INTERNATIONAL DAY OF INNOCENT CHILDREN VICTIMS OF AGGRESSION: Salesian Missions highlights programs that provide psychological and social support for children dealing with trauma
Programs in Colombia, India, Ivory Coast and the South Sudan illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe in helping children gain an education and overcome trauma.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 4, 2019) Salesian Missions joins the United Nations and other international organizations in honoring International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. Celebrated on June 4 each year since its UN designation in 1982, the day acknowledges the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.
It also affirms the commitment by the UN and the international community to protect the rights of children. This work is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the most rapidly and widely ratified international human rights treaty in history.
The International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression celebrates the millions of individuals and organizations working to protect and preserve the rights of children. 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 receive the supports they need in the aftermath of trauma and abuse.
Whether it’s providing social support, combating child labor or assisting the homeless, 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 child rights and psychological counseling which gives vulnerable youth a sense of personal dignity and self-worth.”
In honor of International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, 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.
More than 50 years of armed conflict between Colombia’s many guerrilla movements, with FARC and the National Liberation Army (ELN) being the most infamous, as well as paramilitary groups and the Colombian government, has left behind some 8 million victims. Thousands of children have been part of these armed groups, forced to fight and kill at a very young age. These children are also victims, having been robbed of their childhoods, exploited and faced with unimaginable violence.
Don Bosco City is one of the oldest and largest programs for street children in Latin America. It is estimated that close to 6,000 minors are still utilized as child soldiers with thousands more having reached their 18th birthday after years of combat. Don Bosco City’s long rehabilitation process focuses on three key elements – how to trust, to have hope for the future and to build relationships with others. Psychologists and teachers work together with participating youth giving them tools for a brighter future including providing basic education and more advanced skills training that will lead to stable employment.
Since its start in 1965, Don Bosco City has rescued more than 83,000 boys and girls. Through the program, Salesian missionaries offer a multi-pronged approach designed to address the broad social issues that contribute to the poverty and exploitation these youth face while training them in the skills necessary to break the cycle of violence and poverty. Currently, there are 900 youth between the ages of 8 and 12 living and receiving education at the program.
Don Bosco’s Prafulta Psychological Services, located on the campus of the Salesian St. Dominic Savio High School in Mumbai, provides psychological services to youth and families in the region. As a result of rampant poverty, child abuse and exploitation as well as high incidences of child labor, many poor youth in India face psychological and emotional difficulties. Often, parents are unable to deal with these problems at home so turn to school staff and teachers for extra support.
Don Bosco’s Prafulta Psychological Services was started in 1998 and provides psychological evaluation and diagnosis, professional counseling, career guidance, remedial education, psychiatric services and occupational therapy. The organization’s psychologists and other professionals offer these services to individuals, groups and families to help aid independent functioning and improve quality of life.
To help increase mental health awareness and meet the needs of children, Prafulta Psychological Services offers coursework and training for professionals, including teachers, to advance their skills in helping youth and their families in a school setting. A Basic Skills in Counseling for Teachers program provides 100 hours of training and helps teachers learn the skills to handle basic emotional and developmental issues in their students.
Salesian Missions donors have provided funding for the Don Bosco House in Abidjan, the economic capital of the Ivory Coast, to build a psychological care center where trained educators will help youth work toward emotional healing and well-being. The Don Bosco House provides programs for street children and other at-risk youth, many of whom have experienced abuse and violence.
The government of the Ivory Coast, in collaboration with UNICEF, conducted a study into child abuse in the country and found that 86.5 percent of children between the ages of 1 and 14 have been victims of violent disciplinary action including psychological, emotional or physical abuse.
Salesian missionaries have been working with poor youth and their families in Abidjan for more than 25 years. They provide social development services, education and workforce development to help youth break the cycle of poverty and become contributing members of their communities.
To help respond to the issues of violence against children, the Salesian community of Abidjan provides several programs and awareness activities related to the protection of children including launching this new psychological care center.
Thirty-five teachers from several schools, together with the staff of Don Bosco Radio, attended a three-day training session on trauma healing. Facilitated by a doctor working with Salesian missionaries in the Tonj State of South Sudan, the training was aimed at educating teachers and other Salesian staff on how to best solve different issues that affect the health of individuals in their communities.
The training is particularly relevant given the violence in South Sudan. The country gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 but is facing an ongoing civil war that started in December 2013 and has resulted in a dire humanitarian crisis. Responding to the ongoing civil strife is nothing new to Salesian missionaries in South Sudan who are dedicated to the programs and services they are providing across the country.
In addition to humanitarian aid, Salesian missionaries provide education, social development services, nutrition programs and health clinics for poor youth and their families. For some, the education offered at Salesian schools is the only opportunity to gain an education and the skills necessary for future employment.
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