SYRIA: Youth from the Salesian Vocational Training Center in Valdocco are providing support to Salesian Center in Aleppo
(MissionNewswire) Youth from the Salesian Vocational Training Center in Valdocco, a quarter within the city of Turin, Italy, have entered into a sister-city relationship with the Salesian Center in Aleppo, Syria. As part of the agreement between the two Salesian centers, youth in Italy will be holding a fundraiser to help provide additional funding to the Salesian center in Aleppo.
Despite ongoing conflict and instability, Salesian missionaries continue their work with youth in Syria. Over the course of the last eight 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.
In operation since well before the start of the war, the centers have been providing educational classes, meeting space and social development and sporting activities for youth and their families. They also offer trauma counseling, emergency shelter, nutritious meals and medical referrals to those in need.
During a recent meeting with the participating Italian youth, Father Pier Jabloyan, director of the Salesian Center in Aleppo, described the situation in Syria. He then asked, “How many things do we take for granted, for the simple fact of always having them there, at our disposal? When we press a switch or open the tap, have we ever wondered if there is electricity or if water will come out?”
The Salesian Center in Aleppo is a point of reference and hope for many youth who remain in the city. Those that engage in after-school activities, catechism, children’s summer camp, sports teams and social groups are able to experience moments of normality. Among the many activities still happening at the center is an after-school program for 70 children 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.”
He 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.
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