GUATEMALA: Salesian Missionaries Launch Youth Center in San Benito Petén
(MissionNewswire) In March, Salesian missionaries in San Benito Petén, Guatemala opened a new youth center in the village of La Cobanerita. The launch event of the new facility brought together youth from the local area along with their families for catechetical activities, games and sports. The new Salesian youth center has been in development for more than a year.
Due to complications securing land, construction of the new youth center in San Benito faced many delays. Once land was secured in 2015, construction was completed. The youth center will provide poor and at-risk youth additional educational and social support 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.
“The new Salesian Youth Center provides a safe space for youth to meet with their peers and connect with caring adults who can help with homework and other needs youth are facing,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries across Guatemala provide education, workforce development and social services and are focused on helping poor youth, including street children.”
Salesian missionaries also operate a summer youth program in the region. The program offers classes in Spanish and English language, mathematics, computers, arts and crafts, music and dance as well as provides organized games for participants. Youth who attend the program are able to get away from difficult home situations or playing on the streets to engage in productive activities in a family atmosphere that fosters peace and stability. The new youth center provides an opportunity for Salesian missionaries to host these activities for youth year-round.
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 lives 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.
World Bank – Guatemala