COLOMBIA: Don Bosco City helped one young law student escape from child labor and access education
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco City, located in Medellín, Colombia, has been working with youth for 54 years and has saved more than 1,300 from a life of violence. The long rehabilitation process at Don Bosco City focuses on three things youth need to learn—how to trust, to have hope for the future and to build relationships with others. Psychologists and teachers work together with youth, giving them the tools for a better future including basic education and more advanced skills training that will lead to stable employment.
Juan David recounts that at the age of 6 he collected garbage to support his two younger siblings in Medellín. Today, he is a student at the Latin American Autonomous University where he is enrolled in law courses. He credits Don Bosco City for the transformation in his life – from being forced into early child labor to being able to access an education.
When Juan David was a child, his younger siblings would wait for his return every day so they would have something to eat. He had begun to beg, but still couldn’t quite scrape enough money together to feed them. It was then that he decided to work as a recycler. Juan David says, “It’s the word we use to define children who work in landfills in search of some object that may have an economic value.”
Juan David is the son of his mother’s first husband who died shortly after his birth. His siblings have a different father. He adds, “My mother rarely appeared inside the house, she was very neglected. The problem arose when they got sick and we needed more money for medicines.”
Managing to avoid the rampant drugs, sexual exploitation and paramilitaries preying on children, in 2007 Juan David met Juan Carlos Reigota, coordinator of the Right to Dream project. Through the project, Juan David was selected to study at a Salesian school.
James Alexander Areiza, working with Don Bosco City, explains, “We have been working for 54 years with the most vulnerable population in Medellín, the department of Antioquia and many other areas of Colombia. We are committed Salesians and lay people who do a job of human, academic and professional formation. We are trying to remove these children from the street, from drugs, from sexual exploitation and from war. Many are child soldiers and continue to be threatened by criminal gangs.”
Juan David is thankful for his experiences with Don Bosco City and the connections he has been able to make since gaining an education. He says, “Recently, I met some of my childhood friends and I was surprised to see how many of them have problems with drugs. They were even surprised when they saw me again. They thought I was dead, as happened to many others who they no longer saw. And they were amazed when I explained to them that my life had changed and that I was even studying at university.”
Juan David plans to spend his life helping children and older youth who face the same difficult experiences he once did.
Don Bosco City is one of the oldest and largest programs for street children in Latin America. Since its start in 1965, the program has rescued more than 83,000 boys and girls. Through the program, Salesian missionaries offer a multi-pronged approach designed to address the broad social issues that contribute to the poverty and exploitation these youth face while training them in the skills necessary to break the cycle of violence and poverty. Currently, there are 900 youth between the ages of 8 and 12 living and receiving education at the program.
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Salesian Missions – Colombia