Whether it’s providing social support, combating child labour or assisting the homeless, Salesian missionaries are on the front lines educating youth on their rights and ensuring access to programs and services they need. Working in more than 5,500 Salesian educational institutions and youth centres around the world, missionaries educate children in some of the poorest places on the planet.
“Education is always our primary focus, but we know youth are dealing with much more than just needing access to education,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian missionaries help rehabilitate child soldiers and street children and provide education on child rights to ensure that youth have a sense of personal dignity and self-worth.”
Here some examples follow:
“Don Bosco City”, in Medellin, Colombia, is one of the oldest and largest programs for street children in Latin America. Don Bosco City’s long rehabilitation process focuses on three key elements—how to trust, to have hope for the future and to build relationships with others. Psychologists and teachers work together with participating youth to give them tools for a brighter future including providing basic education and more advanced skills training that will lead to stable employment. Since its start in 1965, Don Bosco City has rescued more than 83,000 boys and girls.
The “Mary Help of Christians” School in Monrovia, Liberia, provides a foundation of education and support for young students who would otherwise have limited opportunities to better their lives. The school started in 1993 and serves over 560 students. It includes a feeding program that serves just over 100 of those students, ensuring they receive a nutritious meal each day. In addition, the Don Bosco Youth Center provides a foundation of education and support for students during its after-school program and with access to vocational training and academic courses. All these programs give former child soldiers and other young people the opportunity to experience some of the joys of childhood.
Salesian missionaries working in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, operate three oratories and more than 5,000 people visit them every week. The Salesians oratories in Ciudad Juárez open their doors at 8:30 a.m. and close late at night, offering a series of uninterrupted activities, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In the morning, activities and workshops are held for mothers while children are at school. In the afternoon, parents get a break while children are entertained and given a chance to learn. There are also sports schools, martial arts sessions for children and adults, dance, circus workshops, painting and writing workshops, skateboarding lessons, parkour, free-climbing and zip line.
Located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, “Don Bosco Fambul” is one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations. It has been on the forefront of efforts to help save young women who have faced abuse and prostitution and to rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families. The organization is engaged with vulnerable youth and its social workers go out to the streets, slums and marketplaces to encourage youngsters to join Don Bosco Fambul’s successful program. Police agencies, lawyers and child protection agencies are working collaboratively with Don Bosco Fambul in the fight to protect children.