SPAIN: Salesian-run Pinardi Federation Provides Mentoring and Internships for Students with Visual Impairments
(MissionNewswire) Spain, which has been hit hard by the current economic troubles in Europe, now has the greatest inequality of the 27 countries of the European Union. According to the World Bank, close to 25 percent of Spanish workers are unemployed and a growing number of them can’t afford to buy enough food to live. One in five citizens are living below the poverty line. Poor youth with too few employable skills struggle the most to find and retain stable employment.
Salesians in Spain have been working for many years to provide educational and workforce development opportunities for poor youth through residential and technical and vocational training programs.
Recently, the Atresmedia Foundation, an organization dedicated to developing projects to support children and adults with disabilities, and the Salesian-run Pinardi Federation signed an agreement to collaborate on a training program for students of Project Pro, a school for people with visual disabilities. Project Pro was established in 2010 by the Atresmedia Foundation to help provide training and workforce development services for people with visual disabilities so they could more easily transition from the classroom into employment.
For many youth with disabilities, access to education is limited and the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty is almost nonexistent. UNICEF notes in its State of the Worlds Children 2013: Children with Disabilities report that globally, close to 61 percent of boys finish school but for boys with disabilities that number drops to 51 percent. For girls, 53 percent finish school but among those living with a disability, only 42 percent finish their education.
UNICEF notes that studies across countries show a strong link between poverty and disability, which in turn is linked to gender, health and employment issues. UNICEF’s report further suggests that inclusion in mainstream schools and educational settings is usually most appropriate for children with disabilities, and when teachers and personnel are trained to consider disability-related issues, they look upon inclusion of children with disabilities more positively.
Through the new Atresmedia and Pinardi Foundation collaborative training program, Project Pro students will have access to mentoring services and an internship at the Pinardi Federation. Students will be able to put the skills they have learned into practice. The internships are for a maximum of forty hours per week and last two months.
“Youth living in poverty are among the least likely to have access to educational programs that provide the skills necessary to lead stable productive lives,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Children living in poverty with a disability are even less likely to attend school when compared to their peers. Salesians are working to ensure that access to education and workforce development services are afforded to every child no matter their situation.”
Since its inception in 2001, the Salesian Pinardi Federation has been developing programs to help poor youth between the ages of 12 and 16 and is currently operating close to 40 projects aiding more than 2,000 youth. Projects focus on promoting the quality of children’s lives, helping youth retain employment and supporting migrants through family mediation. Other community projects work to raise awareness of volunteerism.
“Youth with disabilities have the same ability to achieve as their peers, if given the opportunity,” adds Fr. Hyde. “The Pinardi Federation is working to make sure that all students have access to the opportunity to lead fulfilling lives and contribute to the social, cultural and economic vitality of their communities.”
World Bank – Spain