ECUADOR: 125 Years of Salesian Programs for Vulnerable Youth
Ecuador is one of the most inequitable societies in the world, according to UNICEF. The richest 20 percent of the population receives almost 50 percent of the national income, while the poorest 20 percent receives only five percent. Almost 26 percent of all children under five have stunted growth. In rural areas, the figure is 31 percent, and in indigenous communities, it is even higher at 47 percent, according to the World Food Program.
For poor, rural and indigenous youth, education provides the best opportunity for finding employment, reducing inequities and breaking the cycle of poverty. Salesian-run schools and programs are available to youth all over Ecuador as they have been throughout the Salesian’s 125 year history in the country.
At the Center for the Young Worker, students study auto mechanics, woodworking, baking, beauty care and cooking. The school is a community effort as parents help provide meals to the students and weekend student volunteers help build houses for the families who come to the city looking for work. Approximately half of the students come to the Center without an elementary education but 85 percent finish their elementary or middle school education here and 64 percent go on to continue their studies after they have completed their training.
“Across Ecuador, staying in school helps students learn job skills that can help reduce inequities in employment,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “The Salesian Centers for the Young Worker have been recognized by UNICEF as an exemplary social and educational institute. The facilities focus on the needs of the students such as providing classes on the weekends for students who must work during the week.”
The Salesians also offer other programs for vulnerable youth in Ecuador.
At Salesian-run Project for Street Children sites throughout the country, vulnerable and at-risk children gain a welll-rounded education that allows them to take the lead in developing their own skills and potential. The project uses an active presence on the streets, technical training, schools and the support of families and communities to care for the boys and their rehabilitation.
“These youth need specialized programs including prevention of addiction and care for addicts, rehabilitation of youth gang members and hostels that provide an alternative to living on the street,” adds Fr. Hyde. “Thousands of children and adolescents are supported each year in Ecuador through Salesian programs.”
ANS – Ecuador – 125 years
Salesian Missions – Ecuador
UNICEF – Ecuador