Democratic Republic of Congo – Fr Gavioli, SDB: "I'm grateful to the Lord because I have always been able to live together with the poorest and most vulnerable"

(ANS - Bukavu) - Bukavu is a populous city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Fr Piero Gavioli, a Salesian, 79 years old, of which 55 spent in the African country, resides. Previously, he lived for about forty years in Lubumbashi, where, in addition to leading a parish and teaching in the seminary, he was responsible for the youth ministry of the diocese; and six years in Goma, where he directed a large center consisting of an oratory, a vocational school, an orphanage and shelter for single mothers. He was then sent to Bukavu with five other Salesians to run a small vocational school entrusted to the Sons of Don Bosco by the Xaverian missionaries. “I'm happy because most of the kids finish their courses and find a job,” he says.

Today this institute is recognized by the State and offers free courses in masonry, welding and repairs, carpentry and automotive mechanics to over 100 street children every year. The school's courses last 13 months: two dedicated to literacy, eight to vocational training and three to internships with local artisans and businesses. “I am happy that the young people who attend the agriculture, cooking and tailoring courses promoted at the large farm that was ceded to us by the diocese will find a job,” he adds.

In Bukavu the Salesians have also opened a small boarding house: every year they welcome 20 street children, take care of them, help them resume their studies and try to get them back to their families. Seeing the situation of these minors, who often end up on the street because their families cannot keep them in school, the Salesians have started a long-distance support project that benefits around 600-800 children every year.

But to act more deeply, on the conditions of families with self-help paths, "we therefore began to invite mothers to be part of the 'AVEC' credit and savings groups we founded to allow the poorest access to credit and promote solidarity,” he adds. “Currently 2,000 mothers are involved in the project, women who have significantly improved their economic situation and are able to send their children to school.”

Speaking of future projects, he says: “The Xaverian missionaries, after the General Chapter, decided to take over the direction of the Bukavu vocational school. In a year there will be the transition. We Salesians will stay in the city and intend to open a vocational school, an oratory and activities for street children and the families we support. We do not have the necessary funds, but we trust in Providence.”

Thinking of the years spent in Congo, he concludes: “There is no lack of daily joys given by the children and adults we help, by young people who enter seminaries, by those who come to pray and ask to be part of the Catholic Church. I am grateful to the Lord because I have always been able to live together with the poorest and most vulnerable: it was what I wished for.”



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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