ITALY: Migrants gain business skills
Don Bosco 2000 helping more than 1,000 migrants in 15 assistance centers in Sicily
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco 2000 in Italy has 15 migrant assistance centers in Sicily and is currently caring for close to 1,000 migrants in those facilities, according to a recent article in Hankyoreh, a newspaper in South Korea. The migrants hail from various countries but most are from Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.
The centers provide shelter, assistance with document preparation, language study and skills training to help migrants adapt to their new surroundings. Salesians also assist with asylum application procedures, which can take up to two years, according to the article.
Don Bosco 2000 also has a program designed to allow immigrants to acquire various skills at the centers. These skills are later used to start their own businesses whether they remain in Italy or return to their home countries.
As journalist Noh Ji-won, Berlin correspondent for Hankyoreh and author of the article, noted, “It’s a mutually beneficial model that treats immigrants as more than just beneficiaries of charity: it puts their labor capabilities to work toward operating a social enterprise and ultimately assisting with economic development in Africa. Indeed, around a dozen immigrants have returned home and started businesses with skills that they learned here.”
According to the article, Don Bosco 2000 is working with close to 40 migrants in agriculture, clothing production and sales. Its programs include sales of crops harvested on land confiscated from the Mafia by the Italian government. In the clothing production program, migrants design and then create garments on their own sewing machines to sell them at the program’s clothing store. Ten percent of the profits go toward a chicken coop installation project in Africa. Salesians are also helping with job placement. This year, around 40 labor contracts have been signed by migrants in Sicily alone, according to the article.
“Our activities go above and beyond simply ‘welcoming’ people,” said Roberta La Cara in the article. She has worked for the last decade as a project coordinator for Don Bosco 2000. “Since these immigrants have come here to work for money to send to their families, our job is about helping them achieve self-sufficiency.”
Aly Traoré, age 32 and from Mali, was helped by Don Bosco 2000. Leaving Mali after civil war broke out, he traveled through Algeria and Libya before reaching Catania, Sicily in 2014. In addition to his native languages Bambara and Soninke, he spoke English, Arabic and French, so he was able to start working as an interpreter for Don Bosco 2000 after he arrived. Later, he went back to school and now works as the Beteyà Hostel reception manager. According to the article, 10 of the 14 employees working at the hostel are immigrants like Traoré. The hostel’s building served as the primary reception center for immigrants between 2015 to 2018.
In addition to helping migrants, 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.
Salesian Missions – Italy
World Bank – Italy