Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: February 19, 2019

Tools of Love for Refugees in Uganda

Since April 2016, thousands of South Sudanese refugees have flooded across the northern Ugandan border into Palabek—where they join, as of now, at least 36,000 others seeking relief from violence, drought and famine in their own countries. Salesian missionaries working within the camp have provided physical and spiritual support for these refugees—the vast majority of whom are women, children and the elderly.

“It’s a challenging situation, both for the refugees, and for their host country,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “With more than 1.3 million people living in various camps around the country, Uganda currently hosts more displaced people than Greece, Turkey or any other country during the European refugee crisis.”

As we detailed in our August story, the four Salesian missionaries living and serving at Palabek have made impressive strides toward restoring dignity and hope to its residents—yet so much more needs to be done. One new initiative is a partnership between Salesian Brother Giacomo (“Jim”) Comino and retired businessman Flavio Filippi in Italy.

Having left his successful tool and hardware sales enterprise to his children, Mr. Filippi has now decided to direct his talents and resources toward Palabek—donating building equipment, tools and materials that missionaries will use to establish a new technical training school in the camp. Currently, Bro. Jim is arranging for a large container to transport the donations—which include metal, mixers, shovels, spades and a forklift—to Uganda.

The new school will serve a necessary, and dual, role: teaching willing youth and adults skills they can immediately apply to building projects in the camp. Currently, a lack of skilled workers and equipment means that many repairs languish and construction projects stall. Once trained, students will be able to earn some money building houses, schools, latrines and other important structures to make life more comfortable. They’ll also experience, perhaps for the first time in a long while, the pride of meaningful work.

“It is better to teach a person to fish, than to give them a fish,” says Bro. Jim. “This new initiative, borne of Mr. Filippi’s generous heart, represents an important step toward rebuilding ‘normalcy’—a normalcy that must go beyond the simple delivery of sacks of rice or powdered milk. It is an idea whose aim is to promote the dignity of living, and doing, in the community.”

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