COLOMBIA: Two young women gain an education and become nurses thanks to Don Bosco City
(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. It is estimated that close to 6,000 minors are still utilized as child soldiers with thousands more having reached their 18th birthday after years of combat. 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.
Catalina and Claudia, both former participants in Don Bosco City’s child soldier rehabilitation program, have become nurses after graduating from a Salesian school. Their stories were highlighted in “Alto de Fuego” (“Cease-fire”), a Salesian-produced film that follows youth who are rebuilding their lives at Don Bosco City after enduring the violence and exploitation of warfare at a young age. Catalina and Claudia are serving as inspiration for minors who seek peace and want to return to their studies in order to have a future full of opportunities.
Catalina, who is 21 years old, has been attending programs at Don Bosco City since she was 16. She had joined guerrilla forces to escape the mistreatment and abuse at home but soon realized that handling a gun, living in the jungle and staying away from her family was even worse. After making the decision to escape, she sought help at Don Bosco City.
Claudia is also 21 years old and began participating in programs at Don Bosco City in 2015. After being without food, walking for days in the mountains and treated poorly, she met with Salesian missionaries. Once at Don Bosco City, she began to feel the family-like affection and to connect positively with her peers.
Catalina always knew she wanted to be a nurse. When she was with the guerrilla army she had attended courses and enjoyed them. Claudia was inspired to become a nurse after the traumatic experience of her father dying from a lack of medical care. Both young women were able to achieve their dreams though Don Bosco City.
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.
“We know that access to education lays the foundation for a better future,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “In Colombia 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. Especially youth who were child soldiers or abandoned and living on the streets because there is no one else ensuring their safety and long-term recovery.”
Close to 33 percent of Colombians live in poverty, according to the World Bank. One in five children in the country has no access to education and 800,000 children reside in refugee camps. The number of street children has reached epidemic proportions and thousands of at-risk youth have been recruited as child soldiers.
In addition, many orphaned youth in Colombia live in poverty and have lost their parents to natural disasters, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other diseases, war or domestic issues. Some children remain living with a single parent, struggling to survive and are often pulled out of school to earn income for the remaining family. Other youth live in shelters or on the streets.
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World Bank – Colombia