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ITALY: Salesian Campaign Hopes to Raise Awareness of Poor Youth in Italy

(MissionNewswire) In Italy, Europe’s third-largest economy, close to 2 million children live in poverty, according to UNICEF. With more than 25 percent of the country’s children living in poverty, Italy has the highest percentage of child poverty out of all 25 European countries. The poverty rate has risen in the wake of Europe’s economic crisis and 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.

Some youth are unable to attend school and others 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 and neglect by their families.

To raise awareness of the plight of children living without families, Salesians in Italy have organized a Help at Hand week running from May 5 to 11. Salesians working in parishes, youth centers, schools and vocational centers in six Salesian provinces have joined the initiative to raise awareness of the problems poor youth face.

“With Help at Hand week, the Salesians in Italy want to draw attention to a situation that affects a large number of young people,” says Father Claudio Belfiore, president of the National Center of Salesian Works. “We have been working for a long time to give a family to young people who are alone or abandoned.”

“Normally when we hear about need and poverty we think of countries in the developing world. This is still true, but our experience and the statistics reveal dramatic and urgent situations on our doorstep,” adds Fr. Belfiore.

The Salesians plan to raise awareness by distributing brochures, posters and flyers that provide educational information about the plight of poor children in the country while highlighting the programs and services that are available. In addition, the campaign is hoping to raise funds to directly support Salesian programs working to help youth without families.

Salesian schools, youth centers and vocational training programs are educating poor youth and providing important social and vocational skills. The goal being to provide youth with job skills that will bring them livable wage employment and the opportunity to give back to their communities.

“In the current situation of widespread crisis there is a danger that we pay attention and offer support only to those who manage to make their voice heard. The Salesians in Italy have decided to promote this initiative as a sign of hope for young people in need, but also as a sign of maturity for all of us, because it puts us in a position to take care of the younger generation,” concludes Fr. Belfiore.



ANS – Italy – Help at Hand. “Give a family to someone who does not have one.”

UNICEF – Italy Poverty