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ITALY: Salesian socio-sports programs help youth engage with their peers and gain confidence on and off the field

(MissionNewswire) Since almost the beginning of Salesian educational programs, sports and recreation have been an integral part of the curriculum. Whether formally or more informally, socio-sports programming has been a way for youth to relax, gain confidence and engage with their peers.

In the late 1800s, a small college in Ferrara, Italy run by Monsignor Baldi, was entrusted to Salesian missionaries. In 1899, an oratory was opened and attracted many young people from the local area. In 1908, Father Acerbis founded a religious-cultural circle named “Ars et Labor” that brought together local youth who were living on conditions of poverty. Soon after sports were added to the program. Football (soccer) was officially added in 1912.

Today, almost all Salesian programs have some form of recreation and in some, more formal socio-sports programs have been developed. The Salesian Missions office in Madrid Spain formed a partnership with the Real Madrid Foundation that brings their Sports for Peace program to Salesian schools in several countries.

The program’s motto is, “They play, we educate” and participants receive nutritional, family and psychological support, regular health checkups and the opportunity to participate in social and educational workshops in activities such as gymnastics, crafts, reading and citizenship. Training sessions on topics such as health, hygiene, values and the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse will also be provided. Outside of normal school hours, participants in the program receive sports training by coaches specifically qualified by the Real Madrid Foundation.

“Sports programs teach youth both on and off the field,” says Father Mark Hyde, the executive director of Salesians Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Learning and playing team sports encourages leadership skills as well as teaches youth to work as part of a team. Students also learn important social skills and have opportunities for growth and maturity.”

The collaboration between the Salesians and the Real Madrid Foundation has been very successful, granting more than 2,000 youth and vulnerable children the opportunity to participate in similar programs around the globe. This socio-sports program is operating in Brazil, Togo, Benin, Congo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Portugal, Senegal and the Dominican Republic.

The Sports for Peace program has been quite successful in Salesian programs in Brazil. At the Don Bosco Youth Center in Cabana, youth from the slums take part in socio-educational opportunities to help close educational gaps. At the Salesian-run Community Center in Porto Alegre, street children receive three nutritious meals a day, clean clothing, medical care, schooling and a safe place to get much needed rest along with the sports program.

At a Salesian-run center in Abaetetuba, abandoned and at-risk youth take part in a wide variety of healthy, recreational and educational activities. The center includes a recreation facility where children are able to participate on sports teams, make friends and gain a sense of accomplishment. All of the programs work with youth to help them lead productive lives and break the cycle of poverty.



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