BRAZIL: Salesian Missionaries in Brazilian Amazon Help Youth Have Hope for a Better Future
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian mission of Iauaretê is located in the deep western part of the Brazilian Amazon at the border with Colombia and is one of the farthest and most difficult missions to reach. It normally takes three days to get there. Visitors must take a motorboat traveling up the Rio Negro and then continuing toward Colombia, sailing the Rio Uaupes. Iauaretê is far away from everything, including institutions and critical services like hospitals and health centers.
Salesian missionaries in the area aim to give hope to the local people and help youth have a safe space for studying and play, along with adults to turn to for extra support. The Salesian mission of Iauaretê consists of a central missionary district, which comprises the St. Michael Archangel parish and 11 chapels. But the work of the Salesian missionaries extends over an area far greater, reaching 40 indigenous communities made up of 16 different ethnic groups. Missionaries are very focused on their work with adolescents and children in the communities.
For many people, the future is uncertain because there are no factories, no university for advanced education and no work. School is only available until youth reach the age of 17, and then those who want to study and progress in life must leave the area and go to São Gabriel or Manaus. Alcoholism is a great problem in the local communities. Although there is a very clear law that forbids bringing any type of alcohol into the indigenous areas, it is often brought in illegally and is easily smuggled in from neighboring countries like Colombia, causing tragedies such as escalating family violence and early death from health complications from alcoholism.
Salesian programs offer youth a chance to access a safe space to study, play, engage with their peers and take classes in music, sports, English language and typing. The Salesian programs also allow youth to interact with caring adults who can help support them to make healthy choices in life, gain an education and think long-term about their life prospects.
“The Salesian programs in these indigenous communities help to ensure that youth know there is hope for the future and that although the future may seem bleak, there are options available to them,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries across Brazil provide education, workforce development and social services and are focused on helping poor youth, including street children. They have their basic needs met and gain an education to have the employment and life skills to break the cycle of poverty and live productive lives.”
Brazil has one of the strongest economies in Latin America and is an important agricultural and industrial power in the region. Just over 15 percent of Brazilians live in poverty, with the majority living in the rural northeast of the country, according to the World Bank. While Brazil is making positive changes, there are still large gaps between the poor and the rich, and issues of income inequality and social exclusion remain at the root of poverty.
Inequalities also exist in access to education and educational efficiency. These inequalities are greatest for children and youth who are poor, live in rural areas or who have an incomplete compulsory education. Salesian missionaries working with poor youth and their families in Brazil develop programs and provide youth opportunities for furthering their education and skills.
World Bank – Brazil