Participating in the side event “Serving Across the Digital Divide: Catholic Religious Witness to the Role of Digital Technology in Social Inequalities” organized by Justice Coalition of Religious (JCoR) and co-sponsored by Salesian Missions Inc., headed by Fr Thomas Pallithanam, Sr. Saavedra presented the work done by the Salesian sisters both in Ecuador and Columbia during the time of Covid-19 to reduce digital divide by providing access to education to the marginalized by using digital technology.
In Ecuador the “Padre José Vicente Rivadeneria Educational Center” she said serves 171 indigenous students of the Shuar ethnic group. These Indigenous youth and adolescents live in 20 Centers or Communities that do not have electricity or radio communication. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, since face-to-face classes were suspended, students returned home to their villages. Classes were being broadcast through a local radio station “Radio Tiwinza”, from 9:00 to 11:00 am. Due to the lack of electricity, students were missing out on their daily lessons. Setting up solar panels in the 20 centers went a long way to help the students to continue with their studies. Maintaining the equipment was the shared responsibility of the community.
In Columbia, the “Institución Educativa Escuela Normal Superior Nuestra Señora de Fátima” reached out not only to students but also to teachers and parents by providing them the electronic equipments and internet connectivity needed to access educational content provided by both the government and the school. This program undertaken with the support of the department of education profited nearly 2000 students and their families.
She added that what motivated them to seek collaboration from a wide range of stakeholders was Don Bosco’s oft-repeated saying “A thread is weak by itself but intertwined with many strands it can never be broken.”
The side event also presented a wide range of initiatives undertaken by religious sisters from Congo, Nigerian, Zambia and the Philippines. It was ably moderated by Ms. Teresa Blumenstein, the JCoR coordinator.
Among the 117 participants that included Sr. Jeannine FMA, Vides Representative, Fr. Timothy Zak, SDB, the Provincial of SUE, Mr. Renato Cursi of DBI, Bro. Gunter Mayer, Salesian representative at UN Vienna, Mr. Wojciech Erstwhile, coordinator of DBN, were several members of the Salesian Family from around the globe. The database built assiduously by Fr. George Menamparampil, SDB, the Covid-19 Solidarity Coordinator, helped to identify the projects by the FMAs with the support of Ms. Lina Varon, of America Social Salesiana.