DR CONGO: Don Bosco Center provides education and supportive services to at-risk and disadvantaged youth
(MissionNewswire) In 2014, Salesian missionaries opened Don Bosco Center in the city of Bukavu located in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Operated by two Salesian priests and one Salesian brother, the center is located near the main town square and a prison, giving missionaries the ideal location to meet the many street children who spend time in the square washing cars, carrying luggage and parcels, stealing and begging. Shortly after the inception of the Don Bosco Center, a Salesian school was opened on the premises which serves the local population.
At the end of the 2016-2017 school year at the Salesian-run Tuwe Wafundi Vocational School 54 apprentices obtained their licenses or certificates in order to utilize their skills in the workforce. During the school year, Salesian missionaries also launched new courses in repair work and welding and, for young women, a new experimental course in fashion hair styling. The goal of the school is to give students from disadvantaged backgrounds a chance to gain an education and have employable skills so they can take care of themselves and give back to their communities.
To better support youth seeking work, Don Bosco Center opened a job recruitment office. The coordinator of the project helps graduating students now looking for work. Of the 42 apprentices awarded their certificates in 2016, the coordinator found that almost all the bricklayers and carpenters found employment. The mechanics had more difficulty. The coordinator also helps to make first introductions for graduates. The coordinator also contacted owners of workshops, companies and building sites to ask these businesses if they could accommodate the 2016-17 finalists for a three-month internship. The coordinator also hosted an information and exchange meeting at the Don Bosco Center between 20 graduates and employers.
“All youth deserve a second chance in life and to feel safe and be valued members of their community,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Students supported by the Don Bosco Center have a real opportunity to gain an education, connect with their peers, and gain the work and social skills needed for long-term employment.”
Last year, the Don Bosco Center signed a memorandum of understanding with the Provincial Division of Justice of South Kivu, along with a protocol of cooperation with the Tribunal for the Minors of Bukavu, to take in 10 minors in conflict with the law and 30 children into the Salesian trade school. This collaboration allows students who need extra support to obtain it from trusting adults while receiving education tailored to meet their needs.
Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Center also support youth by supporting families who cannot pay their children’s public school fees. Depending on the degree of vulnerability, the center has intervened to pay half or all the school fees for about 150 primary and secondary school children. The center also has a courtyard, which accommodates children from the local community to come together and play year-round. This year, a project funded by Germany allowed the center to turn the school yard into a volleyball court. Having a cemented courtyard is a rare treasure in Bukavu. Sometimes Salesian missionaries utilize the space for volleyball games, but also for other sporting and cultural activities.
The DRC has been plagued by intense civil war and internal conflict since the outbreak of fighting in 1998. As a result, there have been close to 5.4 million deaths, according to the International Rescue Committee. Most deaths resulted from non-violent causes such as malaria, diarrhea, pneumonia and malnutrition, all typically preventable under normal circumstances but often fatal in times of conflict. Close to 1.5 million people have been internally displaced or have become refugees in neighboring countries after having fled the country to escape the continued violence.
UNICEF – DR Congo