INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY: Salesian Missions Highlights Programming That Focuses on Education, Peace Building
(MissionNewswire) 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 2017 is “Youth Building Peace” and is dedicated to celebrating the contributions of youth in conflict prevention and transformation as well as inclusion, social justice and sustainable peace.
The United Nations notes that, since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2250 in 2015, there is growing recognition that youth are necessary in conflict prevention and sustaining peace. This generation of youth is also the largest in history, and they often make up the majority in countries marked by armed conflict or unrest. It is imperative that the needs of youth are considered in matters of peace and security.
Further, the United Nations has said, “The process of social inclusion for youth, including participation in decision-making as well as access to quality education, health care and basic services promotes their role as active contributors to society and affords young people with opportunities to reach their potential and achieve their goals. When youth are excluded from political, economic and social spheres and processes, it can be a risk factor for violence and violent forms of conflict. Therefore, identifying and addressing the social exclusion of young people is a precondition for sustaining peace.”
Working in more than 130 countries around the globe, Salesian missionaries focus on education, workforce development programs, social development services and human rights education to provide young people with the knowledge and skills needed to lead productive lives and become agents of change in their own communities.
“For youth to be actively engaged in their communities they must have access to education and other basic human services that allow them to feel valued and that their voices will be heard,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries meet the basic needs of disadvantaged youth who often have nowhere else to turn. They also provide education and social and workforce development services to ensure a positive transition into adulthood.”
In honor and celebration of International Youth Day 2017, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs that empower youth and promote peace within communities.
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 the communities within San Salvador, El 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, allowing more than 55,000 youth to benefit from this program. The sports centers offer youth a safe space to connect with their peers and supportive adults while accessing training on creating a culture of peace, vocational guidance, adapted physical education, sports, technology, labor, culture and other topics.
The Salesian-run Bangalore Oniyavara Seva Coota (BOSCO), located in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) and the third-most populous city in India, serves child laborers, victims of child abuse and youth who are orphaned, abandoned or live on the streets. Nine BOSCO rehabilitation centers and six outreach hubs are spread throughout the city to assist these children in need.
During its nearly 40-year history, BOSCO has helped improve the lives of more than 125,000 children and rescues and rehabilitates close to 7,000 children each year. Many children living on the streets are runaways who have left home in search of work or to escape violence or other family difficulties. According to UNICEF, more than 40,000 children are reported missing every year in India. Of these, close to 11,000 remain untraced.
Once youth are identified by BOSCO and convinced to come in off the street, their basic needs are provided for with as housing, food and clothing. In addition, they receive counseling and, if appropriate, are reunited back with their families. Education is also a primary component of BOSCO and is provided to those in the rehabilitation program while those who are returned to their families have access to Salesian schools throughout India. Youth who continue their education are more likely to find and retain stable employment later in life and break the cycle of poverty.
Salesian missionaries have been serving in Sierra Leone since 2001, when they began working to rehabilitate former child soldiers. In the years since, Don Bosco Fambul, located in the country’s capital city of Freetown, has become one of the country’s leading child welfare organizations—offering food, clothing, crisis intervention services, shelter, educational opportunities, long-term counseling and family reunification.
Close to 200,000 young girls and older women were sexually assaulted during Sierra Leone’s decade-long civil war, according to UNICEF. And although the war has stopped, the sexual violence against women continues. Young women are at risk for sexual violence, trafficking and forced pregnancy, among other atrocities. Today, one third of girls are forced into marriage and often sexually assaulted by their husbands before their 15th birthdays. In addition, 90 percent of girls are subjected to female genital mutilation. Don Bosco Fambul has been operating the Girls Shelter for the last five years. Salesian missionaries, professional social workers and pastoral workers provide crisis intervention and follow-up care for girls and young women who have been victims of sexual assault. Girls that access the shelter services are also able to attend educational programs that are a part of the broader Don Bosco Fambul network of programs. These educational programs give young women the skills necessary to find and retain employment.
Over the course of the last six years since the outbreak of civil war began 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 had 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.
Salesian centers 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. Offering skills training, advocacy and counseling programs, Salesian centers also provide safe spaces for vulnerable refugee families to find a sense of community and peace.