SYRIA: Salesian center in Aleppo continues to provide after-school and social programs to help youth in need
(MissionNewswire) Despite ongoing conflict and instability, Salesian missionaries continue their work with youth in Syria. Over the course of the last seven years since the outbreak of civil war began in March 2011, Salesian missionaries have operated three centers in Kafroun and the particularly high conflict areas of Aleppo and Damascus. Each of the centers is staffed by three Salesian priests and a deacon.
The centers have been in operation since well before the start of the war providing educational classes, meeting space, and social development and sporting activities for youth and their families. The centers also offer trauma counseling, emergency shelter, nutritious meals and medical referrals to those in need.
“At the beginning of the war, we were forced to close the center in Aleppo for six months,” says Father Pier Jabloyan, director of the Salesian center in Aleppo. “When we realized that the conflict would last a long time, we decided to reopen. There was no other way. Staying closed up in their houses, it would have been incredibly difficult for the children.”
Among the many activities still happening at the center, the after-school program is popular and 70 children still attend. The activities are coordinated by a dozen university students.
“There are enormous educational needs here in Syria, especially because many of the schools have been destroyed or transformed into shelters,” says Fr. Jabloyan. “Moreover, if one has no water in the house, no electricity and has difficulty feeding himself, it is hard to tell anybody to study. But Don Bosco teaches us that education means the future. This is why we have continued offering children what we have available.”
The war has also caused numerous injuries for those who have survived the violence. Fr Jabloyan adds, “In everyone, the war has created psychological problems. The threshold of sensitivity has risen a lot. The news of one or two dead is in danger of not having any more effect. Often boys express themselves harshly and sometimes a football match can become a pretext for aggression to explode. Here, too, we try to help them remember that they are better than what surrounds them.”
Salesian centers in Syria also continue to meet the needs of their communities through the distribution of food, economic aid and scholarships to help young people continue with their schooling.
Since the outbreak of civil war, 7.3 million Syrians have been internally displaced within the country and more than 5.6 million registered Syrian refugees are in the neighboring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, with a recent flood of refugees now seeking asylum in Europe, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Refugee camps in bordering countries are overflowing with families in need of basic supplies, adequate shelter and safety, as well as technical skills training so they can begin to earn a living in their new host countries. More than 6 million of those affected are children who have been put at risk of violence and are subject to a lack of essential supplies and destroyed infrastructure that has closed schools and hospitals.
In addition to Salesian centers within Syria, Salesian missionaries have been helping Syrian refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt since early 2012. At these refugee sites, missionaries provide emergency relief by meeting basic needs and providing shelter, safety and medical assistance. Missionaries also offer technical skills training to assist refugees in the task of finding stable employment in their new host countries, which for many is particularly challenging due to labor laws and a lack of established social and professional networks.
Salesian missionaries seek to assist the most disadvantaged and vulnerable refugees, particularly those living outside of protected camps who take risks in order to support elderly parents, wives and children. Offering skills training, advocacy and counseling programs, Salesian centers provide safe spaces for vulnerable refugee families to find a sense of community and peace.
UNHCR – Syrian Refugee Response
Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.