ITALY: Young unaccompanied minor from Guinea accesses safe shelter and education through “I care about you” project
(MissionNewswire) In 2017, more than 17,000 minors arrived in Italy, nearly 90 percent of them unaccompanied by an adult or chaperone, according to research done by Save the Children. This does not include the close to 5,000 foreign minors it is estimated go unaccounted for in the country. These “invisible children” who have migrated from the world’s poorest countries are at risk of criminal activity, exploitation and harm. Often living on the streets, they lack access to showers, bathrooms, food, shelter and clothing.
Salesian missionaries with the Salesians of Social Welfare, also known as the SCS/CNOS Federation, are impacting youth and their families with the “I care about you” project in Italy. The project reaches out to homeless youth who gravitate to the central train stations of Italian metropolitan areas. Many of these homeless youth are migrants and foreign minors who come to Italy searching for a better future.
The “I care about you” project aims to connect with these youth, gain their trust and integrate them into society with Salesian support. The project activities, made possible by the Intesa San Paolo charitable fund, are taking place in Turin, Naples and Catania in the neighborhoods adjacent to the cities’ train stations.
A network composed of street educators, psychologists and volunteers greet the homeless youth and offer support and protection. Once in the program, participants are given shelter, their basic needs are met and they are given the opportunity to take an Italian language course, receive legal assistance, acquire professional skills and find stable employment.
In Catania, AB, as he is known, is working to rebuild his life through the project. On June 9, 2016 at just 16 years old, he arrived in Italy from Guinea. AB was hoping to find work in Italy in order to send money back home after his father had died and his mother was gravely ill, leaving no one to care for the family. He and 300 others arrived in Tripoli where life did not turn out as he hoped. He stayed for two months working in a ditch being fed once a day and having access only to rationed water. People stole everything from him including his clothes and documents. He suffered violence and saw people die from beatings.
AB decided to leave and after a day and a half of traveling, he arrived in Catania, an ancient port city on Sicily’s east coast. There he connected with Salesian missionaries. Through participation in the “I care about you” project, he now has a safe place to live and is studying at the Filippo Eredia Deodato Hotel Training Institute.
“The Salesians of Social Welfare organization has been working to promote a better quality of life for disadvantaged youth for 24 years,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “In 2016, close to 9,000 at-risk youth received educational and social development services through Salesian programs throughout Italy under the organization’s direction. The ‘I care about you project’ has been positively impacting lives and helping youth integrate into their new communities and have hope for the future.”
Also for unaccompanied foreign minors in Italy, Salesian missionaries have launched 58 projects including first- and second-level reception centers, Italian language courses, job placement, legal assistance and more. These services have already reached 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.
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UNICEF – Italy Poverty