GLOBAL: Honoring International Day of People with Disabilities
Salesian Missions highlights programs that remove barriers to education and social services for youth with disabilities
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 3, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring International Day of People with Disabilities. Since its inception in 1945, the United Nations has outlined and reiterated its commitment to calling for the creation of inclusive, accessible, and sustainable societies and communities. In 1981, the UN proclaimed Dec. 3 as a recognized day for the celebration of the achievements of people living with disabilities across the world.
This year’s theme “Not All Disabilities Are Visible” aims to spread awareness and understanding of disabilities that are not immediately apparent. These include disabilities such as mental illness, chronic pain or fatigue, sight or hearing impairments, diabetes, brain injuries, neurological disorders, learning differences, and cognitive dysfunctions, among others.
Almost 1 billion people, or 15 percent of the world’s population, are living with a disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) World Report on Disability. Nearly 250 million are living with a mental or neurological condition, and almost two-thirds of these people will not seek professional medical help, largely due to stigma, discrimination and neglect. The report noted that another 69 million individuals are estimated to sustain traumatic brain injuries each year worldwide, while one in 160 children is identified as on the autism spectrum.
“Children living in poverty with a disability are even less likely to attend school when compared to their peers,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Youth with disabilities have the same ability to achieve as their peers if given the opportunity. Salesian missionaries in programs around the globe initiate projects that pave the way for advanced research, learning and innovation that aid inclusion of people with disabilities.”
Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs that advance inclusivity and programming for people with disabilities on International Day of People with Disabilities 2020.
The Salesian Parish in Rukago, Burundi, has started working directly with people with disabilities. This past summer, an initial meeting was held at the local Salesian Center to discuss ways in which the community could support those with disabilities, including by offering vocational training so that people could live a more independent life.
As Salesians work to roll out new vocational training, they have begun a search for funding for the purchase of sewing machines and other equipment to be used in the training. The course offered will provide a certificate of professional qualification upon completion.
Since the primary objective of this new initiative is the social integration of people with disabilities, the Salesian community is also providing recreational, sporting and cultural activities that help people with disabilities to develop self-esteem, build identity, and maintain physical and mental health.
Don Bosco University in San Salvador, El Salvador, is empowering the next generation of medical rehabilitation practitioners to transform the lives of people with mobile disabilities through its “Walking Anew!” project. This project was made possible thanks to a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) ASHA program secured by Salesian Missions.
The “Walking Anew!” project, which runs from March 2017 to March 2021, is expanding and upgrading the facilities at Don Bosco University’s School of Rehabilitation Science as well as the equipment used to train medical rehabilitation professionals. The project will also pioneer innovative techniques in the treatment of people with disabilities.
The “Walking Anew!” project’s construction phase for the facility at Don Bosco University is in process. Included in this phase is the development of a two-story building that will hold new and expanded laboratories, practice centers and classrooms on the first floor, and a new Applied Research Center for collaboration with the U.S. on the second floor. The new building will implement photovoltaic electricity to promote conscientious energy use and reduce carbon emissions at the global level and will be constructed under LEED parameters of the U.S. Green Building Council.
The project will also entail upgrading 50 percent of the current technology used and acquiring new and modern equipment for the four SRS laboratories that teach and apply rehabilitation techniques for people with disabilities. The laboratories to be updated include an existing mobility laboratory, an existing orthotics and prosthetics laboratory, a new podiatry laboratory and a new specialized practice laboratory.
Don Bosco’s Prafulta Psychological Services, located in Mumbai, India, recently graduated 42 teachers who are now trained in basic skills in counseling. The teachers took the training course from June to November 2019.
Don Bosco’s Prafulta Psychological Services was started in 1998 and provides psychological evaluation and diagnosis, professional counseling, career guidance, remedial education, psychiatric services, and occupational therapy. The organization’s psychologists and other professionals offer these services to individuals, groups and families to help aid independent functioning and improve quality of life.
To help increase mental health awareness and meet the needs of children, Prafulta Psychological Services offers coursework and training for professionals, including teachers, to advance their skills in helping youth and their families in a school setting. The Basic Skills in Counseling for Teachers program was launched in 2005 and provides training to help teachers learn the skills to
handle basic emotional and developmental issues of their students. To date, the program has trained 777 teachers from 133 schools.
Located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, Don Bosco Fambul is one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations. It has been on the forefront of efforts to help save young women who have faced abuse and prostitution and to rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families.
The organization is directed by Salesian Father Jorge Mario Crisafulli and has a staff of 120, including Salesian social workers who go out to the streets, slums and marketplaces. They engage with vulnerable youth and encourage them to join Don Bosco Fambul’s successful program.
Don Bosco Fambul recently launched a therapeutic center with four large buildings, a clinic, accommodations for volunteers and social workers, a house for the Salesian community, and a chapel. Its inauguration was postponed due to the pandemic, but the center remains a safe and virus-free place. Salesians have already welcomed many minors in need who have suffered physical and sexual abuse. Often the injuries these youth sustain as a result of the abuse can lead to both physical disabilities and mental health challenges.
Police agencies, lawyers and child protection agencies are working collaboratively with Don Bosco Fambul in the fight to protect children. Don Bosco Fambul’s clinic will be able to issue forensic reports on abused minors arriving at the center. In turn, police will be able to conduct investigations early and arrest the perpetrators.
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