(MissionNewswire) In February 2016, volunteers from the Spanish nonprofit Ayuda Contenedores (Help Containers) and the Salesian-run Youth and Development Center joined together in Pamplona, Spain to load a food container that will be sent to Benin. The container carries 23,000 kilos of non-perishable food which was collected through a Food for Benin campaign run by several Salesian organizations in the city of Pamplona and its surrounding towns and communities. Salesian students, staff, volunteers and members of local parishes donated and collected food, tools and other items that will be shipped to Salesian programs in Porto Novo, the capital of Benin.
This is the second campaign run by Salesian organizations in Spain to help the people of Benin. In 2014, a container was shipped carrying rice, lentils, beans, pasta and other non-perishable food items as well as donated school supplies, bicycles and t-shirts. The items were donated to several Salesian programs in Porto Novo that provide education, workforce development and social services for poor youth and their families.
“Campaigns like these are a great example of how youth in Salesian programs are able to take what they have learned and pay it forward, supporting families in other communities in a time of need,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Both campaigns for Benin have been possible thanks to the cooperation of many individuals, small businesses, supermarkets, food suppliers and local shops.”
Salesian programs in Benin provide food, clothing, shelter, medical services and education to poor youth. With the goal of caring for youth in supportive environments with access to education and training, Salesian missionaries in the country hope to help break the cycle of poverty and provide hope for the future.
The Saint Joseph Center, run by Salesian Sisters in the city of Parakou in northern Benin, operates with financial assistance from UNICEF and offers children refuge from the cycle of poverty and exploitation. The Salesian Sisters at the center ensure that children receive nutritious meals and enroll in nearby schools, providing the essential support their families cannot. At the Vocational Training Center Laura Vicuña in Benin’s largest city, Cotonou, Salesian Sisters are working with young girls, many of whom have been victims of trafficking, providing shelter and education that includes training in skills and trades in order to create more stable lives for them.
In 2013, Salesian missionaries at Foyer Don Bosco in Porto Novo launched a program as part of a European Union collaborative initiative called, Development and Action in the Republic of Benin. The four year initiative focuses on the protection of youth at risk in the areas of Littoral, Ouémé and Alibori. Through this program, Salesian missionaries are working to strengthen the collaboration, coordination and teamwork of the state and non-state bodies engaged in the protection of children as well as work to identify children at risk, offer them advice and education and rehabilitation. The program is also creating awareness among local authorities and community leaders in addition to the general population on the protection of children and the need for community programs to safeguard their rights.
Youth in Benin face overwhelming challenges in combating poverty. According to UNICEF, Benin remains one of the poorest countries in the world with close to 70 percent of its population living in poverty. Almost 20 percent are chronically undernourished and the effects of poverty in rural areas are severe. Child labor and trafficking are also concerns with about half of all children between the ages of five and 14 engaged in some form of labor.
UNICEF – Poverty in Benin