Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: January 09, 2024

Keeping Vulnerable Kids Safe in the Dominican Republic

Nearly two-thirds of children younger than 14 in the Dominican Republic experience some form of physical, psychological or verbal abuse at home. This violence, driven by poverty, regularly leads many of them to the streets. And that’s why Salesian missionaries in Santo Domingo created the “Protect Childhood” campaign.

This initiative aims to raise public awareness of child mistreatment through educational workshops, forums and other activities designed to spread the message that everyone is responsible for keeping youth safe.

As award-winning filmmaker Raúl de la Fuente highlights in his latest documentary, Canillitas, far too many families throughout the country struggle to adequately feed and shelter themselves. And the daily stresses of barely getting by can easily lead to patterns of abuse that are difficult to break. As a result, many children choose to spend time outside the home, where they risk even greater dangers including drugs, forced labor, and trafficking.

That’s why, for over 35 years, our missionaries and staff at the Boys and Girls Don Bosco Network have worked to promote children’s rights and protect Santo Domingo’s most vulnerable youth. To date, more than 60,000 young people and 25,000 families have found the resources and support they need to put violence behind them and build better futures. “Protect Childhood” is the latest, logical extension of these efforts—and prominent organizations have taken note.

For example, representatives from UNICEF participated in the campaign’s inaugural forum, titled “The current reality of childhood in the Antillean country: challenges and tasks to guarantee the rights of children and adolescents.” With support from the National Council for Adolescence and Childhood of the Dominican Republic, “Protect Childhood” offered another forum on the theme “Public policies in favor of children: tasks and challenges for their implementation.” And the international NGO, Coalition for Children, collaborated on a third forum covering best practices.

“Salesian missionaries in the Dominican Republic provide more than traditional education. They aim to provide for the whole person, so youth can develop in a productive and healthy environment,” says Father Michael Conway, director of Salesian Missions. “This campaign represents a small step toward protecting children’s rights, but it’s a significant one. The more people we can educate about the issue, the better chance we have of addressing it for good.”

“Protect Childhood” joins a variety of other Salesian-led initiatives in the Dominican Republic to ensure that youth have their basic needs met and the opportunity to learn skills that enhance their lives, bring them joy, and encourage their passion for learning.

Learn more about our work in Dominican Republic.

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