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WORLD DAY OF THE SICK: Salesian Missions highlights health programs for youth in poverty

Pope marks day by calling for spiritual and physical closeness to all those who are ill

(MissionNewswireSalesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins Catholic organizations around the globe in honoring the Catholic World Day of the Sick. Every year on Feb. 11, the Pope marks the day with a special message calling for spiritual and physical closeness to all those who are ill. Saint John Paul II instituted the day “to encourage the people of God, Catholic health institutions and civil society to be increasingly attentive to the sick and to those who care for them.”

Pope Francis focused his message for the day on the theme “It is not good that man should be alone. Healing the Sick by Healing Relationships.” He calls on everyone to improve their relationships with each other as the first stage of healing sickness.

In his message, Pope Francis wrote, “Brothers and sisters, the first form of care needed in any illness is compassionate and loving closeness. To care for the sick thus means above all to care for their relationships, all of them: with God, with others — family members, friends, health care workers — with creation and with themselves. Can this be done? Yes, it can be done and all of us are called to ensure that it happens. Let us look to the icon of the Good Samaritan (cf. Lk 10:25-37), to his ability to slow down and draw near to another person, to the tender love with which he cares for the wounds of a suffering brother.”

Salesian missionaries offer more than 150 medical clinics and hospitals in mostly rural areas around the globe that serve a wide range of medical care needs. In many countries with Salesian programs, dental care and other necessary health services are offered to poor youth and their families who might otherwise have no access to health care.

“Salesians aim to serve the whole person by making sure that basic needs like health and nutrition are met in addition to other social service needs,” said Father Michael Conway, director of Salesian Missions. “Without being healthy, it’s difficult for youth to focus on their education, which is the main goal of the Salesians. Health also includes mental health services, which can also improve relationships with others. We offer these wrap-around services to ensure youth have what they need so they can focus on gaining an education.”

On World Day of the Sick 2024, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight medical and health programs that provide critical services to those living in poverty.

INDIA

Student mental health services were launched at the Salesian College Siliguri, North Bengal, India.

Salesian College Siliguri, located in North Bengal, India, has launched its first Psychology Lab, Wellness Studio and Wellness Woods. The lab is a facility for research, psychological testing and diagnostics while the studio is a counseling center open to students and anyone who requires wellness therapy.

The psychology department at Salesian College started in 2012. It is the only college of North Bengal University’s 64 affiliate colleges to offer degree courses in psychology both at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

“The Psychological Lab and Wellness Studio are significant contributions the college is offering to North Bengal and particularly to Siliguri in the mental health sector,” said Father George Thadathil, a professor and principal of Salesian College.

Dr. Prince C. P., one of the initiators of the lab, explained, “The Wellness Studio and Wellness Woods are the facilities for counseling and clinical psychology where master’s students of psychology will be able to practice and provide professional services to students on referral.”

MYANMAR

Health services reached 500 people in remote communities in Myanmar thanks to donor funding through Salesian Missions.

People in Salesian communities and people who are internally displaced in Myanmar* received medication and other health support thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. While initially wanting to set up a clinic, Salesians had to shift how they provided health services in a country that has been experiencing political turmoil since a military coup in February 2021.

Doctors were unable to come to a Salesian clinic and the need was far reaching outside of Salesian communities. As a result, Salesians used donor funding to send medicines to people most in need. If medicine couldn’t reach them, Salesians sent funding so that items could be purchased locally to address the overwhelming need.

Father Khun Myat Victor, provincial economer in Myanmar, said, “I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude for the financial support donors have provided for the poor people who are staying in our communities and in refugee camps in different parts of our country. With their generous support, we provided health support for 500 people.”

SPAIN

Salesians in Spain held a workshop to teach staff about mental health challenges and strategies.

The State Coordination of Salesian Social Platforms in Madrid held the “Comprehensive approach for children, young people and educational teams” workshop for Salesian staff. The workshop provided practical tools to effectively address mental health challenges faced by youth who are being served by Salesian centers across Spain. An emphasis was placed on ensuring that the integration and normalization of mental health support in the educational plans remains a priority.

Father Luis Fernando López Martínez opened the workshop with a presentation about the importance of understanding mental health from a broader perspective. He highlighted the complexity of the issue and stressed the importance of defining strategies that educational teams manage during the year. He also focused on how youth face intensified emotional vulnerabilities due to overexposure and social comparisons in the digital age and through social networks.

The following day, María José Ortega Cabrera addressed mental health problems in childhood and adolescence, classifying them according to their severity. Challenges were examined and she offered guidelines to address them. She also highlighted ways to differentiate typical behaviors from those that could indicate deeper problems. The goal is always to ensure care for youth in Salesian centers.

SOUTH SUDAN

Don Bosco Health Clinic in Juba, South Sudan, will have improved equipment and supplies with new funding.

Salesian missionaries with the Don Bosco Health Clinic Gumbo, located in Juba, South Sudan*, are appreciative of the support provided by the Ordesa Foundation, an organization in Spain. With the foundation’s support, the Don Bosco Health Clinic will have improved equipment and supplies available for diagnosis and treatment to enable doctors to better care for those people who have been displaced by violence in the country.

Since 2002, the Ordesa Foundation has been committed to the improvement of the living conditions and the nutrition and health of children — especially newborns, infants and children in the first years of life.

In South Sudan, many of the health centers are not functioning and people may live miles away from a health care center, making access to care difficult. The clinic was founded in 2012 to treat internally displaced people, especially children suffering from malnutrition. In addition, Salesians offer mobile clinics in surrounding areas. With the support they received from the Ordesa Foundation, Salesians will be able to aid more than 87,500 women, 12,000 children under the age of 14 and almost 6,000 others.

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Sources:

INDIA: Student mental health services launch at college/ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS) 

MYANMAR: Health services reach 500 people thanks to donor fundingPhoto courtesy of Salesian Missions (contact for usage permissions)

Salesian Missions

SPAIN: Youth mental health focus of training/ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS) 

SOUTH SUDAN: Over 100,000 people to receive better health care/ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS) 

World Day of the Sick

*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.