MEXICO: Salesian Programs in U.S. Mexico Border Towns Help Youth Combat Violence, Provide Hope for the Future
(MissionNewswire) The border between the United States and Mexico spans 1,969 miles and has more than 20 checkpoints along its route. Constant migration is taking place between the two countries with Mexican migrant workers traveling to U.S border towns seeking employment and immigrants from both countries crossing back and forth in addition to cases of undocumented Mexicans being repatriated.
Many border towns are plagued by crime and violence such as the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, money and people, where the consequences of social and political tensions between the two nations are felt. Salesians have been working in Mexico and in these border towns for more than 25 years and have recently increased cooperation between the Salesian Province of Mexico-Guadalajara and the Province of USA West. The goal is to work together to try to address the increase of violence and insecurity in the region and launch proposals for education, social integration, drug prevention and combating the effects of organized crime.
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 five million of those in extreme poverty.
Salesians 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.
“Youth need environments where they can feel safe,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “In many Mexican cities that are branded as violent and chaotic, Salesian work has revealed that there are many youth living there who are full of dreams, talents and high hopes for a productive and happy future, free from violence.”
Today, there is a Salesian presence in poorer frontier communities in Mexico and on the outskirts of border cities. Since the Salesian Frontier Project’s inception in 1987, thirteen educational youth centers and two community centers have been opened. In addition, Salesians are collaborating in six parishes (one in the US) and operating a school with three levels of study as well as a welcome center for migrants and the destitute.
Innovative programs are preventing poor children from dropping out of school and are providing important opportunities for their future. At-risk children take part in Salesian programs that integrate education, social activities and technical training. Classes are also offered in sports, music, dance and drama and give youth access to safe environments and adults who serve as mentors. The goal is to guide youth back into mainstream education so that they can reach their full potential.
“Salesians in these communities continue to provide education, safety and the promise of a better future for youth in need,” adds Fr. Hyde. “Our programs in Mexico differ depending upon the needs of each specific community but they all share the goal of providing education while building a sense of dignity and self-worth.”
Salesian Missions – Mexico
UNICEF – Mexico