Democratic Republic of the Congo

Despite its vast material wealth, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has long been a very poor nation. Half of the country’s population lives below the poverty line, living on less than $1 a day, especially those in rural communities. More than 5.8 million Congolese are now displaced and more than 7.5 million people do not have enough food to eat.  

Salesian missionaries have been working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo for more than 100 years ensuring that the most vulnerable children are not forgotten. Salesian primary and secondary schools and programs lay the foundation for early learning while Salesian trade, vocational and agricultural programs offer many youth the opportunity for a stable and productive future.

More Missions In Democratic Republic of the Congo

Provide technical and vocational training

In Uvira, within South Kivu province, young children and older youth are given an opportunity to go to school. Many of these young students are former child soldiers, street children, children accused of witchcraft, abused women and single mothers who have had their rights violated and been denied a chance to gain an education—leaving them particularly vulnerable to violence and exploitation.

The educational project serves 30 young children and 40 older youth. Salesian missionaries provide school transport, desks, school supplies for teachers and students, teachers’ salaries, and the organization of recreational, sports and cultural activities. Beginning with a remedial education with a focus on literacy, the project works to raise the students’ knowledge base in order to prepare them for advanced skill training. The school program includes a daily meal for each student as well as sports that are offered twice a week.

Salesian missionaries also teach job skills at the Professional Technical Institute in Tshikapa in the district of Kasai, a few miles from the border of Angola. Youth have access to technical training that allows them to advance their studies in professional fields and learn the skills necessary to find and retain employment. The institute is the first and only technical school in the city.

Build orphanages & shelters for homeless youth

Children in the country are extremely vulnerable because of the civil war and violence. Many were abandoned during the recent fighting between the Congolese army (known as the FARDC) and the M23 rebels. For many of these abandoned children, Don Bosco Center Ngangi has become a safe haven.

Don Bosco Center Ngangi provides social development, medical and educational services to poor youth and their families. Since 1998, even in the midst of wars, violence and poverty, the Don Bosco Center welcomed, educated, cared for and supported more than 26,000 children.

Currently, there are more than 4,600 people accessing the center’s services. Don Bosco Center Ngangi is one of the most diverse and comprehensive Salesian organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Built on the grounds of a school and sports field, the center has grown to provide vocational training, refugee housing, rehabilitation for child soldiers and programs for those needing nutritional and medical care.

The center also provides aid and services to the many refugee camps that exist in the areas surrounding Goma. Refugees, orphans, abandoned children and victims of disaster are among the school students who rely on the center. For most of them, it’s also the only place where they receive a nutritious meal each day.

Empower girls & women through education

Salesian missionaries in Mont Ngafula have launched a new project to help women of the parish start small agricultural activities that generate income. The small town of Mont Ngafula is isolated because there is no roadway that connects it to the city. This causes some of the economic challenges. There is also a lack of water and electricity and few jobs for the residents. Families have difficulty meeting their basic needs in the community due to its many challenges.

Inside the Don Bosco mission’s grounds there are already small plots of land set aside for the production of vegetables, fruit and cereals, as well as for breeding small farm animals. All of these farming activities contribute to the sustenance of families. Empowered by this experience, the women have set the goal of achieving food self-sufficiency through the cultivation of vegetables that, once the gardens are fully operational, can be sold to the market.

Within a year, the goal is for 80 percent of participants to be able to benefit from a supply of seeds and tools to renew cultivation in their own gardens. Then, after the harvest, they will be able to reimburse Salesian missionaries for the loan of the means of production, delivering to them 20 percent of the vegetables to feed orphans who are guests of the Maison Papy community, another structure within the mission.

In addition, the Don Bosco Center, located in the city of Bukavu in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is supporting women who wish to join women’s groups run by the Association Villageoise d’Epargne et Crédit (AVEC), an association for savings and credit in the villages. Since July 2018, the Don Bosco Center has helped create 20 groups of women, mostly mothers.

Every week, the women deposit 1,000 to 5,000 Congolese Francs (CF), which is roughly $0.60 cents, into the group’s safe in addition to depositing another 200 CF in the solidarity fund. After a few weeks, the group members can apply for credit and receive up to 10,000 CF to help in situations of necessity such as the birth of a child, an illness or a death in the family.

The Don Bosco Center has selected 100 mothers and a few fathers within these groups to receive a small financial contribution from the organization. This will allow them to start an income-generating activity and work on becoming self-sufficient. The candidates selected are all in serious need of additional assistance.

