ITALY: Salesian missionaries launch new house for unaccompanied minors as part of the “I care about you” project
(MissionNewswire) On May 2, Salesian missionaries in the San Gregorio community of Catania within Sicily, Italy launched a new house for unaccompanied minors. The house is named Najma, which means star in Arabic. The house is part of the Salesians of Social Welfare, also known as the SCS/CNOS Federation, which started the “I care about you” project to reach out to young unaccompanied minors. The project was launched at the beginning of 2018, and by February, street educators, counselors, psychologists, lawyers and volunteers have been guaranteeing their support and protection to each child that needs services.
Salesian missionaries have been challenged by the number of 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.
At the Najma center, people who are often called invisible migrants—those recently of adult age—have a chance to shower, eat hot meals, rest and participate in activities of recreation and socialization. The center also carries out social mediation work with related institutions and offers orientation courses for study and work by offering study grants and job grants. Since many of the invisible migrants are exposed to the risks of addictions, health problems and exploitation, a legal advisory service, both criminal and civil, is also available to them, along with support in processing their personal documents.
Salesian missionaries working in Italy with 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 young adults who are in situations of social vulnerability, including children under the care of Italy’s child protection system,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Many of these youth are 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.
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