UGANDA: 250 students at refugee camp celebrate together
Students with Don Bosco Vocational Center in Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp celebrate the feast day of St. John Bosco
(MissionNewswire) Students with Don Bosco Vocational Center, operating inside of Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in Uganda, celebrated the feast day of St. John Bosco, the Salesian founder, on Jan. 31. Throughout the day, 250 students from various courses—agriculture, solar energy, construction, motorcycle mechanics, sewing, carpentry, blacksmithing, hairdressing and motor vehicle driving—enjoyed a celebration together that included music by a new Salesian brass band. Teaching and administrative staff also enjoyed the festivities.
The celebration began with the first Catholic Mass since the beginning of the school year, and then members of the Salesian community shared their experience of St. John Bosco with the youth. The day also featured several competitions and contests where students could earn points to trade for personal items like soap, toothbrushes, and sandals. They could also trade points for candy, drinks and cookies.
Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp was officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. Several agencies are involved in providing food and education within the camp. While some have left because of the pandemic, Salesians have remained.
Salesian missionaries at the settlement are offering much needed psychosocial support and pastoral care for thousands of Christian residents. They also operate four nursery schools that educate more than 1,000 children. In addition, there are children attending Salesian primary and secondary schools, and more than 700 families are supported by other initiatives. To date, the vocational center has trained more than 600 youth, most of them refugees who have returned to South Sudan to contribute to their country.
A recent introduction of upcoming courses brought together many people who are interested in what the center has to offer. Father Ubaldino Andrade, rector of the Salesian community in Palabek, said, “This fact testifies that the young people of the refugee camp are hungry for an education that allows them to offer their families a better quality of life and to contribute to the reconstruction of their country.”
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, educational centers in Uganda had been closed for nearly two years, which was one of the longest closure rates in the world. When the country’s president allowed educational centers to reopen, many were unable because they no longer had the resources and teaching staff to operate. Many teachers had to turn to other professions in order to help support their families. In addition, some school buildings had been turned into rental homes during the pandemic. Salesian educational centers continue to be a place where youth are nurtured, and they can access the skills to achieve self-sustainability.
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Salesian Missions – Uganda