The work of Salesian missionaries in Colombia is internationally recognized. Just more than 34 percent of Colombians are living below the poverty line. Though Colombia is among one of the world’s emerging economies, more than three out of 10 Colombians still live in poor conditions. Colombia is also the world’s seventh most inequitable country.

According to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Colombia has 7.4 million citizens displaced because of ongoing violence in the country. The displacement is mainly caused by ongoing clashes between the military, leftist guerrilla groups and right-wing paramilitary successor groups.

One in five children in the country has no access to education, and many orphaned youth live in poverty and have lost their parents to natural disasters, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other diseases, war or domestic issues. Some children remain living with a single parent, struggling to survive and are often pulled out of school to earn income for the remaining family. Other youth live in shelters or on the streets.

By providing education, workforce development services and social programs across Colombia, Salesian Missions helps poor youth have hope for a better life.

More Missions In Colombia

Build primary & secondary schools

In Condoto, Salesian Missions built the first and only schools in the area and is improving the lives of the students and all members of the communities — for generations to come. Condoto is a remote village nestled in the middle of a tropical rainforest in western Colombia. Most of the 30,000 inhabitants are descendants of Africans who escaped the slave trade. Mining is the main source of income — with low pay and harsh working conditions.

Provide technical & vocational training

The Don Bosco Center in Ciudad Bolivar, one of the most dangerous areas in Bogota, provides educational opportunities and employment for young people affected by the armed conflict and other situations of vulnerability through a program with Pacto Motor.

During the 2014-2015 school year, more than 900 students were engaged in professional training courses. The program was developed in response to the need for skilled labor for the automobile and transport industries while noting that youth from Ciudad Bolivar were often rejected in the employment selection process. After the first class graduated in 2013, more than 150 youth, or 98 percent of Pacto Motor’s first graduating class, found employment after successfully completing the program.

As a result of the Pacto Motor program’s success, the Colombian Ministry of Labor is using the Salesian training model to develop additional pilot projects focused on employment industries in other cities in Colombia.

In another training program, the Don Bosco Training Center in Armenia opened to provide education and workforce development services to poor youth in the area. The region has more than half its population under 25 years of age. Unemployment, especially for youth, is commonplace because of a lack of industry in the region. The center includes classrooms, a library, a sports field and administrative space for staff. Technical courses are currently being offered in the areas of tourism, culinary arts, accounting, information technology, cosmetology, mechanics and welding.

Rescue children facing adversity

Don Bosco City is one of the oldest and largest programs for street children in Latin America. Since its start in 1965, the program has rescued more than 83,000 boys and girls. Today, much of its work focuses on the effects on youth after decades of armed conflict in the country, which 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.

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. The long rehabilitation process focuses on three things youth need to learn — how to trust, to have hope for the future and to build relationships with others. Psychologists and teachers work together with youth, giving them the tools for a better future, including providing basic education and more advanced skills training that will lead to stable employment.

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.

Respond to refugee needs

In recent years, more than 450,000 people fled the violence of Colombia to neighboring Ecuador, Venezuela, Panama and Costa Rica. Salesian Missions’ New Beginnings initiative, started in 2011, has provided more than 1,000 Colombian refugees in these four countries vocational and human development training as well as job placement services.

Without the prospect of a job, it was hard for Colombian refugees to create stability for their families and build new lives. The New Beginnings program granted each refugee 260 hours of technical training as well as 40 hours of human development workshops. The training programs, coupled with the job placement services, allowed victims of violence and chaos to start over and build a stable, hopeful future for themselves, their families and their new communities.

The New Beginnings program was designed to meet the goals of the UNHCR/International Organization for Migration/Ministers Foreign Affairs; Colombia, Ecuador Assistance Plan for Colombian Refugees (December 2010), which seeks to support priorities and pilot programs which will advance the sustainable reintegration of Colombians who decide to return home while improving the living conditions of those Colombians who continue to stay abroad.

