ITALY: Fundamental Rights Agency highlights the work of Salesians for at-risk youth during the COVID-19 lockdown
(MissionNewswire) The work of Salesian missionaries with at-risk youth was recently highlighted on social media by the Fundamental Rights Agency, a European Union agency focused on human rights. The agency shared a post on Twitter and Facebook that asked, “What did the COVID-19 isolation mean for vulnerable youth?” Thanks to the participation of Don Bosco International with the Fundamental Rights Agency, the agency highlighted the work of Salesian Social Platforms of Spain and Salesians for Social APS in Italy.
The Salesian Social Platforms in Spain has 83 residential centers for youth that house close to 700 across these centers. During the period of isolation, the work of Salesian missionaries and staff changed considerably.
“The extension of hours of intervention brought more time to foster conversation. We have seen how some gave their best, and we were forced to leave our comfort zones to seek new resources. They made us change,” said José Carlos Rodríguez, coordinator of the Salesian residential project Casa Garelli Protección in Madrid.
Ignacio Vázquez, general manager of the Don Bosco Foundation, which is active in Andalusia, Extremadura and the Canary Islands, said, “The efforts and creativity of the educational teams were fundamental. Today more than ever it has been seen that Don Bosco is the home of boys and girls who do not have another home.”
The work of Salesians in Italy was also critical. Many minors who have no place else to go rely on the services provided by Salesians for Social, which kept residential services open and operating during the pandemic. While many projects were on hold because of coronavirus, youth remained in residential services. Salesian staff did everything they could to minimize the risks of the coronavirus.
At several Salesian centers across Italy, Salesians for Social bought sanitizer kits, masks and gloves, supplied tablets to the houses to foster distance learning, and purchased tools to allow young workers to continue their training and to produce masks to prevent infections.
Salesian programs across Italy help youth who are unable to attend school and others who drop out to work at the few jobs available to them. A growing number of children work as laborers on farms and others have turned to the sex trade to help support their families. Those in poverty often live without adequate shelter, hot water, regular meals and health care.
Italy, Europe’s third-largest economy, has close to 2 million children living in poverty, according to UNICEF. The poverty rate has risen in the wake of Europe’s economic crisis. Unemployment is at its highest level since the late 1970s with the overall jobless rate at 12.5 percent and youth unemployment as high as 41 percent.
According to UNICEF, a growing number of youth are living away from their families in temporary shelters and within government and charity programs because of inadequate support from or neglect by their families. Salesian programs work to combat these challenges by providing shelter, nutrition, education and workforce development services for youth in need.
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Salesian Missions – Italy
UNICEF – Italy Poverty