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MONGOLIA: Salesian Programs for Poor Youth and Their Families Expanding to Meet Growing Need

(MissionNewswire) During his visit to the Vietnam province, Father Václav Klement, the Salesian regional councilor for East Asia-Oceania, also visited Salesian programs in Mongolia. Fr. Klement visited the Salesian community in Darkhan, near the border with Russia. He also spent some days in Ulan Bator, the capital of the country, meeting the Salesian community and pupils and past pupils of the school.

During the visit, Salesian missionaries met for the second time with the mayor of Khutul, a town of 10,000 inhabitants located 60 km from Darkhan, to plan on site the development of a new Salesian center. Many young people are living in Khutul, where there is industrial business as well as good grain-growing agricultural areas. However, the local schools are not enough to accommodate all the youth in the city. The three kindergartens and one high school are overcrowded.

Two years ago, Don Bosco Youth Development Center was launched in the city and has been very successful. Salesian missionaries, with very limited space and resources, offer courses in English language. They also provide a library and consulting business as well as other programs for youth. More than 1,200 children are currently enrolled in programs at the Salesian Center. The new center will provide additional educational courses and support to the youth in the community.

Salesian missionaries have been providing shelter and education to poor youth in Mongolia since 2001 with the launch of their first programs in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar. Salesian programs aid students who are having difficulty coping in traditional high school settings and families who are arriving in the city in desperate need of employment. In addition to basic educational courses, missionaries offer auto-mechanics, welding and computer classes. In 2003, responding to the growing needs in the community, Salesian missionaries added the Caring Center for street children and the Don Bosco Industrial Training Skills Center.

The Caring Center is a residential program for street boys and orphans aged 8 to 16. Currently, Salesian missionaries are providing shelter, food and education to 20 young boys at the center.  After attending the Salesian high school, boys are able to access skills training at the Don Bosco Industrial Training Skills Center. Salesian missionaries also help the boys become self-sufficient, prepare to live on their own after graduation and find a job.

“I am often worried when I think about the children I meet every day,” says Salesian Brother Krzysztof Gniazdowski, a missionary in Mongolia. “It’s often the lack of income which causes families to break up. Children suffer the most because they remain on the street where they steal and are victimized and exploited.”

Working to help youth at risk break the cycle of poverty and be free from victimization and exploitation, Salesian missionaries are providing skills training to 250 students at the Don Bosco Industrial Training Skills Center. The school is made up of 60 percent boys and 40 percent girls with the majority of youth, 64 percent, coming from the city and 36 percent from the rural countryside. The center offers course work in auto-mechanics, welding, masonry, plumbing, industrial sewing and fashion design, and office administration. All students are required to take computer literacy and English communication courses.

Close to 28 percent of the population in Mongolia is living at or below the poverty line with a significant jump to 35 percent for those living in rural areas. Herders in the countryside struggle to survive as their traditional livelihood dissolves, and there are few job opportunities for young generations. Prior to 1990, the country received nearly 30 percent of its gross domestic product from the former Soviet Union and had a centrally planned economy with the government providing basic goods and a full range of public services. As a result, poverty in the country was very low even in rural areas.

According to the World Bank, the poverty rate jumped to nearly 60 percent after 1990, which was directly linked to the country’s transition to a market economy after the breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Mongolia’s centrally planned economy. Today, in part due to Mongolia’s vast mineral resources and mining, the country’s economy is rebounding and the poverty rate is in decline, having decreased from 38.7 percent in 2010 to where it stands today.



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