HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: Salesian Missions highlights programs that ensure youth understand their rights
Programs help poor youth receive an education, understand their rights and find a path out of poverty.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 10, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community 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.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 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.
This year’s theme is “Equality – Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights” and focuses on the fact that principles of equality and non-discrimination are at the heart of human rights. The U.N. notes that equality is aligned with the 2030 Agenda and with the U.N. approach set out in the document Shared Framework on Leaving No One Behind: Equality and Non-Discrimination at the Heart of Sustainable Development. This includes addressing and finding solutions for deep-rooted forms of discrimination that have affected the most vulnerable people in societies.
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 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,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesians 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 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 International participated in a meeting held by the Platform of Fundamental Rights, a body of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, based in Vienna, Austria. At the meeting “Human rights in challenging times—a way forward,” Salesians held the session “Promoting the rights of young citizens of third countries in alternative assistance services.”
The session, led by Renato Cursi, executive secretary of Don Bosco International, focused on unaccompanied foreign minors and young third-country nationals who received support, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Momodou Jallow, a young man from Gambia who arrived in Italy as a minor, spoke at the meeting. He told his intense boyhood story and the challenges he faced once in Italy. He also highlighted the opportunities he had thanks to Salesians for Social in Naples. Today, he loves soccer and studying, and he is active with volunteering. He has also recently started an internship.
Jallow’s testimony highlighted key points on issues related to welcoming children and young adult migrants, transitioning youth into adulthood, and the risks of leaving their social service supports. Jallow also gave voice to young migrants and to their experiences, and he stressed the importance of more support for youth. He continues to be engaged with his community and a voice for those in need, helping to collect and distribute food during the pandemic.
Salesian missionaries are giving hope for a better life to former child soldiers at the Don Bosco Vocational Training Center (Don Bosco Center) in Cali, Colombia. The country’s guerrilla warfare has caused more than 300,000 deaths and fueled the growth of powerful drug cartels. The Don Bosco Center provides a chance at rehabilitation for youth who have been ripped from their families at a young age and forced to shoot, throw bombs, or become servants of officers and sexually abused.
Upon arrival at the Don Bosco Center, youth are given a uniform and tools that correspond to the profession they have chosen to learn. More importantly, they are given a chance to reclaim their personal identity and begin to rebuild their self-esteem and trust in others.
Don Bosco Center has a team of professionals who help youth establish a training plan. Youth can take coursework to become electricians, industrial mechanics, automobile repair technicians, cooks, tailors, beauticians, welders, computer operators, accountants, librarians or commercial secretaries. Workshops serve as the cornerstone of development. Youth learn safety regulations, handle machines and products, and take life skills training to help personally and professionally.
Currently, five Salesians support 30 youth in the program. For security reasons, youth live at the center. Their names have not been deleted from the lists held by the guerrilla leaders, who aim to send them back into service or seek revenge for leaving. In the center, youth learn to re-adapt to normal living—sharing a meal with friends, having free time and understanding the rules of peaceful coexistence. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these youth stepped up and put their newfound skills to use creating masks for those in the city.
The Salesian Père Michael Training Center in Bamako, the capital and largest city of Mali, is bringing joy, providing education, and cultivating peace among children and older youth. The center keeps its doors open all day and provides support to hundreds of youth from the Niarela district and the outskirts of the city.
Youth come to the center to play sports, learn music or study at its library. The center provides a safe haven where youth have an opportunity to live, dream of a future, study, and learn the importance of being committed and collaborating in groups. They are able to express themselves freely and access the support of adults.
The goal is to keep young people, ages 12-25, away from the street and harmful habits such as alcohol or drugs. Instead, youth are offered an educational space during their free time which promotes cultural activities and allows the development of the values.
In November 2020, Bosco Global and the Municipality of Pozoblanco in Spain, launched a project to support the center. Over the last year, Salesian missionaries have been able to access sports equipment for the girls basketball team, set up a music training center, and organize health and hygiene awareness days to prevent diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle. Youth at the music training center are currently organizing an event in celebration of the year-long Bosco Global support project.
A new juvenile justice center for children opened at the Salesian Immaculate Shelter in Kara, Togo, in October 2019. The center is the result of the collaboration between UNICEF, the Togolese state and the Salesian community of Kara. The aim is to provide support to minors in trouble with the law, and it supports new Togolese regulations on juvenile justice.
The center’s official inauguration took place on Oct. 8, 2020 in the presence of various administrative and religious authorities. After the presentation of various guests, the moderator of the day presented the program to 40 participants.
In his welcome speech, the prefect of the City of Kara, Colonel Balai, praised the inauguration of the new center and thanked the Salesian community and UNICEF for their continuing efforts to provide education and rehabilitation to children in conflict with the law. The rector of the Salesian community of Kara expressed his gratitude to UNICEF and to the Togolese state and promised that the community will offer the utmost care to this project.
The center will provide judicial protection to child victims, witnesses, or alleged perpetrators of crimes, including through civil and administrative proceedings. Those responsible for juvenile justice have strengthened structures to ensure better implementation of the Code of Minors in accordance with international guidelines and standards on juvenile justice.
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