MEXICO: Salesian Volunteers from the United States Support Programs for Migrants and At-Risk Youth in Tijuana, Mexico
(MissionNewswire) Each year, Salesian volunteers from the Western Province of the United States organize a mission trip to Tijuana, Mexico to help support the work of the local Salesian mission. At the end of 2016, Juan Carlos Montenegro, the delegate for Salesian volunteers, was joined by two Salesian novices, Quang Nguyen and Damien Ho, along with a group of young dedicated volunteers. The missionary group volunteered additional support to Salesian programs that provide services to homeless and orphaned youth as well as Haitian migrants.
Since 1987, Salesian missionaries have been providing services to migrants and poor youth living on the border between Mexico and the United States. The border between the two countries spans 1,969 miles and has more than 20 checkpoints along its route. Many border towns are plagued by crime and violence, including the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, money and people. In 2014, the Salesian Province of Mexico-Guadalajara and the Western Province of the United States increased cooperation in order to work more efficiently 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.
Salesian missionaries have created an extensive educational network in areas where poor youth lack educational and workforce opportunities. Many youth ending up in border towns like Tijuana travel from other countries in Latin America to the U.S. border because of violence and extreme poverty in their own communities. They are seeking safety and educational opportunities they have been unable to access at home. But once in these border towns, youth have no family or friends or anyone ensuring their safety. Salesian programs provide this safety net through Salesian youth and educational centers where children grow up learning to share faith, culture and sports within their communities.
Salesian missionaries are also working across communities in Latin America to address the root causes of this migration and develop programs that assist youth with education and workforce development. The goal is to help these communities engage youth so leaving is not a necessity and they can stay in their home counties and eventually give back — making their communities stronger and more viable for themselves and later generations.
“Young people need environments where they feel safe,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “In many Latin American cities that are branded as violent and chaotic, Salesian work has revealed that there are many youth living there who are full of dreams and talents and who have high hopes for a productive and happy future free from violence.”
Salesian missionaries serve more than 9,000 people in six Salesian oratories, a parish and a public dining hall, which serves food to close to a thousand homeless and migrant people every day in Tijuana. The entire project is facilitated by six Salesian missionaries with the help of volunteers, local collaborators and benefactors in both Mexico and the United States.
These innovative Salesian 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.
UNICEF – Mexico
PHOTO courtesy of ANS