Colombia - “Don Bosco Missions” project for minors in mines

27 December 2021

(ANS - Medellín) - The issue of minors who slip into tunnels in Colombia to extract the little bit of mineral that allows families to survive from the abandoned coal mines is a complex problem. For this reason, "Missioni Don Bosco", the Salesian Mission Office of Turin, has launched a project of care and prevention for these minors.

It is not enough to take boys and girls away from those labyrinths, to give them hospitality and education: it is necessary to act on a far-reaching economic mechanism that calls for a change of a cultural nature. Salesians and workers from Ciudad Don Bosco, in the city of Medellín, are convinced of this, trained to meet the most difficult cases of oppressed and exploited childhood and adolescence. The benefactors already know the interventions to recover the boys and girls forced to become guerrillas and kept in a state of absolute subjection, or involved in drug trafficking and prostitution. While encountering obstacles, the educational and social action "in Valdocco-style" hinges on the children themselves.

The Salesians of Ciudad Don Bosco have been working for 56 years to meet the social and educational needs of the poorest people in Medellin and its surroundings. The intervention front has in fact expanded to the mining area of ​​Sinifaná, in the province of Antioquia, where the main economic and livelihood source is coal mining. In the cities of Amagá and Angelópolis, south-west of the metropolis, there are families in which the activity of miners has been handed down for generations. The children are used to walk through abandoned tunnels or to dig new, very narrow ones: only their small body sizes make these tunnels penetrable.

Aside from the imaginable risk of life and the severe health consequences of frequenting dark environments with fumes affecting their lungs, the result is that half of the school-age children no longer go to school, leaving one in five de facto illiterate. Girls are the most penalized. The families behind them are unable to think of a different regime, a viable alternative.

The Salesians want to move from pursuing the problem to a decisive change. They continue to take charge of proposing school attendance to children, in the most difficult cases to give them hospitality. It is a question of addressing the health emergency, complicated by the ongoing pandemic. It is a question of reconstructing the identity of violated people and making them live as their age demands.

The Sons of Don Bosco want to leave a different imprint: to prevent the exploitation of child labor. But they also want to propose an alternative social project so that fathers and mothers actively participate in the protection of minors. In Ciudad Don Bosco they have deployed will and intelligence to generate a psychosocial and pedagogical program aimed at 150 families in the cities of Amagá and Angelópolis.

To find out more, please visit the Missioni Don Bosco website.


ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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