SOUTH SUDAN: Salesian Summer Camp Provides Activities for 270 Marginalized Youth
(MissionNewswire) In December, 270 youth took part in a 10-day summer camp operated by Don Bosco Gumbo located in the town of Gumbo on the outskirts of Juba, the largest city and capital of South Sudan. The camp was organized by Salesian missionaries in collaboration with members of the St. Vincent de Paul parish. Students from Salesian schools in the area, youth from communities surrounding Juba and those living in a camp for internally displaced people participated in the summer camp.
Led by young adults from the St. Vincent de Paul parish, pre-novices from the Salesian community and volunteers, the camp program encouraged a holistic, balanced lifestyle designed to help campers develop a strong foundation of mind, body and spirit. It also provided local youth the opportunity to spend their vacation time in a positive, healthy environment.
The camp opened by registering campers and assigning them to one of four teams. During the course of the 10 days, the teams competed in recreational activities and sports with an emphasis on developing a healthy sense of competition and camaraderie. Each day began with a morning assembly that included positive messages of hope, joy, peace and love followed by morning classes in English and Arabic. After a mid-morning breakfast, campers engaged in sports and recreational activities including games and art, speech, singing and dance competitions.
“Youth living in poverty in South Sudanese communities have difficulty excelling and remaining in school,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian youth programs, like summer camps, provide positive role models, structured activities, a safe place to get off the streets and a nonviolent, supportive environment in which to engage with peers.”
Don Bosco Gumbo includes a church parish, secondary school and youth center and provides education and social development services for poor youth and their families. For some students, the secondary school at Don Bosco Gumbo is their only option for continued studies.
Don Bosco Gumbo is one of the host sites for the Salesian Lay Missionaries program which provides lay volunteers to work alongside Salesian priests and sisters on various projects throughout the world. Since the program started in 1981, more than 350 lay missioners have served in 20 countries on projects that range from youth ministry to agriculture to nursing.
South Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world with 55 percent of its population living in poverty, according to the World Bank. The country celebrated its third year of independence last July but is facing an ongoing civil war that started in December 2013 and has resulted in a dire humanitarian crisis.
The civil war has left thousands dead and displaced hundreds of thousands more. Close to 80,000 people have sought refuge at several UN compounds across the country. In the capital of Juba, 80 percent of those displaced are women and children. More than 350,000 people have fled to neighboring countries risking their lives and leaving everything behind.
Salesian missionaries assist those internally displaced through programs across South Sudan and in neighboring Kenya at the Kakuma refugee camp. More than 44 percent of refugees at the camp are from South Sudan and arrived after escaping conflict and violence.
World Bank – South Sudan