Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: October 18, 2019

From a Life of Despair … Into a Future of Hope

Adriana arrived with nothing but the shoes on her feet and the clothes on her back. At just 17 years old, she had already endured displacement, destitution and discrimination at levels that no one should ever have to experience. She had slept on the street, begged for money and engaged in petty theft in order to eat. The emotional scars of her experiences ran deep, but all were about to be healed—a journey that began at Borgo Ragazzi Don Bosco in Rome.

It was 2013, and Adriana had been referred to the Child Reception Center of Borgo Ragazzi Don Bosco for a job training and placement program: an opportunity she never could have dreamt about as a young gypsy girl. For centuries—their customs and lifestyle misunderstood and demonized—gypsies have been excluded from mainstream society and its accompanying rights, privileges and opportunities. Sadly, for Adriana’s family, their experience was no different. As they moved from country to country around Europe, searching for a place to feel welcomed, she and her siblings struggled to fit in. They were unable to pick up local languages, make friends or receive a basic education during the brief periods of time they were in school.

“Gypsy life,” Adriana explains in a recently published story in the Vatican News, “I never liked it, because it is a difficult, hard life, and as a teenager it is even harder. You’re dealt a lot of blows.”

Adriana’s mother decided to leave the constant upheaval and the lack of social support behind by integrating her family into regular Italian life. Soon, Adriana began school at Borgo Ragazzi Don Bosco, where teachers and staff organized broad-based assistance to get the family on its feet. And that’s how Adriana landed at the Child Reception Center.

Beginning with literacy training and Italian-language classes led by Salesian missionaries and lay colleagues, Adriana worked toward her diploma while dreaming of a career as a cook. Thanks to the Salesians’ relationships with local employers, Adriana secured an internship at a small café, where she learned the ins and outs of the kitchen while developing the “soft skills” that contribute to finding employment, such as being neatly dressed and arriving on time.

Today, thanks to this transformative experience, Adriana—who is now 23 years old—supports herself, her mother and her younger siblings with the income she earns working in a local bakery. With Don Bosco’s invisible hand holding hers, she has successfully leapt from a life of despair, into a future of hope. “I made that jump and I’m happy!” she says.

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Photo Source: Vatican News

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