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MYANMAR: Opera Don Bosco Foundation offers several Salesian centers to help poor and at-risk youth

(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries operate the Opera Don Bosco Foundation to provide programs for the many homeless and at-risk youth in Myanmar. Recently, the foundation joined the appeal by Salesian Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon and president of the Federation of Episcopal Conferences of Asia, to put an end to all armed conflicts afflicting the country.

To help aid youth in need, the foundation operates several Salesian centers across the country. The Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in the city of Myitkyina is one such center and offers carpentry, welding, electricity, automotive, tailoring, dressmaking and beautician programs. Over the last 11 years, more than 500 young men and women, aged 18 to 25 years, have graduated from its programs.

Because the school is located in the northernmost part of Myanmar within the Kachin State which has a long history of armed conflict, some of the graduates are orphans or come from broken families. The school is operated by a small Salesian community with four Salesian priests, four sisters of St. Paul and eight volunteer part-time teachers/instructors. The volunteers come from various religious faiths including Catholicism and Buddhism and work together to educate the students.

The Don Bosco Vocational Training Center provides room and board to its students and instructors. All of the buildings on the campus are constructed of wood with just a few walls made of brick or cement. Salesian missionaries would like to be able to expand the boarding house to help graduates who already have jobs but have no place to stay in Myitkyina. They are also interested in growing the programs that are currently offered.

While students are not attending classes and on-the-job training, they are participating in daily chores on the large farm and afternoon sports including kickball, football and volleyball. Students also attend prayer lessons and orientation sessions.

Opera Don Bosco Foundation also operates a center in Chantagon which is managed by the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. This center offers a covered courtyard where the poorest children in the region can meet to play, study and learn a trade.

In the city of Mandalay, the foundation provides an educational center where former street children can live and study. In Anisakan-Nazareth, there is a center where 153 boys are preparing for public school exams and attending various courses in music, football and theater. In Hlaing Thar Yar, on the outskirts of Yangon, the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians run a kindergarten for children.

“The work of Salesian missionaries in Myanmar and in programs around the globe goes beyond education,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “We aim to serve the whole person by making sure that basic needs like shelter and nutrition are met in addition to other social service needs.”

Myanmar is one of the least developed countries in the world, ranking 145 out of 188 countries according to the 2017 Human Development Report. Just over 37 percent of the population live near or below the poverty line in the country. Poverty rates rise sharply to 70 percent for those living in rural areas. Only about half of school age children complete their primary education.

Salesian missionaries are responding to the needs of children, youth and their families who are in crisis. Not only do programs address desperate poverty, but they also serve people whose lives have recently been impacted by natural disasters and a refugee emergency.



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