ANGOLA: Salesian Programs Offer Education and Don Bosco Band to Provide Hope to Poor Youth
(MissionNewswire) José Simon Galarza from Argentina recently had an opportunity to reconnect with his former teacher, Salesian brother Andrés Rafael Randisi. Galarza visited Bro. Randisi at his mission in Calulo in the city of Luanda, Angola and was impressed by the Salesian presence in the country and the work they do for poor youth and their families. He was able to visit the local Salesian parish and adjacent school, carpenter’s workshops, kitchen, and student and faculty dormitories.
“The church of the mission begins to come alive at the first light of dawn,” says Galarza. “Groups come to pray, then you hear the voices of children and the young members of the youth symphony orchestra. These young people were the first people I met in the school where they study. It is lovely to see these small 6- or 7-year-olds able to read music and play with such skill.”
Bro. Randisi helps run the Don Bosco Sambizanga School in Luanda and oversees the Don Bosco Band (youth symphony orchestra). Salesian missionaries in Angola are using music education as a way to enhance social and academic development for disadvantaged youth. The band is just one of many programs offered at the school. Bro. Randisi began his work with the band in 2008, and through the years has captured the attention of many youth who have discovered their passion for music. Currently, more than 80 students take music lessons and participate in the Don Bosco Band.
Organized band activities have replaced idle time when students would browse the internet or loiter in markets or on the streets with little to do. The band brings much needed structure to the 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. The band has more than 95 instruments available. Students are able to choose the instrument they are most interested in and receive lessons, play the instrument in recitals and other events, and build relationships with like-minded peers.
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.
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.
UNICEF – Angola