HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: Salesian Missions highlights educational initiatives and child rights education
Programs in Columbia, India, Senegal, Sierra Leone illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe that support this year’s theme, which is focused on equality, justice and human rights.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 10, 2018) Salesian Missions joins the United Nations and other organizations around the globe in honoring Human Rights Day, celebrated each year on Dec. 10. Human Rights Day commemorates the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which has been translated into more than 500 languages. This milestone document proclaimed the inalienable rights that everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being—regardless of race, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
According to the United Nations, the Declaration was written by representatives of diverse legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world. It sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, as well as establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person.
The theme of Human Rights Day 2018 is “Let’s stand up for equality, justice and human dignity,” which encourages all people to stand up for basic human rights for themselves and others. The campaign has been launched with the hashtag #StandUp4HumanRights.
Through education and social development programming, Salesian missionaries in more than 130 countries around the globe work to ensure that all youth know their rights, are able to fully participate in their communities and have their voices heard.
Whether it’s combating child labor, assisting homeless youth or building schools where children previously had no access to education, Salesian missionaries are on the front lines educating youth on their rights and ensuring access to programs and services they need. Working in more than 5,500 Salesian educational institutions and youth centers around the world, missionaries educate children in some of the poorest places on the planet.
“Education is always our primary focus, but we know youth are dealing with much more than just needing access to education,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries also provide education on human rights which provides vulnerable youth a sense of personal dignity and self-worth. At Salesian schools, young children gain an education, learn about their rights and freedoms and participate in sports and other activities—all in a safe environment that encourages learning and growth.”
In honor of Human Rights Day, Salesian Missions highlights its unique educational programs that are helping poor youth receive an education, understand their rights and find a path out of poverty, bringing them hope for the future.
Don Bosco City’s protection program, Making Impressions, was established to help children understand their rights and to restore rights for those involved in child labor in the Amaga municipality in Colombia. This program was created in response to social issues that have arisen from the area’s coal-based economy. Many families in the region make their living in the coal mining industry and children are often sent to work in the industry rather than attend school.
Not only are young men and boys being sent to work, many young girls are also faced with labor exploitation and other abuses. Forced to work, they miss out on important opportunities for education leading them to become dependent on others while lacking the ability to take care of themselves. This puts them more at risk of abuse.
Salesian missionaries operating the Making Impressions program use an interdisciplinary approach when working with participating youth. They work as a team with volunteers who have knowledge of the local job market and are able to connect with youth in need. These early connections foster values such as understanding, sharing and mutual respect.
Youth in the program are able to access child rights education and use the library which serves as a quiet space for learning and studying. Participants can also take advantage of recreational spaces which help to make free time more productive and aid in building better relationships with peers.
Close to 100,000 children have been educated about their rights through 907 special clubs and courses offered in schools across India. This education is available thanks to Salesian child rights education programs offered through the CREAM project (Child Rights Education and Action Movement) which is sponsored by the Office of Development of the Salesian Province of Bangalore (BREADS–Bangalore Rural Education and Development Society).
The project was initiated in December 2012 to reach the most disadvantaged children in 10 districts in the Indian state of Karnataka, especially in high-risk urban and rural areas. The goal being to work with youth to build a culture of protection of children’s rights with an emphasis on improving the potential of minors as well as ensuring the sustainability of activities and results. The project has entered a second phase working to reach 150,000 youth through child rights education.
Salesian missionaries in Senegal operate an “Action to combat irregular migration through support of local development in the Tambacounda Region” project in Tambacounda, a town of 80,000 people. This is part of the broader “Stop Human Trafficking” campaign Salesian missionaries are operating in several African countries.
In Tambacounda, there are few opportunities and prospects, especially for young people who represent the large majority of the Senegalese population and serve as a primary source of support for families. Many youth leave the area in search of opportunity but can fall victim to exploitation and trafficking.
The project is part of an initiative by VIS and Don Bosco Missions in Turin, Italy to develop projects and launch awareness campaigns to both stop and educate about the dangers of migration related to human trafficking. With a focus on youth leaving countries in Africa in search of a better life in Europe, the campaign aims to prevent young migrants from becoming victims of crime and exploitation.
Salesian missionaries have been serving in Sierra Leone since 2001 when they began working to rehabilitate former child soldiers. In the years since, Don Bosco Fambul, located in the country’s capital city of Freetown, has become one of the country’s leading child welfare organizations—offering food, clothing, crisis intervention services, shelter, educational opportunities, long-term counseling and family reunification.
Don Bosco Fambul reaches out to an estimated 2,500 street children in the region each year. Transformation for street youth starts with Salesian rehabilitation and reunification programs operated at Don Bosco Fambul. The success of the street children rehabilitation program is credited to the organization’s holistic approach focusing on meeting basic needs (food, clothing and a safe place to sleep) as well as personalized medical, psychological, pedagogical, social and spiritual care. The gradual rehabilitation process includes formal classes, daily games, sports, music, singing, drama, dancing, counseling and prayer. Parents and extended families are contacted several times by social workers before final reunification.
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