INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: Salesian Missions highlights programs that promote inclusivity and remove barriers to education
Programs in Cambodia, El Salvador and Ghana illustrate the Salesian commitment around the globe to ensuring equal access to education for people with disabilities.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 3, 2019) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring International Day of People with Disabilities. Since its inception in 1945, the United Nations has outlined and reiterated its commitment to calling for the creation of inclusive, accessible and sustainable societies and communities. In 1981, the UN proclaimed Dec. 3 as a recognized day for the celebration of the achievements of people living with disabilities across the world.
It is also a day to promote awareness of the challenges faced by the more than 1 billion people—roughly 15 percent of the global population—living with disabilities, and the role communities and societies play in accelerating the eradication of barriers to social inclusion, equity, participation and citizenship.
This year’s theme “The Future is Accessible” calls on everyone to work together and look toward a future where the barriers that stand in people’s way no longer exist.
“Children living in poverty with a disability are even less likely to attend school when compared to their peers,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “Youth with disabilities have the same ability to achieve as their peers if given the opportunity. Salesian missionaries in programs around the globe initiate projects that pave the way for advanced research, learning and innovation that aid inclusion of people with disabilities.”
Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs that advance inclusivity for persons with disabilities on International Day of People with Disabilities 2019.
Youth with disabilities attending Don Bosco Technical School in Kep City, Cambodia, have wheelchairs and a new elevator thanks to Salesian Missions donors. Don Bosco Kep has been in the process of making broad changes to ensure that students with disabilities are able to access an education.
In addition to these donations, in January 2015, Don Bosco Tech was awarded a grant from the Office of American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (ASHA) at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to make changes to the school’s buildings and dormitories to ensure they are accessible for students with physical disabilities. The school also received funding to aid the construction from Don Bosco Bonn and the Sawasdee Foundation.
Don Bosco Kep, which has 250 students, 40 of whom live at the school, began welcoming students with disabilities in 2013. School administrators were concerned that the campus was not as accessible as it could be for the new students to access all of their classes. Often students would have to rely on their friends for assistance getting to classrooms on higher floors and into dormitory living, making them feel like a burden.
With the 2015 USAID funding, Don Bosco Kep made modifications to the school, including the construction of ramps to access areas for community gatherings and the creation of a student and teacher residence with all of the modifications that allow those with physical disabilities to live and attend school independently. The funding also supported creating accessible bathrooms and the purchase of equipment to aid the learning environment for youth with disabilities.
Don Bosco University in San Salvador, El Salvador, is empowering the next generation of medical rehabilitation practitioners to transform the lives of people with mobile disabilities through its “Walking Anew!” project. This project was made possible thanks to a grant from USAID’s ASHA program secured by Salesian Missions.
The “Walking Anew!” project, which runs from March 2017 to March 2021, is expanding and upgrading the facilities at Don Bosco University’s School of Rehabilitation Science as well as the equipment used to train medical rehabilitation professionals. The project will also pioneer innovative techniques in the treatment of people with disabilities.
To date, the “Walking Anew!” project’s construction phase for the facility at Don Bosco University is in process. Included in this phase is the development of a two-story building that will hold new and expanded laboratories, practice centers and classrooms on the first floor, and a new Applied Research Center for collaboration with the U.S. on the second floor. The new building will implement photovoltaic electricity to promote conscientious energy use and reduce carbon emissions at the global level and will be constructed under LEED parameters of the U.S. Green Building Council.
The project will also entail upgrading 50 percent of the current technology used and acquiring new and modern equipment for the four SRS laboratories that teach and apply rehabilitation techniques for people with disabilities. The laboratories to be updated include an existing mobility laboratory, an existing orthotics and prosthetics laboratory, a new podiatry laboratory and a new specialized practice laboratory.
In April 2019, Don Bosco University celebrated its 59th graduation ceremony with 829 students receiving their professional master’s, bachelor’s, engineering, technical or teaching degrees. Of these students, 30, including 19 women, graduated from the orthotics and prosthetics departments.
Salesian missionaries in Ghana have launched a new project to ensure youth with physical disabilities who are facing situations of social disadvantage have access to vocational education. The four-year project is sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Africa Action/Deutschland and Engagement Global.
The goal is to create better and more suitable infrastructure, training, school management and educational engagement in communities in order to provide equal access for youth with disabilities in Northern Ghana. To date, infrastructure improvements for four schools have been completed and one school is in the process. In addition, training programs have been held for school managers and teachers about children with disabilities and inclusive education. Awareness campaigns and an international meeting on inclusive education have also been launched.
There are six schools that are engaged in the project including St. Basilide’s Technical/Vocational Institute, St. Mary’s Vocational Training Institute, Sawla Girls Vocational Training Institute, St. John’s Integrated School, St. Bernedette’s Technical Institute and Sandema Senior High/Technical Institute. All of these schools are located in communities within Northern Ghana.
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