Salesian missionaries across Benin strive to keep youth safe and provide them with an education—which for many is the only path out of the staggering poverty 70 percent of Benin’s population experiences. According to UNICEF, Benin remains one of the poorest countries in the world.

Youth in Benin suffer greatly from the effects of extreme poverty and child trafficking. About half of all children between the ages of 5 and 13 are engaged in some kind of forced labor and almost 20 percent are chronically undernourished.

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Provide technical & educational training

Salesian-run programs empower youth through education and skills training that will help them reach their full potential. At the Salesian-run Foyer Magone, at-risk youth are able to go to school and gain an education to prepare for the workforce. Youth take workshops in subjects like carpentry, motorcycle mechanics and welding.

Salesian missionaries also operate three accelerated learning schools focused on youth who have left the state-run schools or dropped out of the educational system altogether. Missionaries try to reach youth where they are while living on the street. The Salesian-run organization Foyer Maman Marguerte operates in the market of Cotonou, helping minors who are working instead of attending school and those who have been exploited into human trafficking.

Through these programs, vulnerable youth are given opportunities that would not otherwise be available to them to build a better future.

Rescue children facing adversity

Salesian missionaries around the globe are working to end the horror of child trafficking and other abuses. From identifying traffickers and holding them accountable to educating families about these predatory practices, missionaries are working to change local laws and strengthen legal protections for youth.

A recent documentary called “No Estoy en Venta” (“I am Not for Sale”), produced by the Salesian Missions Office in Madrid, exposed the child trafficking that occurs in Benin and in other countries. Trafficking kills children’s hope, explains Marc Tsanda, a child psychologist who works on behalf of rescued youth at the Don Bosco Center and is featured in the documentary.

In May 2013, Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Foyer launched a program focused on the protection of youth at risk as part of a European Union collaborative initiative called Development and Action in the Republic of Benin. The four-year initiative culminated in February 2017.

The program engaged community leaders, worked to unify the systems protecting children and worked with youth one on one, giving them the tools and resources to achieve a brighter future. It focused on the protection of youth at risk in the areas of Littoral, Ouémé and Alibori.

Build orphanages & shelters for homeless youth

Thousands of youth live on the streets, where—in addition to rampant violence and exploitation—they are vulnerable to chronic malnutrition and treatable illnesses that should not be fatal, but often are. And the cycle of poverty and despair remains unbreakable.

Salesian missionaries serve these vulnerable children through a wide range of programs. At Don Bosco Foyer in Porto-Novo, the capital city of Benin, youth who have been abandoned by their families, victims of abuse and forced into marriages find a safe place to begin a new way of life.

Salesian missionaries also operate Foyer Magone, which is another residential facility for youth who have stabilized after spending time at Don Bosco Foyer. In addition, the Saint Joseph Center, run by Salesian Sisters in the city of Parakou in northern Benin, operates with financial assistance from UNICEF and offers children refuge from the cycle of poverty and exploitation. There, children receive nutritious meals and enroll in nearby schools, providing the essential support their families cannot.

The Don Bosco Center, also in Porto-Novo, cares for more than 200 victims of child trafficking, many who have been sold into slavery by their parents for the equivalent of $30 or less. Nearly 40,000 girls and boys are forced into agricultural or domestic labor each year within the country of Benin alone.

Empower girls & women through education

In 2014, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) produced “A Global Report on Trafficking in Persons,” which offered the first global assessment of the scope of human trafficking. Close to 80 percent of human trafficking is for sexual exploitation with the victims being predominantly women and girls, according to the report.

Through the Salesian-run Vocational Training Center Laura Vicuña, young girls, many of whom have been victims of trafficking, have the opportunity to build a future they once thought was impossible. Salesian Sisters are providing shelter, education and training in skills and trades.

Deliver life-saving meals

Thanks to a long-established Salesian presence in Porto Novo and throughout Benin—where missionaries run schools, youth shelters, outreach programs, vocational training centers and more—delivery of life-saving meals are guaranteed to make an impact for those most in need.

In February 2016, volunteers from the Spanish nonprofit Ayuda Contenedores (Help Containers) and the Salesian-run Youth and Development Center joined together in Pamplona, Spain to load a food container sent to Benin carrying 23,000 kilos of non-perishable food. Salesian students, staff, volunteers and members of local parishes donated and collected the food, tools and other items shipped to Salesian programs in need.

This was the second campaign run by Salesian organizations in Spain to help the people of Benin. In 2014, a container was shipped carrying rice, lentils, beans, pasta and other non-perishable food items as well as donated school supplies, bicycles and t-shirts. The items were donated to several Salesian programs in Porto Novo that provide education, workforce development and social services for poor youth and their families.

Campaigns like these show how youth in Salesian programs are able to take what they have learned and pay it forward, supporting families in other communities in a time of need.


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In honor of Human Rights Day, Salesian Missions highlights its unique educational programs that are helping poor youth around the globe NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 10, 2017) Salesian Missions joins the United Nations and other organiza

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