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MIDDLE EAST: Salesian Province of the Middle East responds to economic struggles and added challenges during COVID-19 pandemic

(MissionNewswire) The Salesian Province of the Middle East has had added challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic due to persistent economic challenges, those who have been internally displaced and the explosion in Beirut on Aug. 4. The Salesian province has 13 Salesian institutions and centers including five in Israel, three in Egypt, three in Syria and two in Lebanon.

“Salesians in these regions are used to challenging circumstances, but with the spread of the virus and more challenging economic conditions, Salesians are working to address added needs of youth and families who access their programs,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Families in these countries have faced ongoing difficulties that Salesian programs have worked to address. Salesians are stepping up and addressing unique local needs with support from around the globe.”

In Lebanon, there was already socio-economic instability before the explosion in Beirut, which only served to exacerbate the situation. Due to this and the ongoing spread of COVID-19, Salesians have decided to postpone traditional activities until the government allows the normal course of social meetings and gatherings to resume.

Salesians have provided concrete help to the most vulnerable people through the donation of food and basic necessities and by establishing a scholarship for the children of the families most affected by the pandemic. It was also decided that for the 2020-2021 school year, the Salesian School of Technical and Vocational Training will mainly provide online lessons to minimize the risk of infection for both students and teachers.

Salesians distribute food and hygiene kits for needy families in Egypt.

Support for the neediest families has continued in Egypt, where the Salesians have responded with distributions of food and hygiene kits. Close to 30 families received additional support through small direct financial donations to cover basic expenses such as rent, electricity and water. Salesian Institutes in Cairo and Alexandria responded to the needs of the most disadvantaged families of enrolled students by offering scholarships and reduced school fees for the 2020-2021 school year.

Similar measures have also been taken in Israel. Bethlehem and Nazareth have been hit hard by the lockdown imposed to counter the spread of the virus. In Bethlehem, students facing economic difficulties are being helped with partial and full scholarships at the Salesian Technical School. Teachers have been attending course on the methodologies and tools for digital teaching. The situation in Nazareth is more difficult for both students and staff because all educational activities must be carried out remotely.

At the end of June in Syria, there was a decrease in the virus infection rate, so Salesians reopened their centers in Aleppo and Damascus to provide the psycho-social support for families and children. Unfortunately, during the month of August, a new wave of infections hit the country and many people were affected, leading to a new closure of the centers. The Salesians, however, remained focused on the needs of Syrian families and developed new interventions, including helping those who have lost their sources of income. They also added educational support for children with learning problems.

Because Salesian missionaries live in the communities they serve, they are perfectly positioned to understand the local needs and ensure that relief materials and support are provided efficiently and to those most impacted. Salesians will continue to monitor situations in the Middle East and around the globe to provide ongoing support to youth and families in need.



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