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COLOMBIA: Don Bosco City Provides Shelter and Education for Homeless Youth for more than 900 Youth

(MissionNewsire) In the capital city of Medellin, violent drug wars routinely tear families apart. To find enough fighters for the county’s brutal civil war, guerilla groups aggressively recruit and often kidnap young boys and girls, some as young as 8 years old. Other youth have left abusive situations in their homes and have turned to the street to earn a meager wage.

Without the support of their families, orphaned youth are particularly vulnerable to violence, disease, malnutrition and even death. Many youth find themselves living on the streets with no one to protect them from the dangers of exploitation and violence. Salesian missionaries working in Colombia are making a big impact on the lives of orphaned youth and their efforts have been internationally recognized.

The Salesian-run Don Bosco City in Medellin 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.

“I’m 12 years old and have been at the center for a year,” says Tiago. “I want to study and become a laboratory technician. I’m here because I ran away when my father died and my mother rented out the house because we had no money. I know I have a great opportunity for the future and I do not want to waste it. I am very grateful for the Salesian missionaries that run the program and help all of us.”

Salesian missionaries and lay volunteers have a presence on the streets to reach at-risk youth and encourage them to visit Don Bosco City. Once youth visit the program, the rehabilitation process begins by meeting the young person’s most immediate needs such as food, clothing and shelter. If they wish to stay at Don Bosco City instead of returning to the streets, they are provided with housing and a remedial education in addition to being taught life skills and how to live with others. After youth are acclimated into the program and have caught up academically, they can access job skills training or attend local secondary schools.

“We know that access to education for both boys and girls lays the foundation for a better future for homeless and abandoned youth,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “In Colombia especially, where almost 20 percent of school-age children do not attend school, it is crucial that we offer this opportunity to as many youth as we can.”

Close to 33 percent of Colombians live in poverty, according to the World Bank. One in five children in the country have no access to education and 800,000 children reside in refugee camps. The crisis of street children is at epidemic proportions and thousands of at-risk youth have been recruited as child soldiers.



ANS – Colombia – “Patio formando para la vida”: the Valdocco of Medellín

Don Bosco City

World Bank – Colombia