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EGYPT: Italian volunteers spend time at Don Bosco Zeitoun’s youth center in Cairo

(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Zeitoun, located in Cairo, Egypt, has been providing programs for poor youth and their families since 1985. Youth have access to education, counseling, team sports, music classes, tailoring courses, rights awareness and medical referrals.

Don Bosco Zeitoun has a youth center as well as an excellent vocational school, recognized by the Italian state, that is attended by nearly 800 students from across the country. The school courtyard is often filled with Christian youth who are a minority in the country. Here, they have a safe space to connect with their peers.

In addition, Salesian missionaries provide services for 500 Sudanese and Syrian refugees between the ages of 15 to 25 years old. The center also provides assistance to close to 2,000 refugees including individuals and families who access the programs each month. Salesian missionaries provide emergency relief by meeting basic needs and providing shelter, safety and medical assistance.

For several years, as part of the collaboration between the Circumscription of Central Italy and the Salesians of Egypt, the Don Bosco Zeitoun youth center has welcomed young Italian volunteers who have put themselves at the service of the local children during the summer.

At the youth center, children—both Sudanese and Egyptians—play in the same courtyard. They learn from each other and share their cultures. They dance together and listen to Sudanese and Egyptian music. It’s these small gestures that break larger cultural barriers.

“We immediately felt welcomed. The youth center became our home. Every gesture received, from a handshake to a smile, has been helpful in creating bonds with every young person we’ve met,” explained the Italian volunteers. “At the Salesian parish, we felt the presence of the Lord in every heart that opened up to us. In the school, we learned to understand each other by speaking the language of the heart even if we didn’t share a common cultural language. Both in the parish and in the school, children learn to be respectful of each other’s differences.”

Salesian missionaries have been working in Egypt for more than 100 years. Primary and secondary education, high-quality vocational and technical schools, and youth centers are accessed by both Muslim and Christian youth, as well as refugees in need of services.

“Salesian programs across Egypt provide education and social development services for youth and their families living in poverty,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth, regardless of faith and religious background, are able to access the Salesian programs and gain assistance with homework, connect with their peers, and be connected with adults who provide mentorship and support in their lives.”

According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 32.5 percent of Egyptians lived below the poverty line in 2018, up from 27.8 percent in 2015 and 16.7 percent in 2000. Just more than 6 percent of Egyptians lives in extreme poverty. Egypt has been struggling to rebuild its economy following years of unrest since the 2011 uprising.

Egypt’s unemployment rate has reached 13.2 percent and that number almost doubles for women at 24.2 percent. Egypt, the 15th most densely populated country in the world, has been experiencing a rise in poverty and food insecurity, according to reports released by the United Nations food agency and its partners.

The country has witnessed significant political and economic changes since 2011. Through this transition, which includes periods of political unrest, the main income sources of the economy have been negatively impacted, particularly in the tourism sector, as well as revenues from the Suez Canal, oil and remittances from Egyptians working abroad.

Despite the visible progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Egypt has not reached the anticipated targets for poverty reduction, environment protection and gender equity. Egypt is still working on issues related to gender equality and the empowerment of women.

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Sources:

ANS Photos (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)

ANS – Egypt – Volunteer experience of young people in Central Italy

UNDP – Egypt