Words are the tool we have chosen for this section to let you get into the world of Faraja House.
We will try to be as complete and exhaustive as possible, leading you on a path that will help you to know
Furthermore, this section, consistently with its title, will be happy to welcome stories, memory fragments, from those people who have been lucky to know Faraja House and Tanzania directly and are willing to let their memories be shared.
Faraja House (House of Consolation) is a centre established by Consolata Missionaries to cope with the growing issue of "street children". It is placed close to Mgongo village, a few kilometres from the town of Iringa, the capital of the region having the same name and placed almost at the centre of Tanzania, in East Africa.
Actually, young people welcomed to Faraja House are perhaps more precisely defined as "children on the street", namely boys and children living night and day on the street. In most cases such a condition can be the result of the abandonment from the family, of the parents' death or of the escape of the child from his family environment. As a consequence, the boy is either left to his own resources or he lives with others like himself, anyway he's outside of the society. Thus he does not attend school, sleeps wherever he can (on a bus standing for the night, under the market counters, in abandoned houses, in the rice chaff heaps near mills, in houses under construction, ...) and he finds himself to "look for" a way to survive, which often leads him to cross the borders of illegality. In most cases they are larcenies, maybe small, but, despite the boy's young age, they can lead to confinement to prison (in Tanzania no juvenile prison ever existed; only recently (2003-2004) they are getting introduced, at least in the form of environments dedicated to juveniles within prisons for adult people).
With respect to all young people looked for, found or received in "assignment", the three main aims that Faraja House is resolved to attain and upon which its activities are based and organized are:
The project was born in 1993 when the Consolata Missionaries bought a farm in the village of Mgongo, at that time dedicated to tobacco-growing.
Soil's impoverishment and savage deforestation severely jeopardized agricultural actvities, therefore, from the initial plan of assigning the area to cultivation and breeding, it was first decided to let it become a training centre for catechists, then a plan for a rehabilitation centre for street children was set up.
The Italian NGO Movimento Sviluppo e Pace located in Torino was soon involved and a detailed plan for helping street children was set up and funded by the European Union, in which, since the beginning, the centre was thought to be made of both Faraja House and a Vocational School for up to 100 children in trouble.
Later on, the Spanish NGO Manos Unidas was also involved and gave a significant contribution to the further growth of Faraja House.
The organization design was based on the partition of children into groups or families of 8-10 people. On the formative side, the cooperation of the Italian Associazione Papa Giovanni XXIII was also obtained. In 1994 the first buildings were started: two houses, a larger one for 24 children and a smaller one for educators.
In 1995-1996 the Associazione Papa Giovanni XXIII started to work in Mgongo with 9-10 children. At the beginning of 1997, during a meeting with don Benzi, the founder of the association, the indispensable requirements to be fulfilled by people working in the centre were discussed: they would have to stay there for no less than 3-4 years, they would have to learn the swahili language, the number of helped children would have to be raised. The lack of personnel able to comply with the requirements led the association to withdraw from the project.
On 1 May 1997 the centre management was transferred directly to Consolata Missionaries, specifically to father Franco Sordella, it was named Faraja House and the number of children rapidly increased from 10 to 24.
Thanks also to discussions with Movimento Sviluppo e Pace, from the very beginning it was recognized the need to provide all children with an education as high as possible after they had completed the primary school. That is why, at the same time the centre was coming to life, the building of a Vocational School (Chuo cha Ufundi) was started, so as to avoid to recover children from the street and send them back to it just few years later without even the "antibodies" that would let them survive.
As years went by, the number of children hosted at Faraja House has gradually grown, up to the present (September 2004) number of 84 from 6 to 20 year old children.
The centre is led by the Mkurugenzi (now it's father Franco Sordella). He is supported by father Giulio Belotti, as an administrator, and by brother Boniface Mutisya, as a director of the Vocational School.
Since December 2002 the structure hosts a couple of IMC Lay People coming from Portugal, Paulo Rocha and Teresa Silva, who contribute to the upbringing of Faraja House children and to teaching activities in the Vocational School.
A couple of support committees have been appointed: an IMC committee, appointed by the regional Superior of Consolata Missionaries and a committee formed by external lay people which includes several people from the local political, social, institutional and educational world, as well as representatives from the children parents.
Actually, Faraja House is just one of the three structures, distinct but interdependent, that form the Mgongo mission: in fact, besides Faraja House, there are also a Vocational School and a Dispensary, each of them endowed with its own internal organization and personnel.
The Vocational School (Chuo cha Ufundi) is a vocational institution approved by VETA (governmental authority for vocational training in Tanzania) since 2000 and, as such, recognized by the government.
It is a boarding school (lodging and meals) and now (september 2004) hosts 62 boys distributed into three branches: shoemaking, carpentry and mechanics (turning/welding). It has its own management, with a headmaster, an educator with an assistant and six teachers, two for each branch and all of them are African people.
Every year 10 new pupils are admitted to each branch, coming from all over Tanzania. Each course lasts compulsorily three years, plus an optional one. At the beginning of the first year, each pupil is supplied with a tool box, that will remain of his property at the end of the studies.
In theory, pupils should pay an annual fee of a few thousands of shillings (in september 2004, 1 Euro is worth about 1350 Tsh). In practice, since they come directly from Faraja House (thus from the street) or, in any way, from such a poor life to prevent them from subscribing to secondary schools, it has been chosen to let them pay just a bit more than a symbolic fee, so that even young people coming from the poorest classes might be given a chance to attend a good level secondary school.
Recently (second half of 2004), in order to assist boys completing the vocational training in entering the labour world, a cooperative is going to be initiated where they can start working with some kind of support.
Finally, the dispensary was entirely built with the support of Figurella Italia and officially opened on 14 march 1999. It was initially planned mostly as a support for boys and personnel living and working in the mission, but it inevitably started to be exploited also by population of nearby villages (thus justifying the opening of a small maternity ward).
The structure is managed by a medical assistant, an obstetrician, a laboratory technician and a nurse and it is equipped with a chemist's room and a clinical laboratory.
Besides several activities related to the little maternity ward, daily it has to deal with all diseases which are typical in poor countries, especially in Africa: schistosomiasis (or bilharziasis), malary and AIDS. The documents section can be referred to for further information on these pathologies in Tanzania.
Children living at Faraja House are involved in several activities, aimed at fostering their own recovery and at achieving their own full maturity.
Among the main activities we mention:
Finally, this section begins to get populated (even though, unfortunately, Italian versions only are available at the moment), hence confirming how much both vivid and intense memories of Faraja House are not lacking at all in everyone who has been so lucky to spend there at least few days.
Of course, once more, everyone who likes to is invited to send a contribution to be published here. Thanks! to people who will like to welcome such invitation and, most of all, to Maria who was so brave to "break the ice".