INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY: Salesian youth centers and social programs highlighted on International Youth Day 2018
(MissionNewswire) Salesian Missions joins the United Nations and international organizations around the globe in honoring International Youth Day. Celebrated each year on Aug. 12, International Youth Day was established by the United Nations to raise awareness of issues affecting young people around the world.
The theme of International Youth Day 2018 is “Safe Spaces for Youth.” The UN notes that youth need safe spaces where they can engage with their peers and in activities related to their diverse needs and interests. They stress the importance of these spaces being inclusive and safe as well as offering a sense of dignity for youth.
The UN states, “Safe spaces such as civic spaces enable youth to engage in governance issues; public spaces afford youth the opportunity to participate in sports and other leisure activities in the community; digital spaces help youth interact virtually across borders with everyone; and well-planned physical spaces can help accommodate the needs of diverse youth especially those vulnerable to marginalization or violence.”
Working in more than 132 countries around the globe, Salesian missionaries focus on education, workforce development programs and social development services. Salesian missionaries also offer youth centers and programs that provide youth with safe spaces for studying and engaging with their peers and for arts, music and sports programming.
“The work of Salesian missionaries in countries around the globe goes beyond education,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “We aim to serve the whole person by making sure that basic needs like health and nutrition are met in addition to other social service needs. Providing safe spaces for youth, especially for those at-risk or in high violence and conflict areas, ensures they feel empowered and are able to develop a sense of self-worth.”
In honor and celebration of International Youth Day 2018, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs that empower youth and provide them with safe spaces.
Since 1989, Salesian missionaries have operated Casa Don Bosco which serves the most disadvantaged youth in the district of Taquaral Bosque in Campo Grande, Brazil. These youth live in vulnerable situations and are socially at risk. Casa Don Bosco is a social center that offers socio-educational and human development services for children and adolescents ages 6 to 15. During the day, participants receive food and are offered sports and arts programs and cultural workshops.
Casa Don Bosco serves nearly 200 children and older youth every day and is one of several Salesian programs across Brazil dedicated to providing services to homeless and at-risk youth. A Salesian Youth Center in the town of Niterói, near Rio de Janeiro, also serves Brazilian youth. There, Salesian missionaries launched their third socio-sports program in the country. The programs are made possible through a collaboration between the Salesian Missions office in Madrid and the Real Madrid Foundation.
The program’s motto is, “They play, we educate” and participants receive nutritional, family and psychological support, regular health checkups and the opportunity to participate in social and educational workshops in gymnastics, crafts, reading and citizenship. Training sessions on topics such as health, hygiene, values and the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse are also provided.
The Don Bosco Youth Center in Lilongwe, Malawi, has become a symbol of youth empowerment through sporting activities as well as vocational and technical education. It conducts motivational evening talks for spiritual and moral growth as well as provides leadership training for youth with the aim of equipping them with the skills to lead and motivate other youth toward positive behavior and social change in their respective communities.
The center, which hosts more than 600 youth each day from the surrounding townships of Areas 23, 24, 44, Kawale and Chilinde among others, offers sporting facilities for youth including a football pitch and courts for basketball, netball and volleyball. The campus also includes the Don Bosco Youth Technical Institute which offers commercial and technical courses in the fields of fashion arts and beauty, accounting, bricklaying, motor vehicle mechanics, hospitality and information and communications technology.
The city of Mandalay has a number of street children who live on the margins of society in inhumane conditions. These youth have no access to education, use drugs, feed on scraps of food and only rarely find small jobs. Stealing is commonplace. The juvenile prison is in a pitiful condition with a scarcity of food and no medical care. The only educational services offered in the prison are carried out by Salesian missionaries.
The Don Bosco Friend Youth Center was created as a safe haven for street youth to avoid the juvenile prison. The facility, which operates 24 hours a day, is directed by Father Peter Myo Khin along with six paid staff and provides temporary shelter, food, healthcare and formal and non-formal education.
Close to 30 boys, ages 4 to 18, live at the center permanently while dozens more access services on a drop-in basis. If the boys in the center do not want to attend school, they can pursue a non-formal education at the center. Of the 30 boys currently attending the program, 22 are pursuing a formal education and eight have chosen a non-formal education path.
Despite ongoing conflict and instability, Salesian missionaries continue their work with youth in Syria. Over the course of the last seven years since the outbreak of civil war in March 2011, Salesian missionaries have operated three centers in Kafroun and the particularly high conflict areas of Aleppo and Damascus. Each of the centers is staffed by three Salesian priests and a deacon.
The centers have been in operation since well before the start of the war providing educational classes, meeting space and social development and sporting activities for youth and their families. The centers also offer trauma counseling, emergency shelter, nutritious meals and medical referrals to those in need. Among the many continuing activities at the center is a popular after-school program with 70 children in attendance. The activities in the program are coordinated by a dozen university students.
Salesian centers in Syria continue to meet the needs of their communities through the distribution of food, economic aid and scholarships to help young people continue with their schooling.