UGANDA: Salesians live and work in refugee camp
Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp is home to nearly 72,000 refugees and asylum seekers
(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries live and work among the refugees at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in Uganda. While other humanitarian organizations provide services to the camp, the Salesians are the only ones living there among the people. They have been supporting refugees since the opening of the camp in 2016.
Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp is currently home to nearly 72,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from South Sudan. It was officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. The country has 28 refugee camps for people from Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and South Sudan. Nearly 1.5 million refugees reside in Uganda, according to the UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency.
Brother Máximo Herrera, a Salesian from Argentina and a missionary in Africa, described life inside the camp for the Salesians. “The town where we buy food is 80 kilometers away, on a mountain road, and we have been eating what the people here eat — maize and beans. Then we have our house, which is kind of like a headquarters. Eight kilometers from the house is the school, which is for vocational training, the only one there. And then we engage in all the leisure activities including sports, theater and music. The most difficult thing for a refugee is to manage time because they often have nothing to do.”
Salesian missionaries are offering much-needed psychosocial support and pastoral care for thousands of Christian residents in the camp. 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 are supported by other initiatives. Salesian missionaries also launched a vocational training center to offer life skills and other training to help young refugees prepare for employment.
Bro. Herrera added, “South Sudan is very insecure because the tribes are fighting each other. So those who come into the camp, mostly women, and manage to get the children educated, they don’t want to go back. We have a program that allows children to go to secondary school outside the camp. Salesians think about the future, about giving tools to the children so that they can achieve their objectives.”
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.
ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS)
Salesian Missions – Uganda
UNHCR – Uganda Refugees