INTERNATIONAL DAY OF INNOCENT CHILDREN VICTIMS OF AGGRESSION: Salesian Missions highlights programs that support at-risk youth and those dealing with trauma
Salesian Missions highlights programs that support at-risk youth and those dealing with trauma.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 4, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in honoring International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. Recognized on June 4 each year since its United Nations designation in 1982, the day acknowledges the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse.
The day 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.
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 support 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,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian missionaries help rehabilitate child soldiers and street children and provide education on child rights to ensure that youth have a sense of personal dignity and self-worth.”
In honor of International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression, 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.
More than 50 years of armed conflict between Colombia’s many guerrilla movements, as well as paramilitary groups and the Colombian government, have 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. 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 to give 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.
Whether working to provide rehabilitation to former child soldiers or assisting young women to overcome barriers to education, Salesian programs in Liberia are providing youth the opportunity to live up to their potential through both academic and social programs.
The Mary Help of Christians School in Monrovia provides a foundation of education and support for young students who would otherwise have limited opportunities to better their lives. The school started in 1993 and serves over 560 students. It includes a feeding program which serves just over 100 of those students, ensuring they receive a nutritious meal each day.
In addition to traditional schools in Monrovia, the Don Bosco Youth Center provides a foundation of education and support for students during its after-school program. This program gives former child soldiers and other young people the opportunity to experience some of the joys of childhood.
Through the program, youth participate in recreational activities and sports. They can also take part in a cultural troupe where they sing, dance, act, practice African acrobatics and perform at local functions. In addition to recreation at the youth center, participants have access to vocational training and academic courses as well as a women’s development program for women to learn self-reliance.
Salesian missionaries working in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, operate three oratories that sit on several hectares of land, each in different parts of the city. More than 5,000 people visit the oratories every week to access the programs tailored for people of all ages.
Ten years ago, Ciudad Juárez was the world’s most violent city with more than 300 murders a month. Drug cartels, killings and migration had become a deadly mix for thousands of young people. Salesian oratories are a refuge. The oratories in Ciudad Juárez open their doors at 8:30
a.m. and close late at night, offering a series of uninterrupted activities, seven days a week, 365 days a year. In the morning, activities and workshops are held for mothers while children are at school. In the afternoon, parents get a break while children are entertained and given a chance to learn.
There are also sports schools, martial arts sessions for children and adults, dance, circus workshops, painting and writing workshops, skateboarding lessons, parkour, free-climbing and zip line. Many of the children who had spent considerable time in the oratories growing up are now the educators and volunteers who give life to the activities taking place throughout the city.
Located in Sierra Leone’s capital city of Freetown, Don Bosco Fambul is one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations. It has been on the forefront of efforts to help save young women who have faced abuse and prostitution and to rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families.
The organization is directed by Salesian Father Jorge Mario Crisafulli and has a staff of 120, including Salesian social workers who go out to the streets, slums and marketplaces. They engage with vulnerable youth and encourage them to join Don Bosco Fambul’s successful program.
Don Bosco Fambul recently launched a therapeutic center with four large buildings, a clinic, accommodations for volunteers and social workers, a house for the Salesian community, and a chapel. Its inauguration was postponed due to the pandemic, but the center remains a safe and virus-free place. Salesians have already welcomed many minors in need.
The first lady of Sierra Leone, Fatima Maada Bio, chose the new therapeutic center to sign the “Agreement against Domestic and Sexual Violence against Girls and Adults”—an agreement among Don Bosco Fambul and national agencies for the protection of children in the fight against violence and child abuse.
Police agencies, lawyers and child protection agencies are working collaboratively with Don Bosco Fambul in the fight to protect children. Don Bosco Fambul’s clinic will be able to issue forensic reports on abused minors arriving at the center. In turn, police will be able to conduct investigations early and arrest the perpetrators.
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