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GUATEMALA: Salesian Missionaries Have Undertaken New Projects Helping Poor Youth and their Families in San Benito

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have undertaken several new projects including the construction of a new youth center, distribution of ecological filters for water purification and HIV/AIDS prevention and care in the municipality of San Benito in the El Petén region of northern Guatemala.

Due to complications securing land, construction of a new youth center in San Benito was a long time in the making and faced many delays. Now that the land has been secured, construction is underway and once completed, the youth center will provide poor and at-risk youth additional educational and social supports and a meeting space to build relationships with peers and engage in safe after-school activities. Tutoring and life skills training as well as recreational activities and sports will also be available.

“After so many battles with the municipality to get the ground to build our youth center, we are finally starting work,” says Father Giampiero De Nardi, a Salesian missionary in San Benito. “We have cleared the land, made measurements and started to level the ground. Next we will build the fence and wait for the architect to prepare the final plans and make our dream something more concrete. We are hoping that people will help us financially to be able to complete this program for the good of the young people at risk in Petén.”

In addition to the development of a new youth center, Salesian missionaries in San Benito are distributing ecological filters for purifying water. Since the local water is unsafe and often sickens those who drink it with dysentery and disease, the filters are vital for the many poor families in the area who cannot afford to buy bottled water. The new filters last for five years and produce enough drinking water for five or six families. Close to 50 filters have already been distributed through the project which was generously funded by donors from Italy.

“Water is essential for life and clean water projects have been a focus for Salesian missionaries around the globe,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions. “Water is at the core of sustainable development and relates directly to the viability of poverty reduction, economic growth and environmental sustainability. For those who have no access to clean water, water related disease is common with more than 840,000 people dying each year globally from water related disease.”

Additional Salesian-run programs in the El Petén region continue efforts to prevent HIV/ AIDS and provide treatment for those who have the disease. The area has the third worst incidence rate for contraction of HIV in Guatemala. Despite the fact that the project that financed this work has ended, Salesian missionaries continue to do prevention work and offer medical care and other social services for those infected with the virus. Missionaries continue to seek additional funding and are working with the Office for the Prevention of AIDS of the Episcopal Conference of Guatemala which is operating many of the existing prevention programs for women in the country.

Rural poverty hasn’t changed much in Guatemala during the last 20 years, according to the World Bank. Close to 75 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line and almost 58 percent live below the extreme poverty line which the World Bank defines as struggling to afford even a basic basket of food. For the country’s indigenous population the poverty rates jump even higher with almost 90 percent facing crippling poverty and few resources.

Salesian missionaries working and living in the country have been providing for the basic needs of Guatemala’s youth while helping to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. They work extensively with poor youth and their families at youth centers, orphanages, parishes and primary and secondary schools as well as technical schools, vocational training workshops and two universities. Additional social and educational programs help provide for youth living on the streets and those living in poor indigenous communities.



ANS – Guatemala – A New Centre for the Young People of Petén

World Bank – Guatemala