UGANDA: New court helps youth connect at refugee camp
Youth have a place to play and connect with their peers at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp
(MissionNewswire) A new basketball court is now available to youth at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in Uganda. The idea of creating a space for youth to play sports began in 2019 when a benefactor gave a basketball to the youth. At the time, there was no place where they could use it. From that day forward, youth have been waiting to see a court built where they could play and connect with their peers.
“Sports are more than just recreation for youth,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Playing team sports encourages leadership skills as well as teaches youth to work as part of a team. Youth also learn important social skills and have opportunities for growth and maturity.”
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.
Salesians run a special sponsorship program to help youth attend school outside of the camp. Many children and older youth have to walk 10 to 15 kilometers (approximately 6.2 to 9.3 miles) each day to reach the schools. The sponsorship program enables Salesians to take youth to boarding facilities outside of the camp and closer to the schools. Youth are able to live and study there, as well as have access to healthy nutrition and recreational activities.
For those seeking education inside the camp, Salesians also operate the Don Bosco Vocational Center where youth can access the skills to achieve self-sustainability. To date, the center has trained more than 600 youth, most of them refugees who have returned to South Sudan to contribute to their country.
Father Ubaldino Andrade, rector of the Salesian community in Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp, said, “Youth at 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. At the technical and vocational level, many young refugees want to go out to work so they can learn a trade and head back to their country of origin, which is South Sudan for many of them. Their goal is to help contribute to the reconstruction of the country, destroyed by many years of violence and war.”
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Salesian Missions – Uganda