ITALY: Programs for at-risk youth expand
Salesian missionaries in Scandicci open new semi-residential community for youth
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian community of Scandicci, just outside Florence, Italy, opened a semi-residential community for youth in memory of Salesian Blessed Artemide Zatti. The community was two years in the making and has opened its doors to four young people. The residence will be able to accommodate up to 18 young people a day, both males and females, aged 6 to 14, who are sent by the local social services.
“We’ve come a long way together with the whole educational team,” said Father Giorgio Mocci, director of the Salesian community in Scandicci. “The community has always supported us. We have several volunteers from the association La Melagrana Aps ready to make themselves available to these young people and support them.”
Yuna Kashi Zadeh, president of La Melagrana Aps, noted, “The satisfaction for having started this path is now great. ‘We’re here’ is the phrase that recurs most in the messages, in the calls and in the meetings that we have had in recent days. It means we are here and staying to embrace, meet, smile, cry, talk and to listen.”
While many programs in Italy have closed during the pandemic and others have limited the work they are doing, the Salesians have remained and continue to grow and expand programs to meet the critical needs of poor and at-risk youth. All Salesian programs are adhering to COVID-19 safety measures including wearing masks, social distancing and sanitizing.
“For us, it is important to start this work especially for those facing the most difficulty. We Salesians are here in Scandicci as we are in the whole world to be signs and bearers of God’s love for young people,” added Fr. Mocci.
In Italy, young people who are unemployed and not in school or training programs represent 20 percent of the population. Vocational training is an educational path that serves as a highly effective bridge between school and work.
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.
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.
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.
ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)
Salesian Missions – Italy
UNICEF – Italy Poverty