BOLIVIA: Don Bosco Project provides programs that meet the basic needs of at-risk youth and provide access to education to prepare them for future employment
(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Project, started by Salesian Father Ottavio Sabbadin, was launched in 1991 in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, commonly known as Santa Cruz and the largest city in Bolivia, to provide programs for at-risk children and older youth. Many of these youth left the hard life of the rural highlands in search of a new life but ended up on the streets.
Throughout the Santa Cruz region, several Salesian centers have been developed and expanded to meet the needs of the local population. The Don Bosco Project acts as a hub to help coordinate activities among several of these local Salesian-run programs including Hogar Don Bosco, Mano Amiga, Patio Don Bosco and Techo Pinardi. The Don Bosco Project provides comprehensive rehabilitation and vocational training programs that bring social inclusion and meaningful employment to its students.
Extending beyond emergency shelter, clothing and nutritious meals, the project brings together psychologists, social workers, healthcare staff and teachers who work together to address the needs of close to 2,000 children who access primary and secondary schooling and vocational education.
There are several ways in which youth connect with the programs provided through the Don Bosco Project. A free overnight shelter brings youth in off the streets and connects them with adults who show genuine concern and offer support. The shelter provides a safe environment, nutritious meals and a support network that can be life-changing.
A daytime program is also available for youth who are ready to escape their current situations and explore new opportunities. Here, the Salesian staff offers tutoring to help youth catch up on basic studies and return to school, as well as information on specific trades. In addition, there are opportunities for participation in sports and other constructive group activities.
Recently on International Literacy Day, which falls annually on Sept. 8, the Don Bosco Project relaunched its commitment to fostering child literacy, the first step toward a longer-lasting educational journey. It is collecting funding for the purchase of educational materials, including books, backpacks, uniforms, pencils and cases, which will be allocated to 250 children and older youth who have suffered abuse and neglect and rely on Salesian missionaries for protection and support.
“The Don Bosco Project has been working with at-risk youth in Santa Cruz for 28 years,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries help to meet basic needs like food, clothing and shelter and then work to connect youth with the education they require to have a successful future. The goal is always to provide an education so youth are able to be self-sufficient later in life.”
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and has the most unequal income distribution on the continent. According to UNICEF, 60 percent of Bolivians live below the poverty line with 40 percent of those living in extreme poverty. The poverty rate is higher in rural areas where the rate increases to 75 percent of the population. It is common for Bolivians to struggle to find adequate nutrition, shelter and other basic necessities.
The geography of Bolivia contributes to the overwhelming poverty of its residents. Large swaths of the country remain undeveloped with a lack of roads and infrastructure in place, negatively impacting the indigenous farming populations who typically live there.
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UNICEF – Bolivia