UGANDA: Salesian missionaries providing education and support to close to 3,000 youth in Palabek Refugee Settlement
(MissionNewswire) In January, Salesian Father Martín Lasarte and Marco Fulgaro, a lay collaborator, visited Palabek Refugee Settlement in Uganda to oversee and verify the Salesian educational-pastoral work that has been carried out over the last two years.
Uganda has become home for more than 1.3 million refugees—82 percent of whom are women and children—in the wake of the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. Millions have fled South Sudan and nearly 400,000 have died as a result of armed clashes. Many of those who have fled to Uganda have taken refuge at the Palabek Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda.
According to UNHCR, Palabek is currently home to nearly 46,000 refugees and asylum seekers. It 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 Palabek.
Salesian missionaries at the settlement are offering much-needed psycho-social 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 over 700 children attending Salesian primary and secondary schools and more than 700 families that are supported by other initiatives.
Salesian missionaries launched a vocational training center to offer life skills and other training to help young refugees prepare for employment. Young refugees are able to attend vocational training courses for free. Depending on the discipline, some courses run for 3-6 months while others run as long as a year. Salesian missionaries have also set up a job placement office that helps students make contact with companies that are hiring, prepare resumes and prep for interviews, and find internships and on-site training opportunities.
The vocational training center currently has 450 students, 400 refugees and 50 host community Ugandans. The majority of students are young women and mothers who are finally having an opportunity to learn a skill. They are taking courses in tailoring, cosmetology and salon services such as hairdressing. Young men are learning automobile mechanics and motorcycle repair training. Agriculture classes are taught to all students no matter their primary area of study.
“Salesian missionaries are working to ensure that refugees at Palabek have an opportunity for education during their time in the camp,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Refugees have left behind nearly everything they had to protect themselves and their families. Being able to offer them support and education helps them to prepare for the future and build connections in their new community.”
Salesian missionaries also operate in communities outside of Palabek including a refugee settlement in Kyaka. Their goal is to provide more locations for educational and pastoral work as more resources become available.
Close to 67 percent of Ugandans are either poor or highly vulnerable to poverty, according to UNICEF. While the country has seen some economic growth as well as improvement in its UN Human Development Index ranking over the last 20 years, the country still ranks near the bottom at 163 out of 188 countries. After decades of war left many displaced, the people of Uganda face many significant challenges as they work to rebuild their country.
Uganda’s literacy rate has improved with 73 percent of the population literate, but only 23 percent of Ugandans go on to acquire a secondary education. According to UNICEF, one of the biggest challenges in the country is combating the serious increase of HIV/AIDS that has left millions of children orphaned.
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Salesian Missions – Uganda