The Salvos and the street kids

The Salvos and the street kids

THE Salvation Army has announced that the street ministry programme it has conducted for some years in Lae will now expand.
Children from eight to 15 years will now be included.
We may pause for a moment and wonder how it is possible for there to be unwanted children within that age bracket condemned to haunting the streets of our second city.
That’s a reality that has been part of life in all three of our cities for a decade or more.
And it’s one that grows worse each year.
At the beginning, most of the children came from broken homes or were the subject of abuse from within and outside their families.
Today, the numbers are further inflated by children who are AIDS orphans; both parents have died of the disease and the remaining relatives want nothing to do with their offspring.
The Salvation Army has, since its inception, worked with the most poverty-stricken members of the community and with those who are most at physical, emotional and spiritual risk.
We can look back to the young women who had the courage to invade the gin mills of London and do what they could for the hopeless alcoholics who peopled those hell-holes.
The lasses in the familiar Salvo’s bonnets became a fixture on the streets of London and later throughout the world.
And the Salvation Army bands backed them up on every street corner, playing energetic percussive music designed to win converts to the Army.
It’s important to recognise that right from the beginning, the Salvation Army has been a church denomination and its activities are rooted in the precepts of Christianity.
What does that background mean to the people of Lae?
It means what it has always meant – the community is happy to leave the hard yards to the Salvos.
In many overseas countries, they still invade the pubs and seek to help the helpless; in PNG they have distinguished themselves in times of natural disaster and in the kind of activity mirrored in Lae.
Their lifeline to the street kids of Lae must be supported by all right-thinking Papua New Guineans.
For while we can demonise the parents, who no longer care about their children, we also need to get our hands dirty and help at the coal face, the grim uncaring streets of our cities.
Many of our people can well afford to volunteer and join this effort of rehabilitation in Lae and in our other cities.
We urge those who can do so to contact the Salvation Army branch nearest to them and offer to help.
This is a community problem – it has been created by members of the community, it is young members of the community who suffer and we all have a shared responsibility to help these children.
The first stage of the Salvo’s extended Lae initiative calls for street kids to be fed twice a week.
The second phase will make sure that these children receive a basic education three times a week from qualified teachers.
We are certain that the Salvation Army would appreciate help in both those spheres.
Quite apart from feeding and educating and trying to structure a responsible and moral basis for these children, there is the need to make them feel they are an accepted part of the community.
Have you watched security guards at retail entrances attacking small children?
Yes, we’re aware of shop lifting and we’re aware of the children as participants in that crime.
But we wonder how many of the well-fed security guards or for that matter the good citizens of our cities, are starving and devoid of all hope?
As the Salvo’s spokesman noted, the innocent young child of today can, if left unaided, become the adolescent criminal or adult thug of tomorrow.
So while we would downplay self-interest as a basis for assisting in this work, it remains a factor and one worth considering.
We are certain that General Booth who founded the Salvation Army in the late 19th Century would commend the activities of his people in today’s PNG.
Help the Salvation Army.
It’s time.

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