ITALY: Salesian missionaries focus on education and social programs for at-risk and migrant youth
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries working in Italy with the Salesians of Social Welfare, also known as the SCS/CNOS Federation, have been working to promote a better quality of life for disadvantaged youth for 24 years. In 2016, close to 9,000 at-risk youth received educational and social development services through Salesian programs throughout Italy under this organization’s direction.
The primary recipients of this support are minors and youth who are in situations of social vulnerability, including those under the care of Italy’s child protection system. Many of these youth engaged in Salesian programs, consisting of family child care homes and community housing, childcare centers for academic support, youth groups for young people aged 18 and over, and foster parents’ networks.
“All of this data from 2016 was recently gathered and presented in a report,” says Father Giovanni d’Andrea, president of Salesians for Social Welfare. “What emerges after reviewing the data is that economic poverty only serves as a driving factors in other types of poverty and can lead to an inner death. Our role is to put young people, especially the poorest, at the heart of the cultural and social debate and to be their voice.”
Salesian missionaries also faced a challenging year when it came to migrants and other unaccompanied youth looking for shelter, support and work in cities across Italy. For unaccompanied foreign minors, Salesian missionaries launched 58 projects, including first- and second-level reception centers, Italian language courses, job placement, legal assistance and more. These add-on services reached 4,068 migrant youth. This involved not only welcoming, but also accompanying and cultural inclusion that favored processes of inter-religious dialogue.
Salesian missionaries with the Salesians for Social Welfare also strengthened their partnerships in 2016 with a number of European partners working in the field of education and youth vocational training, such as Educ Europe, AFFY (Action for Family and Youth), Don Bosco YouthNet (DBYN) and Don Bosco International (DBI). More than 1,000 volunteers from Italy’s National Civil Service also volunteered their time at Salesian programs throughout Italy and abroad.
“Behind Salesians for Social Welfare there are the innumerable stories of people, of their lives, and of their choices to continue the work that Don Bosco that began more than 150 years ago taking care of young people especially the poorest among the community,” says Fr. d’Andrea.
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.
UNICEF – Italy Poverty