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ECUADOR: Salesian Missionaries Provides Education, Workforce Development Services to Indigenous Youth Living in the Amazon

(MissionNewswire) More than 20 years ago, Salesian Father Silvio Broseghini developed the Salesian-run Chankaup Foundation to help educate and provide workforce development services for the Achuar, a group of indigenous people in the Amazon who possess a rich, ancient culture and preserve their environment and community. The foundation is based out of the Wasakentsa community and is facilitated by Salesian missionaries and lay volunteers committed to working with this native population.

In the 1970s, the Achuar came to local Salesian missionaries, Father Domingo Bottasso and the late Father Luis Bolla, and requested they develop educational programs to help educate youth in the community. Building on those early initial programs, the Chankaup Foundation provides sustainability to the work of the early mission and has expanded programs by developing activities with the goal of communal development.

“We were looking for an alternative to help families overcome the economic difficulties of living in the forest, and we decided that the most convenient thing to do was a foundation that provides education and helps local people earn a decent wage,” says Fr. Bottasso.

Most recently, the foundation has developed a program whereby local products found within the forest and vegetation are sourced and utilized by the villagers to earn an income through its cultivation and sale. The work done by the foundation allows Amazonian families to participate in the global economic market improving their income without abandoning their cultural and environmental mission.

About 600 families, in 60 communities of the Amazonian region, provide the raw matter for the processing of products. The products that are used include peanuts, cocoa, ginger, curcuma, verbena, achiote, dragon blood, and more. The raw materials are first treated, which gives it an added value for trade.

Salesian missionaries also provide education through the Padre Silvio Broseghini Home, named for its founder. This program was developed in 2001 and provides education to close to 200 youth who participate in a formal school program. Here, youth learn a basic education and then as they advance can take courses in vocational trades to learn the skills for future employment.

“There are difficulties within the community, but they can be overcome if we all feel responsible for the elimination of poverty and provide hope for a better life through education,” says Fr. Broseghini.

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. According to the World Food Program, almost 26 percent of all children under age five have stunted growth, increasing to 31 percent in rural areas and 47 percent in indigenous communities.

Violence, especially towards young people, is high in the country. Homicides are the second leading cause of death among young people and the primary cause of death among young women. Instances of physical abuse and domestic violence happen frequently and are often not properly handled by local law enforcement agencies. In addition, a high percentage of youth engage in drug use and are at-risk of falling prey to criminal activity and gang violence.

Close to 20 percent of Ecuador’s population are people of indigenous heritage. For poor, rural and indigenous youth, education provides the best opportunity for finding employment, reducing inequities and breaking the cycle of poverty. Salesian missionaries have been providing education and other social programs for disadvantaged youth across Ecuador for more than 125 years.



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