DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: More than 65,000 Youth Gained a Second Chance at Education Thanks to Salesian Program
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries in the Dominican Republic are getting youth working on the streets back to school through Boys and Girls with Don Bosco, a network of educational and social programs operating out of 12 Salesian centers, eight of them located in Santo Domingo, the country’s capital city. To date more than 65,000 impoverished youth have accessed programs and services that have helped them gain an education and lead more stable lives.
Boys and Girls with Don Bosco began in 1985 as a pilot program to help young people selling newspapers on the streets of Santo Domingo access education and social development services. In more than 30 years of operation, the small pilot program has turned into a vast network of services operating out of several Salesian centers easily accessible by poor youth and their families. Programs begin by working directly with youth and continue by reaching out to family members through services that help them become a support to the young people in their lives.
Many youth turned to working on the streets to earn money to help them escape violence, broken families, substance abuse and neglect at home. Others were sent by their parents to earn a meager wage to help support the family. The wrap-around and supportive family services offered by the program are essential to help youth remain engaged in their studies and eventually finish elementary and secondary education.
“The program has been so successful due to its youth-centered approach which offers young people a choice in the services they access,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Since its inception, more than 30,000 families at risk from conditions of poverty, family breakdown and exploitation have accessed services.”
The program is supported by 300 volunteers who assist more than 3,000 poor youth between the ages of 6 and 17. Working to aid youth with what they need most, the program includes assistance finishing school or attending workshops to improve employment skills. Summer activities are also available.
Through the program’s history more than 20,000 youth have gone back to school, 25,000 have participated in summer activities and more than 20,000 have been trained in educational and employment focused workshops. Boys and Girls with Don Bosco continues to expand as the needs of youth change. Father Ángel Sánchez, Director of Boys and Girls with Don Bosco, is currently looking for an increase in the program’s annual budget in order to offer technology courses and hire and train more teachers.
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 which would help them 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 and break the cycle of poverty.
UNICEF – Dominican Republic