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URUGUAY: Salesian Missionaries Provide Education and Hands-on Work Experience for Youth

(MissionNewsire) Salesian missionaries have made it their mission to help youth in the Marconi quarter within the city of Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital and largest city. Because of the high crime rate, violence and drugs, even police seldom venture to the area. And due to this lack of basic security, most social service providers have fled their posts, leaving in their wake thousands of at-risk youth with no hope for the future and little chance to escape their living conditions. Salesian missionaries have increased their efforts in the region given the lack of other basic services for youth.

“We have decided to double our capacity in order to better address the vast needs of the community,” says Father Rubén Avellaneda, director of Don Bosco Vocational School of the Tacurú Movement. “Families have been unequivocal in their desire for more opportunities—for education, for work, for teaching and learning respect, and for healthy recreational activities in public areas—in order to drive out the drug dealers and the despair.”

In June 2016, Fr. Avellaneda and his fellow Salesian missionaries opened a new oratory called Tacurú House. The programs offered there will complement those provided at the Salesian school, where hundreds of students currently pursue three-year programs in carpentry, electricity, culinary arts, hairdressing and more. Youth do not have to be enrolled at the school to participate in Tacurú House programs. Community members have been supportive of this expansion and excited about what the programs will mean for youth.

Also within Montevideo, Don Bosco Laboratories has organized a community service experience, named BOSCOSUMA. This is the third service project experience for youth that Don Bosco Laboratories has facilitated. A group of 40 youth went to San José de Mayo, 80 kilometers from the capital, to assist families who were affected by the recent floods and to help in rebuilding their homes. In April, water level of the Rio San Jose grew higher and the city was submerged by the worst flooding in decades, which caused more than 1,200 people to leave their homes.

This group was joined by other current and past students and staff of Don Bosco Laboratories as well as youth from the Youth Center of the Christian Association of Young people of San Jose. The youth were engaged in plastering the walls and ceilings, plumbing, carpentry, masonry, electrical systems, and various other services that are compatible with their technical training they are receiving at the Salesian school. Regardless of the level of competence of the students, they all found ways to assist.

Motivated by the desire to improve the quality of life of the displaced families, the volunteers experienced a weekend of shared work, learning, and teamwork in serving others while strengthening friendships and their connections to their community.

Uruguay has managed to decrease its poverty rate by almost half since 2007 when the World Bank estimated that 25 percent of the population was living in poverty. Today, the poverty rate is close to ten percent with the majority of poor residents concentrated in rural towns and villages.

Most rural citizens in the country do not have the financial resources or education and training necessary to find and maintain stable employment. Running a profitable business venture or maintaining a small farm with access to the national and international markets is increasingly competitive and remains largely out of reach, especially in households run by women alone. The majority of rural poor are those most often engaged in non-agricultural activities.

In addition to a lack of education and employment opportunities, access to affordable housing is a concern for many poor families in Uruguay. Many do not have the resources to purchase homes or land to build on, and schools are often so far away children cannot attend.

Youth crime is on the rise in the country. More than 35 percent of crime committed by adolescents can be traced back to a lack of educational opportunities and employment inequality, according to a recent study by the Center for the Study of Economic and Social Reality. The report also noted that crime rates among young people in Uruguay have doubled over the past 15 years and the rate of violent assaults has quadrupled.

Salesians have been working with youth in Uruguay for many years, providing educational and social development opportunities to help them break the cycle of poverty and lead productive lives.




ANS – Uruguay – Flood victims receive help from the boys of “Talleres Don Bosco”

ANS – Uruguay – When All leave, Salesians remain

World Bank – Uruguay

Salesian Missions – Uruguay