MEXICO: Center celebrates 34 years of service at border
Tijuana Salesian Project celebrates 34 years in service to the community
(MissionNewswire) In March, the Tijuana Salesian Project in Tijuana, Mexico, celebrates 34 years in service to the community. The center provides services to migrants and poor youth living on the border between Mexico and the U.S. The goal of the project is to create an extensive educational network in areas where poor youth are at risk of social exclusion. The project took shape through Salesian oratories and educational centers where children grow up learning to share faith, culture and sports within their communities.
The Salesian Center in Tijuana facilitates the project and acts as a hub for migrants who, besides much-needed material help, are also offered a familiar and welcoming environment. They can access haircuts, a change of clothes, a shower, and an opportunity to call and make contact with families. Through a Salesian Center partnership with the Red Cross and local volunteer doctors, psychological and medical help is also available.
Those dreaming of being reunited with their families in the U.S. and those deported from the U.S. often arrive at the center with very little. The Padre Chava Refectory helps migrants obtain or manage their official papers and documents. In addition, the Padre Chava Refectory acts as a hub for care packages, such as food and clothing, that have been sent as aid to those in Mexico.
Each day at the Padre Chava Refectory, 900 to 1,200 meals are served with numbers increasing during Christmas, Easter and summer. Because of the overwhelming need, the refectory could not close during the pandemic. They, instead, turned to take-away meals. In the first day of serving take-out meals, 500 food boxes were distributed. Over the following six days, 10,000 food boxes were provided. The pandemic multiplied the number of people in need of a hot meal. Salesians are now seeing new faces in need including the homeless, children, families, elderly and migrants.
“Because, even if the possibility of contracting the virus is latent, hunger and needs, in these days of scarcity, are increasing,” explained Father Agustín Novoa, director of the Salesian Center in Tijuana.
Many workers have lost their jobs due to the closure of their workplace, and they have to decide whether to pay the rent or buy food. Informal workers such as domestic workers were urged to stay home and remained unpaid. The closure of the U.S.-Mexican border has also left many asylum seekers stuck in Tijuana, and even though many have been deported, others keep arriving. Migrant shelters are not housing new asylum seekers to guarantee basic sanitary conditions for their residents.
According to UNICEF, there are 52 million people living in poverty in Mexico, approximately 45 percent of the country’s population. For children, the rate rises to just over 53 percent with more than 20 million youth estimated to be living in poverty and 5 million of those in extreme poverty.
Salesian missionaries in Mexico primarily direct their efforts toward the country’s at-risk youth, including girls and young mothers. Creating safe havens and improving educational opportunities are essential to deter youth from life on the streets where they are susceptible to drugs and gang violence.
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Salesian Missions – Mexico
UNICEF – Mexico