PARAGUAY: Salesian missionaries launch summer camps for youth in Concepción
(MissionNewswire) On Jan. 7, Salesian missionaries with the María Auxiliadora parish, located in Concepción, Paraguay, launched a summer camp. The camp takes place at the Santos Ángeles chapel and the Óga Renda square and provides a structured environment for children and older youth to spend time with their peers playing sports and participating in workshops, activities, singing and reflection.
“All youth deserve a chance to have an enjoyable summer vacation. Salesian programs provide a time when youth can relax with their peers and engage in safe activities,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “The programs provide much more than just recreational activities. There is an educational component included in each one. Even sports programs teach teamwork, skill building and problem solving.”
Salesian missionaries have been working in Paraguay since establishing a church in Asunción in 1896. Through the years, missionaries have operated educational programs to help advance the skills and knowledge of the indigenous population in the area while promoting strong cooperation with leaders of the indigenous culture. Local Salesian programming supports laws in favor of the indigenous populations, the recovery of original lands, sustainable development, the appreciation of cultural values in each ethnic group and the fostering of internal leadership.
Monsignor Luigi Lasagna, a student of Don Bosco in Italy, left for South America and founded the Salesian mission in Paraguay. Since that time, missionaries have been improving the lives of thousands of children, adolescents and their families through various programs and organizations.
Also operating in Concepción is the Salesian San Luís Educational Institution. Founded in 1991, the institute currently provides services to 760 youth from kindergarten to middle school. The institute houses several schools within its grounds as well as a very popular oratory. Participating youth take part in primary and secondary education, summer camps, sports and art, dance and theater classes.
“Salesian San Luís Educational Institution is an important part of the local community and works to educate the young and provide a space for peace and collaboration for the entire community,” adds Fr. Hyde. “Salesian missionaries are aware that families in Paraguay are dealing with conditions of poverty and many other issues. Providing the space and additional programming allows missionaries to connect with families and ensure that their needs are met.”
Paraguay is among the poorest countries in South America. According to UNICEF, almost 23 percent of its population of 6.5 million people live in poverty earning less than $1 per day. The gap between the small upper class and the large lower class is extreme and offers virtually no social mobility.
Conditions of poverty drive youth into early labor and a lack of literacy, in addition to a weak educational foundation, compounds the problem. Those in poverty face overcrowding, low quality housing and a lack of access to basic household services. Paraguayans who only graduate from primary school are twice as likely to live in poverty as those who have access to and complete secondary school.
ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)
UNICEF – Paraguay Statistics
World Bank – Paraguay