INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY: Salesian Missions highlights programs that empower and educate youth
Programs in Benin, Chile, India, and Liberia support this year’s theme of empowering and educating youth to ensure their voices are heard.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Aug. 12, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in recognizing International Youth Day. Celebrated each year on Aug. 12, International Youth Day was established by the United Nations to raise awareness of issues affecting young people around the world.
The theme of International Youth Day 2020 “Youth Engagement for Global Action” highlights how the engagement of youth at local, national and global levels enriches institutions, and it processes and calls on the global community to increase youth representation and engagement in institutional politics.
The UN notes, “Enabling the engagement of youth in formal political mechanisms does increase the fairness of political processes by reducing democratic deficits, contributes to better and more sustainable policies, and also has symbolic importance that can further contribute to restore trust in public institutions, especially among youth. Moreover, the vast majority of challenges humanity currently faces, such as the COVID-19 outbreak and climate change, require concerted global action and the meaningful engagement and participation of young people to be addressed effectively.”
Working in more than 132 countries around the globe, Salesian missionaries are regarded as the single largest provider of vocational and technical training in the world and are working to engage youth as global leaders of tomorrow. Salesian missionaries offer more than 1,000 vocational, technical, professional and agricultural schools around the globe. This training gives youth the practical skills to prepare for employment while helping them to lead productive lives and become contributing adults in their communities. The programs go beyond educating. They also assist youth with making connections within industries and preparing them for the process of searching, finding and retaining employment.
“We know access to education lays the foundation for a better future for all,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “In many countries where poverty is high and access to education is not universal, it is crucial Salesian missionaries offer technical and vocational training to as many youth as possible to ensure they have access to long-term stable employment. Salesian educational institution also work to ensure youth understand and know their rights and have the confidence and opportunity to ensure their voices are heard.”
In honor and celebration of International Youth Day 2020, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs that empower and educate youth.
Homeless children have support at the Foyer Don Bosco, a home for abused and abandoned children in Kandi, Benin, thanks to the support of Salesian Missions donors. Foyer Don Bosco serves boys and girls in very complex situations, including children who have been abandoned by their families, victims of abuse and victims of forced marriages.
Through the funding provided by Salesian Missions, Foyer Don Bosco had the ongoing support it needed to facilitate several initiatives, educating more than 3,700 people on the rights of children and the child protective systems. This included educating parents about the rights and duties of children, alert mechanisms, and early detection of vulnerable situations in children. In addition, Foyer Don Bosco was able to teach school children and apprentices about their rights and duties, as well as about personal hygiene and whistleblowing mechanisms in the event of abuse, violence and exploitation.
Foyer Don Bosco also brought its message to a broader audience and held public awareness events in the markets and on the radio about Benin’s criminal law in the event of abuse, trafficking, mistreatment or exploitation of children. Education was provided to local authorities and religious leaders about their role in the protection of children.
With the Salesian Missions donor funding, Foyer Don Bosco was able to care for 77 children at the home, including 22 young girls; reinsert 50 children between 15-17 years old into the programs; and reintegrate 50 children between 12-17 years old with their families.
In response to growing calls in Chile for the government to bring about social and economic change, Salesian missionaries across the country held events to learn more from youth and give them an opportunity to have their voices heard. Youth with the Salesian Youth Movement, in collaboration with youth from the Catholic church in Santiago, created space to reflect on the social phase Chile is going through as well as on the causes, consequences and future prospects—and above all—the role young Catholics play and shall play in the entire process.
On Nov. 16, 2019, a meeting was held under the theme of “The Chile we dream of” to encourage dialogue and reflection among youth. The topics discussed included new pastoral care for today’s Chile, the socio-political commitment of young Christians, the importance of prayer, ongoing formation as a key to the maturity of faith, and opening spaces for dialogue and discernment together. All of the topics will continue to be discussed at later meetings.
At the meeting, there were also testimonies shared by youth about their experiences, dreams and plans as they continue walking in the construction or reconstruction of the country. This broad movement also involves other Salesian centers in Chile. On Nov. 9, the Salesian house in Alameda brought together more than 400 youth for a meeting called “The Chile that I desire” in which the origin and forms of solving the current social-political crisis were discussed.
Salesian missionaries in the city of La Serena also set aside days for reflection. Educators addressed topics with the students in their classrooms and developed an emotional containment plan, wherein everyone could express their feelings and reflect on the social changes.
Don Bosco Seva Kendra, in Hyderabad, India, hosted a program for girls facilitated by the Kiran Anjali Project, which provides guidance and financial support to institutions providing education to disadvantaged children, especially girls, in India. The Kiran Anjali Project partners with small, grassroots nonprofits.
Salesian staff took the time to interview each of the girls about their experiences with Don Bosco Seva Kendra, what they have been learning and its impact. Lunch provided a time for girls and their parents to interact informally with each other and the Salesian staff.
The afternoon session included a self-defense class taught by Sonia, a 16-year-old girl with the Kiran Anjali Project. The girls were able to learn and demonstrate some simple techniques in self-defense and learn useful tips in self-protection. Girls were motivated to meet Sonia, who shared important information and encouraged them.
Games were also played to help the girls be more open and friendly, empowering their self-confidence. Each of the girls received a gift of a smiley ball and chocolates. The day ended with cake to celebrate the girls who had birthdays during the month. All of the girls promised to stay in touch with each other.
Operated by Salesian sisters, Mary Help of Christians School provides a foundation of education and support for young students who would otherwise have limited opportunities. The school started in 1993 and serves just over 560 students. The school also has a feeding program, which serves more than 100 students each day.
This is one of many schools that Salesian missionaries operate in Liberia. Salesians have been present in Monrovia since 1979 and manage parishes, youth centers, schools and oratories.
In 2019, Don Bosco Technical High School, also in Monrovia, launched a vocational training course for electro-technicians. An afternoon class is available to high school students, which complements their current educational path. There is also a morning class for young workers to help them obtain certification to improve their options in the workforce.
The launch of the electro-technician training was part of an initiative that included the renovation of existing space at Don Bosco Technical High School to transform it into a workshop. The initiative aimed to respond to the needs of the labor market while ensuring youth have access to vocational and technical training that assists them in finding long-term stable work. The electro-technician course is available each year to 90 high school students and 30 uncertified electricians.
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