ARGENTINA: Don Bosco Boys Provides Shelter, Nutrition and Education to Assist the Poor and Homeless
(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Boys program located in Bahía Blanca, a city in the southwest province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, has grown considerably since it was first started in 2001. The program was started initially to provide shelter and food for the homeless in order to address the city’s growing homeless population and people who made a meager living collecting newspapers and cardboard from the garbage.
Salesian Father Pablo Mardoni from the Don Bosco Institute of Bahia Blanca began the program with support from a small group of teachers and students. Later they were joined by people from nearby districts who wanted to assist. Today, Don Bosco Boys provides outreach, a playground, an oratory and homeless shelter. Every Tuesday evening, volunteers bring food to about 30 people who are living on the street. As they deliver the food, volunteers are able to speak with the people, learn more about their situation and suggest programs and services they can access.
On Friday evenings, a meal is provided at the Salesian school for a large number of children and their families from three of the poorest local areas. Also on Fridays, the Salesian playground hosts close to 150 people from the area who come to access various recreational and sports activities. The oratory provides services for local children as well as opens on Saturdays to a larger group from the community. In addition, staff and volunteers with Don Bosco Boys help to build homes for those in need.
“We provide the material as far as possible, sometimes through donations, but often from the pockets of our families,” says Gastón Ruppel, one of the coordinators. “We work from a single standard plan for the bedroom, kitchen and bathroom, always in partnership with the family that will receive it.”
Salesian programs in Argentina are primarily focused on education. Salesian primary and secondary education in Argentina helps youth prepare for later technical, vocational or university study.
“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 they serve. Homeless and malnourished youth are simply not able to focus effectively on their studies while they struggle to meet their basic needs. Salesian programs provide food, shelter and the school supplies youth need youth to be able to focus on the education provided.”
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 aged five 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.
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 Argentina to provide educational opportunities to poor youth through schools, technical and agricultural programs and other services that help youth learn skills to gain stable employment.
World Bank – Argentina