An Ongoing Commitment to Youth and Families
Ten years after a brutal civil war first broke out in Syria, the Salesian Youth Center in Aleppo remains one of the few places left in the city to have consistent running water and electricity. This is just one reason why Salesian missionaries throughout the country continue to provide relief to those in need.
There are many children who have no concept of life outside of violent conflict. While the daily bombings that plagued Aleppo, Damascus and other big cities have waned, their heartbreaking legacy lingers—evident in the paths of destruction, death, displacement and fear etched deep into the psyches of impressionable youth. “In Syria, we all cry for a family member or a friend killed by bombs,” said Father Pier Jabloyan, director of the Salesian Youth Center. “However, hope has always been stronger than war, and the culture of peace has transformed the Salesian environments into safe havens.”
This transformation is due in no small part to the tenacity and steadfast commitment of our missionaries to those whom they serve. “When so many others abandoned Syria, our Salesians remained,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “It wasn’t an easy choice given the initial, and grave, danger to their own lives. But they knew that their presence would not only provide ongoing emergency aid, but also a desperately needed sense of stability amid the chaos.”
In many ways, missionaries in Syria continue to draw from the example set by their peers in Haiti who, for the past 11 years, have led the country’s recovery and reconstruction efforts following a devastating earthquake in 2010. “Our missionaries were among the first responders—providing shelter, clean drinking water, medical aid and a means to securely transport, store and distribute relief supplies,” says Fr. Gus. “And perhaps more importantly, because they had already been serving in Haiti for nearly 75 years at the time of the earthquake, they were not perceived as outsiders rushing in to help. They were trusted members of the communities they served—which is also true in Syria.”
This trust also helped struggling families in Syria during the global pandemic. Food costs have skyrocketed amid stringent lockdown restrictions, and people can’t afford even the most basic necessities. Education—one of most effective strategies for lifting families, communities and nations out of poverty and violence—is once again deteriorating under the stress. Few students are equipped to learn from home, which means many of them are falling further and further behind. From our three centers in Kafroun, Aleppo and Damascus, missionaries are providing food, financial assistance and educational support to as many as 2,200 school-aged youngsters each day. In true Don Bosco spirit, the Salesian missionaries have also established two new programs for students struggling with remote learning which will help 200 elementary school children and benefit 180 high school and university students.
“It is important that we remain supporting people in dire need in Syria,” explains Fr. Pier. “Even in the face of the global pandemic, we will remain focused on our mission of helping poor youth and their families.”
These youth and families are learning what it means to hope … once again.
Our mission supports education and brings hope, even during the toughest of times. What’s your mission?
Learn more about our work in Syria.