INTERNATIONAL DAY OF HAPPINESS: Salesian Missions programs empower youth
Salesian Missions highlights programs that empower youth, giving them a sense of well-being and happiness.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (March 20, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in celebrating International Day of Happiness, which falls each year on March 20. In 2011, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognized happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all people.”
The day is coordinated by Action for Happiness, a nonprofit movement of people from 160 countries, and is supported by a partnership of like-minded organizations. It was founded as a way to inspire, mobilize and advance the global happiness movement. In 2015, the UN launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty, reduce inequality and protect the planet—three key aspects that lead to well-being and happiness.
Each year, the International Day of Happiness focuses on a particular theme. This year the theme “Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind” is in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For youth to be happy and have a sense of well-being, they must feel valued and have their voices heard, especially now in this challenging time that we are all facing,” says Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Youth must also have their basic needs met. Salesian missionaries meet the basic needs of disadvantaged youth who often have nowhere else to turn. They provide education in addition to social and workforce development services to ensure a positive transition into adulthood.”
In celebration of International Day of Happiness 2021, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs that educate and empower youth.
Don Bosco House, located in Americana in the state of São Paulo, Brazil, recently provided more than 2,000 toys to children in need. The donation event was created to provide children a chance for play and happiness during this difficult time.
Don Bosco House has been in operation for more than 70 years and provides a range of services and programs to the community. The grounds include a library, science and computer labs, auditorium and mini-theater, playroom, music room, and arts room. Sports are also prominent at Don Bosco House, and it offers a swimming pool, multi-sports courts, soccer field, schoolyard and play space.
The school at Don Bosco House uses technology to aid education through digital didactic material with access to broadband for elementary and high school students. The goal is to provide advanced education to youth so they can continue to study in university or technical education programs to later gain employment and become self-sufficient.
The Don Bosco Child Protection Center in Lagos, Nigeria, is able to provide ongoing support for 25 boys thanks to funding received from Salesian Missions. The center cares for boys, ages 7-15, who were living on the streets, had faced physical abuse in their homes or were rescued from child trafficking.
The funding from Salesian Missions provided tuition and skills training, counseling and psychological care, medical care, and clothing for the boys. Some funding also went to support the operational expenses of the center for such items as fuel, internet access, stationery and toiletries.
Youth are first met on the streets in their own environment and provided moral and psychological support. After the first contact, the center collaborates with a rescue team, which includes police, the child protection office, welfare and the court, to bring youth to the Don Bosco Child Protection Center. The center is run by Salesian staff including two social workers, two teachers, a counselor, house staff and administrative staff.
Once youth are in the Don Bosco Child Protection Center, they are provided counseling, skills training and daily support. The goal is to help prepare them for the next stage of life. Family reunification takes place later if it is possible. Salesian staff members work with the family and each boy to help reintegrate him into family life and then follow up with the family to ensure that all is well and address ongoing challenges.
Don Bosco Technical and Vocational Training Centers in the southern Philippines are providing a blended learning environment for students and teachers during the 2020-2021 school year, thanks in part to funding received from Salesian Missions. The funding supported more than 500 trainees and 48 instructors in eight Don Bosco centers in Cebu, Negros, Iloilo, Eastern Samar in the Visayas Islands and Davao in the Mindanao Islands.
Don Bosco centers in the southern Philippines are committed to delivering blended learning this school year and in the future. Centers are working to reimagine educational opportunities to create a “new normal” that maintains and improves the quality of life of students.
With funding, recording rooms were set up in each of the Don Bosco centers for digital production of learning materials. In addition, the funding provided a trainee package comprising of a flash drive, printed modules, two washable face masks and one face shield. Trainees were also given a rent-to-own tablet, along with a food and accommodation subsidy.
The Don Bosco centers are providing a monthly internet incentive to instructors to facilitate online teaching, activities, and follow-ups, and there is internet connection for instructors. For instructors who do not have a device for online classes, rent-to-own laptops are being made available for two years interest-free.
Youth in Zambia had an opportunity for cultural exchange through arts programming thanks to funding Salesian Missions received from the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. The “Amplifying the Arts” project empowered vulnerable youth to tell their stories through American-inspired creative expression and to celebrate the diversity and unity of the human experience. The project also aimed to strengthen cultural ties between the U.S. and Zambia.
The project selected 120 youth, ages 15-25, to attend training. The training workshops introduced youth to songwriting, dance, a traditional instrument, poetry, painting and guitar lessons. A talent show celebration, which brought together more than 600 people, was held in February of 2020 to showcase what the youth had learned. Following the talent show, upwards of 160 children and youth began showing up to the workshops.
The program ran through March until the country went into lockdown because of the pandemic. During the lockdown, mentors used social media and other platforms to connect with the participants, sustaining engagement and attracting the youth to return upon re-opening. In-person workshops resumed in July with 70 to 80 attendees. Following safety precautions, participants began to work on their final art presentations. The project ended with an exhibition talent show for the community that brought together 336 spectators.
Participating youth, who came from challenging backgrounds and were vulnerable to at-risk behaviors, were encouraged to express their stories through music, spoken word and creative writing. Youth transcribed their stories into songs, artwork and poems to promote their voices through visual expression to a wider audience. They were also introduced to the basic principles and techniques of mindfulness and physical expression through yoga and other forms of mindful movement techniques that teach relaxation, discipline, and encourage a deeper sense of self-awareness as a means of encouraging self-expression and stress management.
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