BOLIVIA: Salesian missionaries provide education and support to youth at Hogar Don Bosco
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries offer schools and social development programs across Bolivia to ensure youth have access to education and hope for a brighter future. In Santa Cruz, the largest city and capital of the Santa Cruz department, Salesian centers have been developed and expanded to meet the needs of the local population.
The Don Bosco Project, which launched in November 1991, acts as a hub to help coordinate activities among several local Salesian-run programs including Hogar Don Bosco, Mano Amiga, Patio Don Bosco and Techo Pinardi. The project provides comprehensive rehabilitation and vocational training programs that bring social inclusion and meaningful employment to its students.
Every year Santa Cruz attracts youth who leave the difficult life of the rural highlands in search of new opportunities. The Don Bosco Project ensures these youth and others have access to emergency shelter, clothing and nutritious meals. The project also brings together psychologists, social workers, healthcare staff and teachers who work together to address the needs of almost 2,000 children who access primary and secondary schooling and vocational education.
There are several ways 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. Salesian staff offer 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.
Nearly every child that comes to Hogar Don Bosco has experienced challenging life circumstances. Hogar Don Bosco ensures youth receive a good education and live in an environment that’s conducive to focusing on their studies. The center also helps young people build a solid foundation of values and morals in life, as well as provides a sense of family support.
Salesian missionaries have other programs in Santa Cruz including the La Muyurina Agriculture School and La Floresta Parish. In San Carlos and Sagrado Corazón, Salesian missionaries have many smaller communities within the vast territory, which is rural and focused mainly on agriculture. In Yapacani, there is also a boarding school run by five Colombian volunteers, founded by a Colombian priest who was inspired by Don Bosco.
Despite all the work that needs to be done and the many problems that the country is experiencing, the commitment of Salesian missionaries remains. Father Vicente Brunelli, who has worked for 33 years as a Salesian missionary in Bolivia, said, “It has been a difficult 33 years, in which there have been sorrows and failures. Every now and then, I get discouraged. But then I recover, holding a precious keepsake. It is a piece of paper with the writing of a child that says, ‘That I lack everything, but not you.’ I listen again to the usual refrain of my good guardian angel to never renounce or give up on your dreams of giving a smile and hope to so many unfortunate children, everywhere, from one continent to the other.”
Bolivia is the poorest country in South America and has the most unequal income distribution on the continent. According to the World Bank, the poverty rate was 35 percent in 2018. 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.
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World Bank – Bolivia
Salesian Missions – Bolivia