ANGOLA: Salesian Missionaries Rebuild Infrastructure to Deliver Education and Social Programs
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries in Angola have been rebuilding infrastructure that was destroyed during a civil war in the country that lasted from 1975 to 2002. Much was destroyed during the conflict including schools, medical buildings and churches. Living within the communities in which they work, Salesian missionaries have been perfectly positioned to respond to local needs and lead projects for community betterment.
Beginning directly after the war ended, Salesian missionaries sought and received aid for the reconstruction of schools, vocational training centers, medical clinics, bridges and general infrastructure. While they did not receive aid for the reconstruction of churches, missionaries sought financial support from within local communities and Salesian congregations. To date, more than seven Salesian churches have been rebuilt across Angola. In addition to being places of worship, Salesian churches function as community hubs where residents can gather and access services.
“Stable infrastructure is vital in a community,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian schools, churches and community centers provide life-changing services to youth and their families living in conditions of poverty. These buildings also bring a sense of normalcy back to communities that experienced more than 27 years of destruction and war.”
During the civil war, educational disparities were widespread but recent reforms have paved the way for more youth to have better access to education and social equality. According to UNICEF, more than 36 percent of the population lives in poverty. In addition, more than one in 10 children under the age of 14 has lost one or both parents and 43,000 are separated from their families. As a result, nearly a third of these children are working and child trafficking has become an emerging problem in the country.
With a 67 percent illiteracy rate, the educational opportunities provided by Salesian programs can be truly life changing. Through these programs, both youth and adults have access to schools and educational programs. Classes range from simple lessons in reading and writing for adults in refugee camps to shelter and education for street children. Students are also able to access life skills training, workforce development opportunities and nutrition programs.
“At-risk children, teenagers and young adults across the country are achieving in the classroom,” adds Fr. Hyde. “They participate in programs that promote social inclusion, emotional development and access to education.”
In Luanda, the capital and largest city in Angola, the Salesian-run St. Kizito House functions as both a day and night shelter and offers a clean environment for boys who are accustomed to life on the streets. The house has a large playground at the back, ideal for sporting activities, and also boasts a new plumbing system with running water, bathroom facilities and a well-equipped kitchen. Currently, St. Kizito houses 20 boys between the ages of 10 and 15.
At the Don Bosco Sambizanga School in Lixeira, one of the poorest areas within the city of Luanda, Salesian missionaries run the Don Bosco Band. The band is one of many programs offered at the school and serves disadvantaged youth, many of whom have discovered a passion for music through their participation in the program. Started in 2008, the band currently has more than 80 participants.
Organized band activities have replaced idle time when students would often browse the internet or loiter in markets or on the streets with little to do. Participation in the band brings much needed structure to students’ lives as well as teaching valuable concepts like teamwork and collaboration. Participants become an integral part of the band’s larger community and find purpose in working together toward a common goal.
Salesian Missions – Angola
UNICEF – Angola Statistics