DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: More than 3,000 Athletes Participated in the 2015 Don Bosco Sports Festival
(MissionNewswire) As part of a bicentennial celebration of the birthday of Don Bosco, more than 3,000 athletes participated in the 2015 Don Bosco Sports Festival held June 5-6 in the Dominican Republic. Students from Salesian centers in the cities of Santo Domingo and Barahona participated in seven different sporting events including track and field games and ping pong. The events took place at the Juan Pablo Duarte Olympic Center and the Parque del Este’s table tennis pavilion in Santo Domingo, the country’s capital city, and at the Domingo Savio Youth Center in La Vega, the largest city in the central region of the Dominican Republic.
Salesian missionaries in the country offer a variety of educational and social development programs for youth, many with an emphasis on recreation and sports activities. The goal is to provide the opportunities necessary to gain an education and break the cycle of poverty as well as deter young people from life on the streets and the lure of gangs.
“Sports programs teach valuable skills to youth both on and off the field,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Learning and playing team sports encourages leadership and teamwork. Students also learn important social skills and are given opportunities to grow and mature.”
Through a partnership with the Salesians of Madrid and the Real Madrid Foundation in collaboration with the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) and the Salesian Province of the Antilles, Salesian students in Santo Domingo have access to a socio-sporting school. Dominic Savio School House in Santo Domingo uses soccer as a tool for social integration, improving the quality of life for boys and girls who are at risk of social exclusion. Alongside the sports, the school provides various support services to children and their families such as tutoring, classroom space for homework, vocational training, healthcare, nutrition education and cultural and recreational activities.
The collaboration between Salesian missionaries and the Real Madrid Foundation has been very successful granting more than 2,000 youth and vulnerable children the opportunity to participate in similar programs around the globe. This partnership has led to the development of 14 socio-sports programs in nine countries including Togo, Benin, Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Portugal, Senegal and Brazil.
Nearly half of youth under the age of 18 live in poverty in the Dominican Republic, according to UNICEF. Even though the country’s economy has been steadily improving since 1996, the country’s poor still struggle to get enough food to eat and access safe drinking water and adequate housing. Only 30 percent of youth finish primary school and only 18 percent finish secondary school on time. Schools are in poor shape with nearly half having no access to safe drinking water and more than 60 percent lacking adequate bathroom facilities.
Many students do not have the supplies necessary to complete their studies and teachers lack access to ongoing teacher education. As result, many youth lack the education and training to compete in the job market. To meet this need, Salesian programs in the Dominican Republic focus on education and vocational training to help youth learn the skills and trades necessary to find stable employment.
Dominican Republic – 3,000 athletes at Salesian Sports Festival
UNICEF – Dominican Republic