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March 9 2015 | LOME, TOGO

A notebook and a friend make a difference to Isaac, 16, who lives and works in a landfill in Togo

In the small African country, Sant'Egidio addresses the tragedy of street children.

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LOME (Togo) - Isaac is tired. Sixteen years old, a past like many other teenagers of Lome, the capital of Togo, in West Africa, one of the smallest countries of the continent. Family, games, school, up to the first classes of secondary studies. Then he got lost in the big city where it is easy, for many poor boys like him, not to find the way home. Now he spends the day here, in the big landfill of the neighbourhood of Agoè, along with many other young men, some younger than him. His job is to collect, through the waste, iron materials to take them to the "Dames", women that, on the verges of that hellish land, with their rudimentary scales, weigh them for resale at the city market. Isaac is there to work, all day, with his slippers, bare hands, with the risk of injury and illness. For a handful of CFA francs, the currency in West Africa.

Nevertheless, since he met the youth of the Community of Sant'Egidio, Isaac has had something more: a notebook that has allowed him to resume writing and studying. And, along with those papers, the dream of returning to a normal life. Serge, another street boy (although here, despite their age, they always call them "enfants de la rue", street children), has already made it thanks to the friends of Sant'Egidio that met him while he was working in the landfill: now he works in a workshop where they make false ceilings, particularly important in Africa to protect homes from heat.

The next meeting for the group, now numerous, of street children that are friends of the Community of Sant'Egidio of Lomé: a big party, with dancing and singing, and finally, a gift: rubber boots and gloves to protect themselves when they go to the landfill, waiting for a real job, dignity and a future.

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