UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY: Salesian Missions highlights educational programs for marginalized youth
(MissionNewswire) Salesian Missions joins the United Nations and other organizations around the globe in recognizing Universal Children’s Day. Celebrated each year on November 20, the day was established in 1954 to promote international togetherness and awareness on children’s issues worldwide. It also marks the day on which the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child was held in 1989.
The theme of Universal Children’s Day 2018 is “Children are taking over and turning the world blue.” This year’s theme focuses on building a world where every child is in school, knows their rights and are safe from harm. The day calls on global leaders to #GoBlue and commit to ensuring all children have access to education and are able to meet their potential.
Through education and social development programming, Salesian missionaries in more than 130 countries around the globe are working to break the cycle of poverty and bring a sense of dignity to all those they serve. Missionaries are also working to ensure that all youth know their rights, are able to fully participate in their communities and have their voices heard.
Whether it’s combating child labor, assisting homeless youth or building schools where children previously had no access to education, Salesian missionaries are on the front lines making sure those in need have access to programs and services. With more than 5,500 Salesian educational institutions and youth centers around the globe, missionaries are educating children in some of the poorest places on the planet.
“Education is always our primary focus but we know youth are dealing with much more than just needing access to education,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries provide education on human rights which gives vulnerable youth a sense of personal dignity and self-worth. At Salesian schools, young children gain an education, learn about their rights and freedoms and participate in sports and other activities—all in a safe environment that encourages learning and growth.”
In honor of Universal Children’s Day, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight initiatives around the world that ensure children understand their rights and are able to access education.
Every year, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, commonly known as Santa Cruz, the largest city in Bolivia and the capital of the Santa Cruz department, attracts youth who leave the hard life of the rural highlands in search of opportunity. Throughout the Santa Cruz region, several Salesian centers have been developed and expanded to meet the needs of the local population.
The Don Bosco Project in Santa Cruz acts as a hub to help coordinate activities among several local Salesian-run programs including Hogar Don Bosco, Mano Amiga, Patio Don Bosco and Techo Pinardi. It provides comprehensive rehabilitation and vocational training programs that bring social inclusion and meaningful employment to its students in addition to offering emergency shelter, clothing and nutritious meals.
The project brings together psychologists, social workers, healthcare staff and teachers who work together to address the needs of close to 2,000 children who access primary and secondary schooling and vocational education.
There are several ways in which youth connect with the programs provided through the Don Bosco Project. A free overnight shelter brings youth in off the streets and connects them with adults who show genuine concern and offer support. The shelter provides a safe environment, nutritious meals and a support network that can be life changing.
A daytime program is also available for youth who are ready to escape their current situations and explore new opportunities. Here, Salesian staff offer tutoring to help youth catch up on basic studies and return to school as well as information on specific trades. In addition, there are opportunities for participation in sports and other constructive group activities.
Close to 100,000 children have been educated about their rights through 907 special clubs and courses offered in schools across India. This education is thanks to Salesian child rights education programs offered through the CREAM project (Child Rights Education and Action Movement) which is sponsored by the Office of Development of the Salesian Province of Bangalore (BREADS–Bangalore Rural Education and Development Society).
The project was initiated in December 2012 to reach the most disadvantaged children in 10 districts in the Indian state of Karnataka, especially in high-risk urban and rural areas. The goal being to work with youth to build a culture of protection of children’s rights with an emphasis on improving the potential of minors as well as ensuring the sustainability of activities and results. The project has entered a second phase working to reach 150,000 youth through child rights education.
Salesian missionaries launched an Agricultural Technology Center and adjacent Don Bosco Demonstration Farm in the city of Legazpi in 2000. Salesian programs offered at the center follow that of others in the Philippines that aim to educate poor and at-risk youth to ensure they gain an education and the skills necessary for future employment.
The Agricultural Technology Center educates 170 rural youth each year and the farm helps more than 2,000 young graduates develop an agricultural livelihood. The center offers its students an opportunity to combine theory with practice. The young students learn in the classroom as well as through a hands-on approach. They are able to take their classroom skills and put them directly to use in the fields that are a part of the center. Students are offered theoretical and practical courses in greenhouses, growing vegetables, cereal crops, gardening, breeding, animal husbandry, veterinary sciences and milk, cheese and dairy products.
The Don Bosco Demonstration Farm further allows graduates and their families to use the land to organize small cooperatives while providing assistance in farming, the marketing of agricultural products and sourcing microfinancing.
The mission of the Salesian center and farm is to provide a basic education as well as advanced courses in the latest agricultural practices and modern technologies while highlighting efficiency in farming through the exploration and testing of new techniques in agriculture, horticulture, floriculture and animal husbandry. Salesian missionaries hope the program will entice more local youth to choose agriculture as their long-term livelihood.
Salesian vocational schools in Tanzania having been working to promote education for young women who are often left out of advanced educational opportunities. Tanzanian vocational schools were originally designed to provide training only for boys but now girls make up 38 percent of the student population at the schools, up from 11 percent in 2015.
It was necessary for Salesian vocational schools in Tanzania to open their programming up to girls for many reasons. When young women have access to education, they are more likely to experience social justice, avoid early marriage and support the growth and development of the country. This is important as a strong economy requires a greater number of qualified people.
In Tanzania, this change has not been easy to achieve because vocational training has traditionally been considered a male stronghold. Salesian schools have been working to change the culture by organizing a series of initiatives that encourage girls to enroll in technical and vocational schools.
The “Binti Thamani” campaign (literally translated as “precious girl”) works to make students, teachers and parents aware of equal opportunities for boys and girls in education, including technical training.
Many girls and their parents did not know that girls could attend vocational training courses. The campaign has reached 3,000 girls and is continuing to reach more girls today. The number of girls attending Salesian schools continues to grow steadily every year.
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