MYANMAR: Salesian missionaries and sisters provide education and social programs to support poor youth and their families across the country
(MissionNewswire) Despite Myanmar’s status as the second-largest nation geographically in Southeast Asia and its rich natural resources, the country is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. Salesian missionaries are working in Myanmar to bring a variety of education-based initiatives to poor youth and their families. In cities and remote villages across the country, Salesian missionaries and sisters, living and working in the region, are also making a significant contribution by offering community programs that reach beyond education.
The Don Bosco Friend Youth Center in the city of Mandalay plays a major role in keeping youth away from paths that lead to the juvenile penitentiary systems by providing them with a safe haven of shelter, nutrition and education. The center was developed to help youth who are living on the streets access services and education.
The facility, which operates 24 hours a day, is directed by Father Peter Myo Khin along with six paid staff members. It provides temporary shelter, food, health care, and formal and non-formal education. Close to 30 boys, aged 4 to 18, live at the center permanently while dozens more access services on a drop-in basis.
Youth living on the streets are often targeted by traffickers, predators and gang recruiters. In order to feed themselves, youth must beg for money and collect bottles and cans to sell. But too often this is not enough. If they are too conspicuous or assertive with their efforts, the police may throw them in jail, where they are locked together in overcrowded cells with no rights.
Given how important this center is for the community, Salesian missionaries are working to increase the number of youth in the program from 30 to 75, in addition to adding staff and more training
In Hlaing Thar Yar, Salesian sisters provide education, food, water and health care for young people from local working families who are forced to spend very long hours in factories and camps in order to make a meager living. Without this support, these children would also be left by the wayside with little access to a brighter future.
In Anisakan and May Myo, 100 widows and their children receive weekly nutritional support and educational support. In addition, at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Myitkyina, summer camps are run that help support more than 1,200 children, educating them on social values, child protection, drug awareness and leadership. In the Wa State, which borders China, education and healthcare support are provided for young people from more than 400 tribes.
“The work of Salesian missionaries and sisters 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 lives 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.
Australian Salesian Mission Overseas Aid Fund Annual Report 2018
World Bank – Myanmar
Salesian Missions – Myanmar