Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: September 01, 2023

Higher Goals at Don Bosco Farm

“When I was little,” says 17-year-old Henri, “I wanted to be a goalkeeper.” Not an unusual fantasy for a young boy raised under the shadow of Ecuador’s Estadio Bellavista, home to three top-tier professional soccer teams. Yet it was never a given that Henri could have dreamed of playing sports—or anything else for that matter.

Enter Don Bosco Farm in Ambato.

Although he doesn’t remember the exact circumstances of how he arrived there—Henri wasn’t even five years old at the time—it’s likely because of physical abuse that he suffered at home.

“It’s heartbreaking to even contemplate, but my colleagues in Ambato report that Henri has scars on his right hand from long-ago burns,” explains Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Fortunately, as with many of the children who live at Don Bosco Farm, the court intervened with a protective order and asked our missionaries to take Henri in.”

That’s because of an agreement that first started in 1984 between the Salesians and Ecuador’s National Institute of Children and Families. Under this partnership, Don Bosco Farm provides a safe space for traumatized kids to recover from their experiences; learn about their basic rights; practice how to live respectfully and cooperatively with others; explore their interests and abilities; and realize their potential through education and skills training. Recreational opportunities provide a healthy outlet for children dealing with complicated emotions, including feelings of anger and loss.

“Sports programs help children better integrate socially,” Fr. Tim explains. “They promote values like collaboration, communication, respect and team spirit. That’s why so many Salesian-led programs around the world include sports and recreation as a core offering.”

Henri first hatched his plan to become a professional soccer player while enjoying the game at Don Bosco Farm. Now, as he enters his final year of high school, he’s aiming for even bigger goals.

Henri still enjoys soccer but making a living from it is no longer his life’s purpose. “Now that I attend technical school, I want to go to university and have a military career,” he says. He also aspires to get married, have children, and leave a positive mark on his family and the world.

If the leadership skills he exhibits at Don Bosco Farm are any indication, Henri is well prepared to score on all of these points and more.

“Here they teach us to be self-sufficient for tomorrow. I applied to be a leader at the ‘citizenship school’ and took a two-year course to be a mediator between young people and educators. I try to find solutions to the problems that arise on a daily basis,” says Henri.

Henri is another success story — and there are thousands more thanks to caring people, like you.

Learn more about our work in Ecuador.

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