Provide youth centers and safe activities

Salesian-run sports programs teach youth both on and off the field. Learning and playing team sports encourages leadership skills as well as teaches youth to work as part of a team. Students also learn important social skills and have opportunities for growth and maturity.

In Goma, a youth soccer league is free open to young athletes at all levels. Hundreds of youth come from all the neighboring districts to play. In a year, 100 teams and close to 1,600 youth participated in the biggest tournament to date for boys ages 9 to 15. The tournament provides an opportunity for youth from all ethnic and social-economic backgrounds to come together to learn a team sport and interact with one another. Playing in the tournament has become a source of pride for youth in the region.

The Salesian oratory, Michele Rua, located in Masina, a municipality in the capital city of Kinshasa, launched a new music and sports program. Kinshasa has nearly 11 million inhabitants with many children and older youth in need of education and support. Youth are often living on the streets or their families are too poor to pay for school. They have limited means of advancing in life and breaking the cycle of poverty.

Salesian missionaries are trying to address these needs through their six centers within Kinshasa. The Michele Rua oratory has become a place of refuge and support for nearly 800 boys and girls aged 7 to 15 years in the densely-populated, working-class neighborhood of Masina, which is currently experiencing socio-economic difficulties. Given the needs in the community, Salesian missionaries anticipate that the number of youth participating in their programs will rise.

Rescue children facing adversity

Youth make up about 19 percent of the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s population but account for 47 percent of deaths during its conflict. Poverty is rampant, according to aid agencies, and 72 percent of rural households and 59 percent of urban households are poor.

In 2014, Salesian missionaries opened a Don Bosco Center in the city of Bukavu. The center is located near the main town square and a prison, giving missionaries the ideal location to meet the many street children who spend time in the square.

Shortly after, a Salesian school was opened on the premises, which serves the local population. The new Salesian school started with 100 students, filling it to capacity. Beginning with remedial education with a focus on literacy, the school works to raise its students’ knowledge base in order to prepare them for advanced skill training. The school program includes a daily meal for each student as well as sports that are offered twice a week. The current curriculum spans eight months and trains students as carpenters, builders and drivers.

In addition to the school, Don Bosco Center Bukavu offers sports, games and French language lessons to area youth. Missionaries at the center have been asked to help educate 30 of the younger members of the local prison so that upon release, they will be able to learn a trade and become productive members of society.

Orphans attending Don Bosco Shasha, located in the Mupfunya Shanga-Shasha village, received support through donor funding from Salesian Missions. The funding paid teachers’ salaries and covered the cost of school fees for 55 orphans, including 23 girls, whose families could not afford schooling.

Improve infrastructure

Salesian-led International Voluntary Service for Development (VIS) volunteers hosted a special workshop for farmers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The goal of the workshop was to empower farmers to envision a viable and stable agricultural framework and boost their confidence to bring it to fruition. The farmers’ ideas will provide the foundation for a new agricultural service center in the country.

The new center provides resources and expertise to help improve crop yields, profitability and the overall quality of life for farmers and their families. Salesian-run agricultural programs are customized to meet local farming needs in education, equipment and supplies. Agricultural technical training programs encompass one to six years of study and teach modern methods of farming together with business management classes. Programs include courses in community service, vegetable gardening, cooking, maintenance, annual crops, cultivation of tea, fruit farming, zootechnics, beekeeping, cattle-raising, leadership training and social work, among others.

Thanks to donor funding through Salesian Missions, students attending the Don Bosco Vocational Center in Uvira and younger children at the Primary School Saint Kiwanuka/Kingabwa have improved classrooms.

The Don Bosco Vocational Center needs to upgrade dated classrooms and expand programs to accommodate more students. There is a real need in the area for vocational and life skills training opportunities to empower poor young women. Many of the vocational center’s students are former child soldiers, street children, children accused of witchcraft, abused women and single mothers who have had their rights violated and have been denied a chance to gain an education. All are particularly vulnerable to violence and exploitation.

Donor funding is being used to expand existing programs and provide tuition for three years for 250 students. It is also supporting the purchase of new equipment and books used in the classroom as well as updated teacher training.

Deliver life-saving meals

More than 360 youth received nutritional support at Don Bosco Kansebula, located in Lubumbashi thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions.

Youth benefiting from this food were ages 6-22. Many are in secondary school and college, and there are 82 young Salesians studying at Don Bosco Kansebula. Single mothers from the villages also received this donation. The goal was to provide ongoing balanced nutrition for young Salesians and other vulnerable youth.

