INTERNATIONAL DAY OF CHARITY: Salesian Missions highlights life-changing educational and social programs for poor youth
(MissionNewswire) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring the International Day of Charity celebrated each year on Sept. 5. The date was chosen by the General Assembly of the United Nations to commemorate the anniversary of the passing of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 “for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace.”
As part of the United Nations 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development, adopted in September 2015, the UN has recognized the importance of eradicating poverty in all forms. The UN notes, “Poverty presents an enormous global challenge for the international community, as it is a significant threat to sustainable development. In the spirit of global solidarity, the 2030 Agenda is focused on how best to meet the needs of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable citizens and acknowledges the role that the private sector must play in supporting the various organizations who have undertaken philanthropic efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda.”
Nearly 30,000 Salesian priests, brothers, sisters and novices are working in more than 130 countries around the globe bringing poor youth and their families education, workforce development and social programs. They work in some of the most challenges circumstances and are among the first responders during humanitarian crises or natural disasters.
“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. “Salesian missionaries work to meet basic needs like shelter, food and medical care while also working to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those who need it most.”
In honor of the International Day of Charity, Salesian Missions highlights its unique educational and social programs that are helping poor and at-risk youth meet their basic needs, receive an education and find a path out of poverty, bringing them hope for the future.
El Salvador is one of the most violent countries in Central America along with Honduras and Guatemala. FUSALMO, a Salesian-run organization, offers traditional and non-traditional educational opportunities for at-risk youth in communities within San Salvador. Through recreational programs, enrichment opportunities in the arts and music, vocational training and more, youth are able to stay off the streets, learn to cooperate and co-exist, and gain the skills they need to become productive, contributing members of a more peaceful society. Founded in 2001, the organization has positively impacted the lives of more than 265,000 children and their families.
FUSALMO works to address the root causes of poverty, inequality and violence and give youth a chance for a better life in their own communities. Through the organization’s Don Bosco Youth Integral Program, three sports centers were developed in Soyapango, San Miguel and Santa Ana benefiting more than 55,000 youth. The sports centers offer youth a safe space to connect with their peers, access to supportive adults and various training opportunities on topics such as creating a culture of peace, vocational guidance, adapted physical education, sports, technology, labor, culture and others.
Salesian Missions donors are ensuring that students attending the Don Bosco Agro-Mechanical Technology Center (known locally as Don Bosco Legazpi), located in Banquerohan, Legazpi City, Philippines, have the training and equipment needed for a new soybean production program. Don Bosco Legazpi is a technical vocational school offering skills training and a farm development program for youth to help them achieve self-sufficiency.
Salesian missionaries launched Don Bosco Legazpi in 2000. The school consists of an Agricultural Technology Center and an adjacent Don Bosco Demonstration Farm. The technology center educates 170 rural youth each year and the farm helps more than 2,000 young graduates embark on their own farming cooperatives.
The Agricultural Technology Center offers its students an opportunity to combine theory with practice through its hands-on approach. Students use the skills they learn in the classroom by putting them directly to work in the fields that are part of the center’s farm. They are taught theoretical and practical courses in greenhouses, growing vegetables, cereal crops, gardening, breeding, animal husbandry and veterinary sciences, as well milk, cheese and dairy products.
The Don Bosco Demonstration Farm allows graduates and their families to use the land to organize small cooperatives and assists them with sourcing microfinancing, farming assistance and the marketing of their agricultural products.
REPUBLIC OF CONGO
Salesian missionaries have been working in the Republic of Congo ensuring that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten. Salesian primary and secondary schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs offer many youth the opportunity for a stable and productive future.
The Republic of Congo was, until its independence in 1960, a colony of the French Congo. Today, it is a small country in central Africa with about 6 million inhabitants mainly located along the Congo river and on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Salesian missionaries have been in the country since its independence and operate three centers that provide for poor youth and their families.
In 1964, the first Salesian center was established in Pointe Noire, the nation’s commercial capital. The center houses a Salesian parish, a youth oratory, a primary and secondary school, a boarding school, a vocational training center and a shelter for youth experiencing difficulties. Salesian missionaries also provide pastoral care in the local prisons.
Salesian missionaries also operate two centers in Brazzaville, the country’s political capital. The Salesian St. Charles Lwanga Center, launched in 1975, includes a parish and a primary and secondary school which is attended by 900 youth. Unfortunately, the school can no longer accommodate all the children who want to attend. To serve as many as possible, students attend in two shifts, one in the morning and another in the afternoon. Even this is not enough so Salesian missionaries are working to find the funding to expand the school.
Also in Brazzaville is the Salesian Vocational Training Center which was launched in 1992. This center provides education for more than 700 students who take two- and three-year courses in electrical, automotive mechanics, welding and lathing, carpentry and air conditioning installation.
Thanks to funding secured by Salesian Missions, 120 youth attending the Don Bosco Youth Center Dwarzak Project, located in Freetown, Sierra Leone, have participated in workshops, sports and other activities. In addition, the youth center has provided nutritional assistance to 50 youth three times a week and educational and spiritual assistance to 80 children six days a week. These activities promote an enriched environment where youth feel secure and free.
As part of this project, Salesian missionaries held a “Youth for Life” workshop that discussed issues affecting girls and helped participants develop relationships and trust. It was so successful that the workshops will be expanded to other schools in Freetown.
Additional activities hosted by the Don Bosco Youth Center include table tennis, educational films, brass band, keyboard and singing instruction, spelling and quiz competitions and storytelling events. The Youth Center also organizes sports programming six days a week with soccer and basketball training, friendly matches in Lungi and Freetown, and league competitions.
In addition, Salesian missionaries planned a summer camp to directly benefit 250 to 300 children. Indoor table games were incorporated into the summer camp. During camp, educational, spiritual, musical, arts, sports and pastoral activities were carried out. Salesian missionaries also constructed a basketball court to minimize travel costs and increase on-site youth recreation.
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