(MissionNewswire) To mark the 20th International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, Salesian Missions is proud to report on some of its programs around the globe that fight extreme poverty by providing hope and opportunity. The day is recognized globally with a focus on promoting the awareness of and the ongoing efforts to eradicate poverty everywhere—which remains at the core of the Salesians work with youth and their families in more than 131 countries.
Each year focuses on a particular theme. This year the United Nations chose Ending the Violence of Extreme Poverty: Promoting Empowerment and Building Peace, which was chosen to highlight the link between poverty and social unrest. It also focuses on the need to provide people with the necessary skills to contribute to society.
“Poverty is easy to denounce but difficult to combat,” says Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a recent UN article highlighting International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. “Those suffering from hunger, want and indignity need more than sympathetic words; they need concrete support.”
Ban further stressed in the article that that during times of economic austerity it is even more crucial to put policies in place that will protect the most vulnerable.
“As governments struggle to balance budgets, funding for anti-poverty measures is under threat. But this is precisely the time to provide the poor with access to social services, income security, decent work and social protection,” he says in the UN article. “Only then can we build stronger and more prosperous societies—not by balancing budgets at the expense of the poor.”
The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed annually since 1993. The UN General Assembly designated this day to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty and destitution in every country.
During the last decade, millions have overcome extreme poverty and have improved access to health care and education. Extreme poverty rates have decreased in every region of the world. More than 39 million children attend primary school and access to clean water has increased to 89 percent. But in spite of these important gains, several critical gaps remain.
Poverty alleviation, education, gender equality, child and maternal health, environmental stability, HIV/AIDS reduction, and a ‘Global Partnership for Development’ were further noted in the UN article as the eight Millennium Development Goals selected by world leaders at the UN summit in 2000.
The Salesians working at the ground level within communities ravaged by poverty see their efforts and these improvements first hand.
“Whether giving food and shelter to street children or building schools and teaching job skills to youth in poverty, the Salesians are giving youth hope for a new future,” says Fr. Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Our work gives youth the access to learn employable skills and provides the opportunity for them to break the cycle of poverty in their lives.”
Here are some highlights of Salesian programs around the globe that fight extreme poverty by providing hope and opportunity to youth and their communities:
In Cambodia—through the Don Bosco Children’s Fund—the Salesians provide assistance to children ages six to fifteen who are at risk of dropping out of school due to extreme poverty. Each year approximately 5,000 children receive assistance in the form of medicine, nutritional meals, clothing and personal items. Many children have lost one or both parents to HIV and are currently living with extended family members with elderly grandparents or neighbors. Often they receive little direct supervision, leaving them extremely vulnerable to outside influences. Without support from the Don Bosco Children’s Fund, many children would be forced to beg or turn to street crime in order to support themselves.
In Colombia, 18 percent of school age children have no access to education. One town that previously lacked access is Condoto, a remote village nestled in the middle of a tropical rainforest in western Colombia. Most of the 30,000 inhabitants are descendents of Africans who escaped the slave trade. Mining is the main source of income – with low pay and harsh working conditions. There, Salesian Missions has built the first and only schools in the area which are improving the lives of the students and all members of the communities – and will continue to do so for generations to come.
In Ecuador, at Salesian “Project for Street Children” sites throughout the country, vulnerable and at-risk children gain an all-around education that allows them to take the lead in developing their own skills and potential. The project uses an active presence on the streets, technical training and schools and the support of families and communities that care for the boys and their rehabilitation. Specialized programs for youth in need include: prevention of addiction and care for addicts, rehabilitation of youth gang members and hostels that provide an alternative to living on the street. Thousands of children and adolescents are supported each year.
More than 150 street children in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia have a place to call home. And 750 more at-risk children benefit from a variety of programs designed to instill confidence and self-respect. That’s because exciting plans are underway for a new Salesian Center that will feature dormitories, classrooms, a recreation hall and cafeteria. When it opens, the Center will serve hundreds of needy children by providing the immediate basics of food and shelter.
In Guatemala, more than 21 percent of the population had an income of less than $1 a day in 2004 – no improvement since 1989 according to the Pan American Health Organization. Extreme poverty is often associated with rural life. Rural Q’echi (Mayans) are among the rural populations looking to improve their lives. Through Salesian Missions programs, they are focusing on increasing the capacity of their communities. With the assistance of the Q’echi promoters, community groups are educated in self management for projects benefiting family and community. Salesians also work through the Foundation for Advancement of Indigenous Women in Guatemala (Talita Kumi) to raise the status of women and empower them to become household and community decision-makers.
In Kenya, homeless youth join “Bosco Boys” programs dedicated to creating positive change. Three centers provide services for youth at different stages. Bosco Boys Kariua runs a nursery school and weekend program where street children gather for sporting events and to wash their clothes. Bosco Boys Langata is a rehabilitation center where new boys can overcome addictions and behaviors learned on the street. Bosco Boys Kuwinda provides education and training opportunities for street children, as well as poor children from the neighborhood.
In Mexico City, girls and mothers face severe dangers living on the streets. Through the “Yolia” program, girls and women become regulars at the day center. There, they have meals, receive tutoring, obtain therapy, and learn job skills such as jewelry making and hair styling. Some girls may also choose to live in the residential area, where they receive additional education and services while building a sense of dignity and self worth.
Sierra Leone is still recovering from a brutal 10-year civil war. More than 500,000 people were displaced and more than 60,000 children were orphaned and homeless. In the 2008 Human Development Index, Sierra Leone ranks last among 179 countries for the well-being of its people. The Don Bosco Fambul program aims to change the lives of children. It directly addresses issues facing street children – including emotional trauma from the war and lost family. With the goal of reuniting with their families, youth participate in a 10-month program which includes counseling and medical care – as well as education. These young people attend classes during the day, according to their level of ability and any previous schooling. In the evening, they are responsible for helping each other with homework. The youth are tested each month and receive encouragement for progress — building self esteem and motivation – and hope for the future.
For more than 20 years, Tanzanian children and youth have had access to education through Salesian Mission facilities. Programs are developed based on the most critical needs of the community. For example, AIDS orphans who have dropped out of regular school learn a trade at a vocational school, and girls attend secondary school in Didia, where previously there had been no secondary school within 40 miles. Schools and other facilities are providing new opportunities to children, youth and families in communities throughout Tanzania where nearly one million children have been orphaned due to AIDS, according to UNICEF. Many of these children are forced to leave school due to poverty or to care for their families. At Salesian technical and secondary schools and youth centers, youth develop skills to overcome obstacles. They learn a trade of their choice and to stand on their own to create a productive life. For more than 20 years, Salesian Missions has been a leader for vocational training and currently provides education and leadership opportunities to youth in communities throughout Tanzania.
Uganda ranks 157 out of 182 countries in the 2007 Human Development Index. The people of Uganda are working to rebuild after decades of war which left many displaced, as well as to combat the serious increase of HIV/AIDS, which has left millions of children orphaned. The Don Bosco Children & Life Mission offers hope to at risk boys, ages 8-17, through a variety of programs. As they grow and develop, boys move through different stages until they reach the final goal of an independent, productive life.