Don Bosco Kansebula also has a 44-hectare farm that supplies food for the Salesian formation house and to the village nearby. Since its beginning, Don Bosco Kansebula has provided young Salesians with philosophy education and has given them shelter and nutritional support while at the school. Villagers living near Don Bosco Kansebula have used the farm to cultivate food for themselves and the community.

In addition, the Oeuvres Maman Marguerite Center, located in Lubumbashi, received a shipment of rice-meals thanks to a partnership between Salesian Missions and Rise Against Hunger, an international relief organization that provides food and life-changing aid to the world’s most vulnerable. Bavon, age 14, is one of the youth who received the rice-meals. He is an orphan living at the Magone Salesian boarding center and attends sixth grade at a primary school nearby. His dream is to become a builder.

Improve health services

At the Don Bosco Ngangi Center in Goma, located in the eastern part of the country on the Rwanda border, more than 3,500 children and 1,500 refugees receive shelter, education, medical care and a nutrition program. The program also has a medical clinic that provides for the needs of those in the program and the surrounding community.

The Salesian medical clinic provides outpatient services and separate medical wards for general medical cases, pediatric care and cholera treatment. With two doctors and four nurses on staff, the clinic treats a complex array of life threatening illnesses and injuries, although often with limited medical supplies and equipment. The medical clinic also has a nutritional center for severe cases of pediatric starvation. The center provides intensive nutritional support to 150 severely malnourished infants, toddlers and children in the Goma area.

Over the last several years, the medical clinic has been able to expand its services to include lifesaving medical equipment and supplies. The addition of several oxygen concentrators allowed the clinic to more adequately provide for patients with tuberculosis and respiratory disease as well as offer suctioning for newborn infants, 30 percent of whom are born premature. The clinic was also able to add X-ray and EKG capabilities.

New construction also included a nutritional center moved into a new building, allowing the medical center to expand, doubling its square footage and making room for a dedicated surgery and endoscopy suite, dental and ophthalmology areas and expanded patient care areas.

In another program, Salesian missionaries are working to find ways to reduce newborn deaths and lower the risk to mothers. One of the primary preventive measures is to invest in health care workers, especially those working on the front lines, to reach the most vulnerable mothers and babies.

In collaboration with the National Program of Reproductive Health and the Provincial Medical Inspector of North Kivu, the Don Bosco Center in Goma-Ngangi launched new training sessions for medical staff that focus on newborn and maternal health. This new program is also supported by Salesian Volunteers for International Development.

The program’s training course has provided six sessions for over 100 doctors and nurses in Goma who are maternity specialists. Participants have explored issues related to prenatal consultation, support for pregnant women, childbirth and neonatal care. A focus of the training is working with medical staff to put the patient at the center of the medical system and to focus on the mother’s needs throughout the pregnancy and birth.

Afia Don Bosco Hospital, located in Lubumbashi, has a new generator to supply the hospital with consistent electricity thanks to donor funding. The hospital, which runs 65% of the time on a generator, experiences frequent power outages, which impacts its ability to provide proper medical care for patients. The hospital has 156 beds and specialized services including radiology, an emergency department, general medicine, internal medicine, pneumology, gynecological and obstetric, dermatology, dentistry, kinesiotherapy, pediatric, general surgery, neurosurgery, psychiatry, ophthalmology, oncology and more.

Respond to refugee needs

The conflict and violence in the North Kivu Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is still raging. People are caught between war and violence, leaving 5.8 million people displaced as of February 2023 across the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu and Tanganyika, according to UNHCR – the United Nations Refugee Agency. Since the beginning of October 2022, more than 28,000 people seeking refuge from violence have arrived at Don Bosco Ngangi, located in Goma. Salesian missionaries, with support of volunteers from the Salesian-run International Volunteering for Development (VIS), are supporting people as best they can.

Salesians have improved the physical situation by providing more access to water from the Don Bosco Center to improve sanitation and hygiene, installing lighting at the site, and creating a 12-person security team. Salesians have also distributed soybean and corn gruel to 365 displaced children and 357 adults, provided additional food and cooking utensils to 300 families, and gave tarpaulins to 120 families. Medical care has also been important. So far, 1,844 people have received medical care including 84 hospitalized and 32 transferred to other medical facilities. There have been 14 births.

Of those sheltering at Don Bosco Ngangi, 1,440 households received nutritional support from a rice-meal shipment. The donation is the result of an ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit Christian organization committed to “feeding God’s children hungry in body and spirit.” The rice-meals are helping to mitigate malnutrition issues that Salesians are starting to see, especially among children impacted by the conflict.


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Agriculture Training Programs

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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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