INTERNATIONAL DAY OF INNOCENT CHILDREN VICTIMS OF AGGRESSION: Salesian Missions highlights programs that support at-risk youth and those dealing with trauma
Programs in Angola, Colombia, India and Mexico illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe that are helping children gain an education and overcome trauma.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 4, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in honoring International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. Recognized on June 4 each year since its United Nations designation in 1982, the day acknowledges the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.
The day also affirms the commitment by the UN and the international community to protect the rights of children. This work is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history.
The International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression celebrates the millions of individuals and organizations working to protect and preserve the rights of children. Through education and social development programming, Salesian missionaries in more than 130 countries around the globe work to ensure that all youth know their rights, are able to fully participate in their communities, and receive the support they need in the aftermath of trauma and abuse.
Whether it’s providing social support, combating child labor 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 centers 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,” says 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.”
In honor of International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, Salesian Missions highlights its unique educational programs that are helping poor youth receive an education, understand their rights and find a path out of poverty, bringing them hope for the future.
As Angola faces the coronavirus pandemic, the most vulnerable in society are street children who have nowhere to turn and no one to care for them. Among the street children most at risk and most exposed are those in Luanda, the capital and largest city in Angola. These youth are supported by the Salesian International Volunteering for Development (VIS) and Salesian missionaries in the region.
To address some of the challenges, the Salesian “Let’s go together” project, supported by the European Union and other benefactors, has opened a new emergency center where street children are offered a place live far from the dangers of street life. Street children are increasingly exposed to the risks of the street including diseases and violence from adults including law enforcement, and they lack means to support themselves.
In the center, boys and girls receive protection, nutrition, hygiene products and the attention of many social educators and volunteers who dedicate themselves to helping youth organize their daily lives, learn and respect the rules, and take responsibility for their futures.
More than 50 years of armed conflict between Colombia’s many guerrilla movements, paramilitary groups and the Colombian government has left behind some 8 million victims. Thousands of children have been part of these armed groups, forced to fight and kill at a very young age. These children are also victims, having been robbed of their childhoods, exploited and faced with unimaginable violence.
Don Bosco City is one of the oldest and largest programs for street children in Latin America. It is estimated that close to 6,000 minors are still utilized as child soldiers with thousands more having reached their 18th birthday after years of combat. 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 giving them tools for a brighter future including 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. Through the program, Salesian missionaries offer a multi-pronged approach designed to address the broad social issues that contribute to the poverty and exploitation these youth face while training them in the skills necessary to break the cycle of violence and poverty. Currently, there are 900 youth between the ages of 8 and 12 living and receiving education at the program.
Don Bosco Ashalayam provides support and rehabilitation for street children in India. More than 500 children currently reside in the 23 shelters in Ashalayam and benefit from educational and recreational opportunities. Through its presence on the streets and with courses and programs
offered in slums and railway stations, Don Bosco Ashalayam provides assistance to thousands of street children every year. More than 80,000 children have benefited in three decades.
Don Bosco Ashalayam also provides the Childline hotline, a free telephone line that works 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Street children can call anonymously to seek support and ask for assistance. Bosco Delhi, through the Don Bosco Ashalayam Center, operates Childline.
Salesian staff members work tirelessly every day of the year to ensure the rights of the children in need and give them special care and protection. They work collaboratively with law enforcement, health care, juvenile justice, transportation and legal providers, along with the media, to create awareness on child rights and provide child protection services.
Salesian missionaries working in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, operate three oratories that sit on several hectares of land, each in different parts of the city. More than 5,000 people visit the oratories every week to access the programs tailored for people of all ages.
Ten years ago, Ciudad Juárez was the world’s most violent city with more than 300 murders a month. Drug cartels, killings and migration had become a deadly mix for thousands of young people. Salesian oratories are a refuge. The 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. There’s even a game of their own invention, “three-way soccer,” with three teams of three participants each and the team receiving the least goals winning. Many of the children who had spent considerable time in the oratories growing up are now the educators and volunteers who give life to the activities taking place throughout the city.
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