(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries operate a mission in Chubut, one of the provinces of Argentinian Patagonia, a vast desert plateau that has an extensive surface area but is scarcely inhabited. Father Antonio Sánchez, the spiritual guide of the community, is committed to helping the local Mapuche, a local ethnic group that comprises the majority of the entire population of the plateau, preserve and value their identity. The Salesian presence among the Mapuche is also supported by the Don Bosco Mission in Turin, Italy.
The local population is grouped in three different types of settlements: five small centers with a school; three villages with a population less than a 1,000 people; and seven communities entirely made up of Mapuche. Salesian missionaries have been working in the region since the early 1900s. Over the years, missionaries have launched several programs in support of the local Mapuche. Salesian missionaries have helped the Mapuche improve cattle breeding techniques, which is their main source of sustenance. Another project addressed the water scarcity in the area by drilling and water canalization. Missionaries also help safeguard and protect the environment in an area where mining resources constitute a great interest for multinational companies.
In addition, Salesian missionaries operate a vocational training center where they help both youth and adults gain valuable skills for employment. The center also provides life and social skills to help the community members interact and get along better in order to facilitate team work and cross-sharing of information and skills. The aim of all of the projects is to improve the quality of life for the inhabitants of this rough and inhospitable land through activities that assist with basic needs and educational initiatives.
“Education is always our primary focus,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “We know youth are dealing with much more than just having access to education. Salesian programs are tailored to meet the needs of the youth in the communities we serve and provide food, shelter and education.”
Access to education and training provides a foundation for youth to break the cycle of poverty and gain employment. Salesian missionaries have been working in many villages and communities across Argentina to provide educational opportunities to poor youth through primary and secondary schools, technical and agricultural programs and other services.
More than a quarter of people in Argentina live in conditions of poverty with no formal employment and poor quality education, according to the World Bank. The country’s high school dropout rate is close to 37 percent and youth account for a third of those unemployed. Almost 12 percent of children age 5 to 17 are working instead of in school and 20 percent need government assistance. Many face malnutrition, a lack of clean water and sewage, and inadequate housing.
World Bank – Argentina