GABON: Salesian missionaries provide youth center and vocational skills training for more than 400 youth
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries operate a youth center and vocational training skills center in Oyem, a city in northern Gabon, not far from the borders with Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. The city is inhabited by about 60,000 people. Salesian missionaries have been present in the community for more than three decades.
Salesian missionaries arrived in Oyem in 1984. In the 90s, initiatives developed by missionaries in the community really began to operate at full capacity. The vocational training center offers youth an opportunity to gain an education for work as masons, carpenters, electricians and IT technicians. Salesian missionaries also opened a youth center, which has become a point of reference for all the area’s youth, especially for girls.
The youth center offers many activities including football, volleyball, basketball, tennis and other athletics. There are also cultural programs such as dance, theater and drawing workshops. An area at the center known as Café Philosophique is a space for debates and conferences that are regularly organized on topics of common interest, as well as additional educational programs. The café also houses a library and media library, giving children space they can use to read, do their homework or have fun.
Currently, Salesian missionaries, led by Congolese Salesian Father Davy Caryl Bouetoutamio-Bantsimba, are in the process of updating the buildings to provide a better environment for youth. They are repainting all the structures and soundproofing them where necessary, buying new sports equipment and new equipment, including loudspeakers, guitars, and microphones. Missionaries have also been renewing the assortment of board games for the play areas.
In addition to fixing the physical structures, Salesian missionaries are launching new training activities for educators to help them be better prepared to teach the students. New educational programs are also being put into place for the 400 children and older youth who attend the youth center each day.
“Educational and play activities are important for youth not only to learn but to have a safe place to connect with their peers,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Education is always our primary focus, but the activities at the youth center teach youth other skills about interacting and communication, and give a way for youth to learn important social skills and have opportunities for growth and maturity.”
According to the World Bank, although Gabon’s per capita income is quadruple that of most African countries, there is a strong income inequality. This has left some 500,000 of the 1.7 million people living in the country below the poverty line. Unemployment is a major contributing factor. More than 20 percent of people and 35 percent of youth are unemployed. Most of the nation’s impoverished are among the 40 percent of the population who rely on agriculture for their livelihood. Women, who due to cultural traditions are reliant and financially dependent on men in their households, are often more affected by poverty, especially is they have lost their spouse and become the head of the household.
World Bank – Gabon