The initiative provides talented young adults who were raised in orphanages in Angola with the solid foundations required to lead healthy and productive adult lives. The program offers a comprehensive support, empowerment, training and counseling curriculum, meticulously crafted to cater to both personal and professional development.
The harsh reality of life for hundreds of thousands of children in Angola is to grow up in orphanages. Some have lost their parents and no relative can take care of them, some were abandoned in infancy, and some were forced from their parents’ homes for economic hardships or due to cultural phenomena such as accusations of witchcraft.
Although orphanages try to provide children with the necessary care and support, limited resources do not enable providing these underprivileged young people with the skills, confidence and knowledge required to lead productive adult lives. Children who grow up in orphanages are at higher risk of developing emotional and social disorders, suffering from feelings of incompetence and lack of self-confidence. Some of the children run away or are ejected from orphanages during their teenage years and move to live on the streets. But even if they remain in the orphanage, this solution is available to them only until the age of 16.
Hundreds of thousands of young men and women leave orphanages in Angola without a profession, required skills or the ability to make a living. With its economic struggles, the Angolan government is unable to provide these young adults effective welfare assistance, and no programs or frameworks are available for them. Thus, they are condemned to live on the margins of society, with a high probability of being unemployed, trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, drugs, crime and the brutality of survival on the streets.
The initiative “A Better Way” (Camino de Bem in Portuguese) emerged from the Music in the Street activities with the street children of Luanda. The close encounter of the Fundação Arte Cultura with these disenfranchised youth during the frequent educational and musical group meetings have taught us that long-term, significant impact on their lives can only be achieved through holistic, ongoing guidance and support.
The first cycle of the program consisted of nine participants, talented young men aged 19-22, who grew up in orphanages and have no family, place to live, education or work. The participants were selected based upon their personal abilities, motivation, and sobriety. Under the supervision of a social worker, the 4-year initiative provided participants with the solid foundations required to lead healthy and productive adult lives. They received housing, basic education, including reading and writing lessons in Portuguese and English, driving lessons, empowerment training and guidance for proper and responsible financial self-management. In addition, the young men underwent vocational training in carpentry, helping them acquire a professional trade. At the end of the program, all participants were employed, studied at a university or successfully completed vocational courses. The success of the initiative encouraged its continuation, but the high cost and small number of participants raised the need to develop a more professional and structured format that would enable scaling up.
The initiative’s new format was developed in collaboration with a government orphanage and with the Mitrelli Group. During the first two months of the 8-month program the orphanage provides participants with a framework that includes housing and food, and the Fundação provides them with intensive training in a variety of fields: personal and professional growth, general knowledge, and more. At the end of the training, the participants are hired for a 6-month internship at the various Mitrelli companies, according to their preferences and professional aspirations, and company needs, with each intern given guidance and mentoring from an assigned employee. During this stage, the participants spend half the week studying and the other half working with mentoring and guidance. At the end of the program, participants who are found suitable receive an opportunity to be placed as Mitrelli employees. The current cycle includes 25 participants with high personal abilities who grew up in orphanages – 7 women, 18 men.