Provide youth centers & safe activities

Don Bosco City offers children a place to live, study and learn a useful trade to help them integrate successfully into society. An important part is the sporting program, which provides soccer, basketball, volleyball and chess. These opportunities allow youth to play on a team and make friends—as well as gain a sense of accomplishment.

Don Bosco City’s protection program, “Making Impressions,” was established to help children understand their rights and to restore rights for those involved in child labor in the Amaga municipality. This program was created in response to social issues that have arisen from the area’s coal-based economy. Many families in the region make their living in the coal mining industry and children are often sent to work in the industry rather than attend school.

It’s not just young men and boys who are sent to work. Many young girls are also faced with labor exploitation and other abuses. Forced to work, they miss out on important opportunities for education leading them to become dependent on others while lacking the ability to take care of themselves. This puts them more at risk of abuse.

Youth in the program are able to access child rights education and use the library which serves as a quiet space for learning and studying. Participants can also take advantage of recreational spaces which help to make free time more productive and aid in building better relationships with peers.


From Colombia

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From Colombia

At Don Bosco City, Child Laborers Find New Hope

For more than 54 years, Salesian missionaries at Cuidad Don Bosco (Don Bosco City) in Medellín, Colombia have worked hard to rescue thousands of youth from violence and exploitation. Juan David was one of them. Now a law student

UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY: Salesian Missions highlights educational and child rights programs that bring hope to children around the globe

Salesian programs in Colombia, El Salvador, India and South Africa ensure that youth are able to access the education and social programs they need to have hope for the future. NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Nov. 20, 2020) Salesian Missions, t

WORLD DAY AGAINST CHILD LABOR: Salesian Missions highlights educational and social programs that combat child labor

Programs in Colombia, Ghana and India illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe that support youth having the opportunities to achieve their dreams. NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 12, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development

WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY: Salesian Missions highlights Don Bosco Green Alliance in helping to promote environmental change through action, thought and policy

Launched in India in April 2018, the Don Bosco Green Alliance has 273 registered members from 56 countries and is still growing. NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 5, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don B

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. developm

Hands-on Solutions to a Challenging Issue

Their hands once clenched weapons. Today, they extend hope. Guided by Father Jesús Bolaño at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center in Cali, Colombia, these former child soldiers are now making face masks to help prevent the s

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY: Salesian Missions highlights educational programs around the globe that empower girls and young women

Programs in Colombia, DR Congo, Ecuador and Ghana illustrate the work of Salesians that educate and provide support to young women to help them succeed in life.   NEW ROCHELLE, NY (March. 8, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. deve

INTERNATIONAL DAY AGAINST THE USE OF CHILD SOLDIERS: Salesian Missions highlights programs offering education and psycho-social support to former child soldiers

Programs in Colombia, Liberia and Sierra Leone illustrate the work of Salesian missionaries around the globe that help former child soldiers have a second chance in life. NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Feb. 12, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S

HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: Salesian Missions highlights education and social programs that provide youth the skills training and support they need for a brighter future

Programs in Colombia, India, Peru and South Sudan illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe that enable youth to access education and support in understanding their rights. NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 10, 2019) Salesian Mission

WORLD DAY AGAINST TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS: Salesian Missions highlights programs that educate youth about human trafficking and help them find employment in their home countries

Programs in Colombia, Ghana, Italy and Senegal illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe that support efforts to prevent youth from falling victim to human trafficking. NEW ROCHELLE, NY (July 30, 2019) Salesian Missions, t

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Agriculture Training Programs

Salesian Missions includes agriculture in its vocational training programs – to ensure that youth of Rwanda learn better agricultural practices as well as keep the school self-sustaining in the face of the country’s food shortages.

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Feed a Child

Salesian Missions includes agriculture in its vocational training programs – to ensure that youth of Rwanda learn better agricultural practices as well as keep the school self-sustaining in the face of the country’s food shortages.

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Technology Program

Salesian Missions includes agriculture in its vocational training programs – to ensure that youth of Rwanda learn better agricultural practices as well as keep the school self-sustaining in the face of the country’s food shortages.

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