorge Salazar, Programme Officer for the United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) in Angola, the theme of IVD was the inclusion of children with the intent to create awareness of the problem’s facing Luanda’s street children. He and the UNV team visited various regions of the city to personally invite the children to the event.
UN Volunteers serving with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), church personnel and local volunteers participated in the day’s events.
The children were entertained and treated to dinner, cakes, drinks and small presents. Pictures and a video captured the spirit of the day and heightened the children’s sense of importance.
The event transformed the nature of the relationship between the children and the organizers in a positive way. It is hoped the interaction experienced during the day will be the first step towards a more structured volunteer project in support of Luanda’s street children.