EL SALVADOR: More Than 55,000 Students Provided Education and Leadership Training at Don Bosco Integrated Education Youth Program
(MissionNewswire) Close to 35 percent of El Salvador’s population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. Youth in El Salvador are confronted not only with poverty, but with instability, high levels of violence and inadequate access to educational opportunities. Despite ranking high for economic indicators, the need for practical education in the country is more important than ever with 12 percent of youth ages 15-24 unemployed and 41 percent underemployed.
El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in Central America, along with Honduras and Guatemala. The murder rate in El Salvador rose more than 44 percent in the beginning months of 2014 when compared to the same time last year. Gang violence is a leading cause of violence in the country and it’s estimated that some 60,000 young people have gang affiliation. Gang involvement often offers a sense of family and belonging that counters the lack of education and employment opportunities offered in the country.
The Don Bosco Integrated Education Youth Program, operated by the Salesian Savior of the World Foundation, recently celebrated 10 years of service providing education and social development services to at-risk children and adolescents. The program was established in San Salvador, El Salvador’s capital city, and primarily services youth from the neighborhoods of San Miguel, Santa Ana and Soyapango.
Participating students are enrolled in educational programs that complement the formal education system in El Salvador. To date, 55,743 youth from 120 schools have participated in activities. Included in the program is access to a center for youth in need of extra family support, a school of the arts which includes a music club and chamber orchestra, a school of theater and painting and a sports center. The goal is to help youth apply skills they learn at school in a community setting. The different educational programs teach leadership and problem solving skills as well as communication and teamwork, which help to prevent violence.
“Teaching our youth to be leaders is important for their personal development and their communities,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth learn leadership skills and then apply them in the real world, helping to shape their environments and give back to the communities they grew up in.”
The program also provides management and mediation training and assists youth in finding and retaining employment or starting their own business venture. These tools provide an alternative to life on the streets, criminal activity and gang violence. Students find opportunities available to them and connect with adults who serve as mentors, helping them achieve their goals and dreams.
“Education is a path out of poverty,” adds Fr. Hyde. “Youth who access Salesian programs are given an educational foundation, skill training and life and social skills to help them excel in the workforce. They are then able to break the cycle of poverty and become contributing members of their communities.”
World Bank – El Salvador