ITALY: Salesian-run San Paolo Oratory celebrates 100 years providing space and programs for poor youth and their families
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the San Paolo Oratory located in Turin, Italy. The oratory was launched on Dec. 8, 1918 in an impoverished Turin just after World War I. It was a place that welcomed and educated children and older youth in need and its courtyard served as a gathering place for families who were employed in local factories. Today, the mission continues.
The San Paolo courtyard is open every afternoon and welcomes local youth, families and Scouts groups as well as hosts sports activities. Currently, the oratory is in the process of developing a hospitality program to connect with the many out-of-town university students who live in the neighborhood.
“Here at the San Paolo Oratory everything revolves around the courtyard where every day one is witness, in a concrete fashion, to the fact that hospitality and inclusion are always possible despite the propaganda which also comes from the State which sees foreigners as a threat,” says Father Alberto Lagostina, director of the oratory.
He adds, “In these 100 years people have changed, but we continue to welcome them with the same spirit of Don Bosco, promoting the good that is in them and the resources they have without looking at the poverty and differences, but instead what can unite us.”
A Salesian program operated by the oratory called “Casa che accoglienza” currently serves 12 unaccompanied foreign minors between the ages of 14 and 17 who have come to Italy from other countries without their parents or guardians in search of a better life. Once they arrive, they often find only poverty and limited resources until they are able to connect with programs like “Casa che accoglienza.”
“The kids are perfectly integrated,” explains Fr. Lagostina. “They are our children and the whole community takes care of them. It is also important to invest in educational projects and the prevention of school drop-outs. Youth need to be encouraged and helped to stay in school and succeed.”
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 services, legal assistance and more. These projects have impacted 4,068 migrant youth.
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 those 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.
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UNICEF – Italy Poverty