ITALY: Remote program connects youth volunteers with children who need support
Salesian oratory DonBoScuola provides remote activities and online educational support
(MissionNewswire) Every afternoon children gather at DonBoScuola, a Salesian oratory in Macerata, Italy, to socialize with their peers through workshops and sports, as well as to receive extra educational support. During the COVID-19 pandemic, DonBoScuola continued on as long as it could safely. It dropped its numbers from 50 to 30 and increased social distancing. When restrictions increased, the Salesian oratory had to change how it provided services.
Connecting with older youth, ages 16-19, from the local Scouts group and university, Salesians launched a new remote version of DonBoScuola. Volunteers are taking time to connect digitally with younger children and help them with their homework, keep them company during recess, and organize games and workshops for them. This helped support children and youth who could no longer gather at the oratory and gave older youth a chance to give back to their community.
One volunteer said, “At a distance, the relationship between children is lost, but a very beautiful relationship is created between the volunteer and the child remotely, even more than the relationship that would be created in person.”
Other volunteers explained their experience. One noted, “I was afraid of not being able to help them as I wanted, but the two girls I helped were very good and I was very pleased to help them.” Another said, “DonBoScuola is a way to feel useful and to give myself in my small way, especially in this situation, in which we all feel powerless against something greater than us.”
For some volunteers this was the first time they worked remotely and one-on-one with a child. A volunteer described the experience, “When I was asked to do service at DonBoScuola, I was frankly afraid, because for the first time I would be alone with a child without the support of a group. But in just two days of service, I received the best gift possible when a 10-year-old boy revealed his dreams to me. I found a very intelligent and sensitive child behind a complicated situation.”
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