FIJI: New community center to expand youth services
Salesian oratory teaches youth how to play rugby and provides opportunities for peer engagement
(MissionNewswire) Every Thursday and Saturday most youth from the St. John Bosco Parish attend activities at the Salesian oratory in Suva, Fiji. They participate in sports, games, socializing with their peers and meetings—all providing opportunities to make new friends. Given the number of youth coming from the villages of Muanikoso and the Makoi, Salesian missionaries have decided to open a new oratory.
Rugby is a popular sport at the oratories, and Salesians make sure that everyone can play, from the smallest children to older youth. Atonio Lealea, Salesian coadjutor, helps the younger children learn how to play the game and engage in other activities.
“Sports programs teach youth both on and off the field,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Learning and playing team sports encourages leadership skills as well as teaches youth to work as part of a team. Students also learn important social skills and have opportunities for growth and maturity.”
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Salesians in Suva were in the middle of construction of a new multipurpose community center. The new center will provide youth a place where they can learn, engage in safe activities, and connect with peers and supportive adults. With more than 44 percent of the population in Fiji under the age of 25, there are limited opportunities for employment. The community center will serve a vital role in helping these youth find the right path for their future.
The center will include a multipurpose community space, open areas for learning, a kitchen and dining area, a sporting and recreational facility, and a community garden. The idea is to make the center as self-sustainable and eco-friendly as possible.
“This project will help ensure that local youth have access to the kind of social development programs that will get them on the right path in life,” added Fr. Baek. “The new community center will be a place for youth to gather with their peers, and access life skills training and educational supports.”
Father Mikaere Leilua, a local Salesian parish priest, is overseeing the project. With restrictions on the workforce, the number of workers at the site had been reduced to 20, plus the foreman. Work on the project has continued to progress and will continue until completion.
Salesian missionaries have been a part of the Fijian community since 1999, primarily facilitating education for young Salesians from the Pacific region, as well as operating a local parish. During a visit in 2015, the Rector Major Father Ángel Fernández Artime expressed a strong desire to see the Salesian community expand to include a strong youth-focused outreach, which was a motivating factor for this community center project.