INDIA: Don Bosco Self-Reliance Program Helps Youth Transition into Adulthood
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian organization, Don Bosco Ashalayam, in India’s capital city, New Delhi, offers a range of programs for disadvantaged youth. Reaching out to street children and others, the organization offers child helplines, shelters, schools and vocational programs. Recently, Don Bosco Ashalayam initiated the Don Bosco Self-Reliance program to serve young people over the age of 18 who have aged out of other supportive services and often find themselves on their own with little guidance for the future.
The Don Bosco Self-Reliance program works to bridge the gap between graduation from secondary school and employment. At this critical juncture, the program provides access to additional skills training and social development services while offering opportunities to study and gain professional qualifications. In this way, the program aids young people with the transition to adulthood and meaningful employment as well as helps to break the cycle of poverty in their lives.
Given the high rate of youth unemployment in India, this program is especially relevant. According to the International Labor Organization’s Global Employment Trends 2015 Report, India experienced a sharp slowdown in its economy during 2012 and 2013 when growth dropped below 5 percent. The economy grew slightly faster in 2014 reaching 5.4 percent, reflecting an improvement in the growth rate of the services sector and a better monsoon season than originally anticipated. However, the unemployment rate for youth is remaining flat after having risen 3.6 percent in 2012 and having again climbed to 3.7 percent in 2013.
“All youth deserve a chance at a better life and access to the skills necessary to find and retain employment,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “To help close the employment gap, Don Bosco Ashalayam helps youth gain a foothold in the competitive job market by providing employment and soft skills training in an environment of learning and mentoring that is responsive to the individual’s emotional and developmental needs.”
Salesian missionaries working at Don Bosco Ashalayam utilize their vast network of technical and vocational training programs within India to help their students gain viable employment skills. For student, Anarjeet, the Self-Reliance Program has helped him gain the experience and skills necessary to complete his four year degree in hotel management while also accessing an internship. Before discovering Don Bosco Ashalayam, Anarjeet was an orphan who lost his parents at the age of two. He was sent to live with an aunt and uncle who were physically abusive to him. After a few years living and struggling to survive on the streets of New Delhi, Anarjeet was found by a street outreach worker who led him to Don Bosco Ashalayam.
“I look at my life with gratitude to the Don Bosco organization, because I grew up in Ashalayam and received everything possible that my family was unable to provide,” says Anarjeet. “I was brought to Ashalayam, a new world of experience, a place of safety and security, which has transformed my life. I was given all the care and protection with every possibility and opportunity to grow properly.”
Another student, Kapil, spent 16 years at Don Bosco Ashalayam after being found by Salesian missionaries at one of India’s railway stations, a haven for runaway youth in the country. Kapil ran away from home after his mother died and his father remarried. Subjected to physical abuse at home, he felt he had little choice other than to try to survive on the streets. With the help of the Self-Reliance Program, Kapil is finishing his degree in computer science and has already started an internship at an Indian software company.
“Don Bosco Ashalayam showed me the rays of new life,” says Kapil. “Active participation in various co-curricular activities increased my confidence and I learned many skills such as book binding and candle making. The life was so amazing at Don Bosco that I could enjoy and learn to mend my life. I often wonder how I have achieved all I have in spite of being a boy who ran away from home to take shelter in railway stations. Don Bosco Ashalayam is really a home for the children in need of care and protection.”
India is home to 25 percent of the world’s poor and more than 30 percent of the country’s population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. With the largest number of child laborers in the world, India has made significant progress the past eight years reducing the number of out-of-school children from 25 million to 8 million. However, an estimated 11 million children live on the streets facing the daily horrors of rampant exploitation, forced labor, widespread substance abuse and physical violence. Many poor youth see little opportunity or hope for a better life.
International Labour Organization – World Employment Social Outlook 2015
UNICEF – India