What is the world of Missioni Don Bosco?
Of the 134 countries in which the Salesians are present, about 100 are in developing countries, areas in which the works, especially at the start, are not self-sufficient. Thus “Missioni Don Bosco” is committed in Italy to help the Salesian works in Africa, first of all, in India, in Latin America, in Asia.
At the center of everything is education. How is it declined today?
In our typical activities: literacy, vocational training, foster homes for orphans, which are a typical phenomenon of large urban agglomerations. Megacities like Rio de Janiero, Calcutta, Manila, Nairobi… attract young people, but when the family breaks up, the older children have to make do. The Salesians go to the aid of these needy children.
Are you not present in rural contexts?
In the villages, the extended family supports the orphans. As in nineteenth-century Turin, we are in the peripheries; our natural habitat is the large urban agglomerations where internal immigration that has no references is amassed.
The task is global ...
It includes all the aspects that contribute to respect for the human person: starting with water. Before building a school, we take care of the well. Then, the health of children and women. In Africa, helping women means helping the whole family. In Africa we open a work every month: we have many vocations and it is easy to be present. The works often multiply by proximity. We are in one place, the nearby parish asks us to do something for their children as well. In Mongolia a few years ago we landed with a vocational school. We have now opened a community for orphans. In India we support small schools where we let girls study through highly regarded elite peer schools, that are much appreciated.
And in Latin America?
We are looking into how to help a work in Brazil, in the Amazon Basin, on the border with Peru. In Bolivia we have created a national network of 1,500 schools that adopt Don Bosco's pedagogical system, partly state-run and private. Where there is a shortage of food, we start with breakfast, because on an empty stomach you don't learn anything. Then, there is always the courtyard, sports, the theater.
Are you also in the Middle East?
In Syria we have stayed alongside the population. In Damascus we bought land to double, as soon as possible, with a large vocational school. In Lebanon we take care of Iraqi Christian refugees.
How big is the network that supports you?
In 30 years we have exceeded one million benefactors. In Italy we are very well known. Ours must be a house with the lights on and the curtains open, so that everything can be seen from outside: this is how solidarity is kept alive.
Maria Teresa Martinengo
Source: La Stampa