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October 6 2014 | BAMAKO, MALI

Sant'Egidio in Mali next to the street children of Bamako

A story of friendship in the heart of Africa

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Walking the streets of downtown Bamako, the capital of Mali, it is easy to see young people, especially children, begging near crossroads or next to petrol stations. They come from the countryside around the city every day, spending their days on the streets of Bamako, in the midst of a chaotic traffic and air pollution that reaches the highest levels.

They are mostly Muslim children, many of them sent into the city by their poor families, moved by the hope that the city can offer a little well-being. Others are fleeing situations of orphanage, marginalisation and violence in the family. They are often welcomed by the Marabout (Muslim spiritual leader) who teaches them the Quran and offers hospitality, but they still need to beg in order to help. Their age is very low, between 6 and 10 years old.

Children are exposed to significant risks on the streets: pollution and road accidents, and especially the risk of coming into contact with home-made drugs or of conflicting with gangs of older and more violent kids that do not hesitate to use knives.

 Friendship with the Community of Sant'Egidio

The Community of Sant'Egidio of Bamako has been close to street children for one year, meets them on the streets where they spend their days, welcomes them into the house of the Community where they can wash themselves, get clean clothes, play and, above all, eat well. At first, they were afraid and walked away, then the fidelity of visits created trust that soon turned into solid friendship. They are fragile children to whom the name of Sant'Egidio began to be synonymous with protection and family. Thus they began to open up, talking about their dreams: to play like other children, study and learn a trade, have a family.

These are dreams that the Community preserves and adopts, working to ensure that children of Mali have a better childhood and future.

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