WORLD REFUGEE DAY: Salesian Missions highlights technical skills training and social programs for refugees
Salesian programs in Egypt, Kenya and Uganda highlight this year’s theme of taking big and small steps in solidarity with refugees.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 20, 2019) Salesian Missions stands with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and other international organizations in honoring World Refugee Day, held each year on June 20 since 2001. The day, which is coordinated by UNHCR, honors the plight of millions of refugees and internally displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes.
UNHCR has noted that a record 70.8 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide by the end of 2018. Among them are nearly 25.9 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Fifty-seven percent of all refugees come from South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan. There are also 3.9 million stateless people, but there are thought to be millions more, who have been denied a nationality and access to basic rights such as education, healthcare, employment and freedom of movement. One person is forcibly displaced every 2 seconds as a result of conflict or persecution.
Each year World Refugee Day focuses on a particular theme. This year’s theme is, “Take a step with refugees,” and encourages people around the globe to join together and take big and small steps in solidarity with refugees.
In countries around the globe, Salesian missionaries are assisting close to 400,000 refugees and internally displaced persons whose lives have been affected by war, persecution, famine and natural disasters such as floods, droughts and earthquakes. Salesian programs provide refugees much needed education and technical skills training, workforce development, healthcare and nutrition.
To mark World Refugee Day 2019, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that provide life-changing education and support for refugees and internally displaced people in need. Salesian Missions, headquartered in New Rochelle, N.Y., is the U.S. development arm of the international Salesians of Don Bosco.
REFUGEES IN EGYPT
Through the Salesian Missions Sunrise Project for refugees and vulnerable Egyptians, 400 people are receiving support and 80 past graduates were recently invited to participate in comprehensive seed fund grant training. These graduates submitted entrepreneurial projects to the Sunrise team who chose to fund approximately 40 projects.
In 2014, Salesian Missions, with support from external donors, began working with the Instituto Don Bosco in Cairo, Egypt, to fund scholarships as part of the Sunrise Project. The project assists refugees and vulnerable Egyptians in gaining the technical and life skills they need to find employment and support their families in their new country.
Also providing life skills training, health awareness, entrepreneurship literacy workshops, job panels, seed grants and violence prevention training, the Sunrise Project helps refugees develop the skills needed to succeed in the workplace and become comfortable in their new urban environments. A great success of the project is the addition of social services for participants including fully funded transportation vouchers for travel to and from courses. Those engaged in training programs are also provided vouchers to purchase groceries and other necessities from a local store, helping to ensure the basic needs of participants are met.
In addition, each participant receives a voucher for a primary care checkup and eye exam with a doctor who comes to the school. Some medicine prescriptions are included and referrals for secondary care are provided as needed.
Including this project year, the Sunrise Project in Cairo has improved the livelihoods and quality of life of more than 1,300 Sub-Saharan African and Syrian refugees and vulnerable Egyptians. Of this total, 46.9 percent were female. Some 62.8 percent were African, 8.3 percent were Syrian and 28.9 percent were vulnerable Egyptians.
REFUGEES IN KENYA
The Kakuma refugee camp was established in 1992 near Kenya’s border with South Sudan and was a place of refuge for unaccompanied minors fleeing warring factions in what was then southern Sudan. Today, the camp has more than 185,000 refugees, well over the 120,000-person capacity for which it was built. Most of the refugees are from East and Central African countries including Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Kakuma is operated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in collaboration with Salesian missionaries in the country as well as several other humanitarian organizations. The camp offers refugees safety, security and life-saving services such as housing, healthcare, clean water and sanitation.
Salesian missionaries at Kakuma refugee camp operate the Holy Cross Parish and the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center where young men and women are receiving critical employment and life skills. The main center offers all the technical trades as well as a literacy and math program. Another technical school offers agriculture education where youth learn advanced farming skills. Still another is a technology-focused center that combines community technology access with computer training. The newest facility is offering classes for adults in carpentry, welding, sewing and English. Over the past few years, Salesian technical programs in Kakuma have successfully trained thousands of youth in viable trades to earn a living and care for their families.
REFUGEES IN UGANDA
Salesian missionaries working in the Palabek Refugee Settlement in northern Uganda launched a new center for vocational training on Jan. 31. Uganda hosts close to 1.3 million refugees, the majority coming from South Sudan. Others are fleeing from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, Burundi and several other countries.
The Palabek Refugee Settlement is currently home to 34,000 people. It was officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. Several agencies are involved in providing food and education within Palabek.
Salesian missionaries at the settlement are offering much-needed psychosocial support and pastoral care for thousands of Christian residents. They also operate four nursery schools that educate more than 1,000 children. In addition, there are over 700 children attending Salesian primary and secondary schools and more than 700 families that are supported by various other initiatives.
Salesian missionaries launched the new vocational training center to offer life skills and other training programs to help young refugees prepare for employment. Thousands of refugees, representatives of non-governmental organizations and a government delegation participated in the opening ceremonies celebrating the center.
At the center, young refugees are able to attend vocational training courses for free. Depending on the discipline, some courses run for 3-6 months while others run as long as a year. Salesian missionaries have also set up a job placement office to help students make contact with companies that are hiring, create resumes and prepare for interviews and find internships and on-site training opportunities.
The vocational training center currently has 450 students enrolled, 400 of whom are refugees and 50 who are host community Ugandans. The majority of students are young women and mothers who are taking courses in tailoring, cosmetology and salon services such as hair dressing. Young men are learning automobile mechanics and motorcycle repair training. Agriculture classes are taught to all students no matter their primary area of study.
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