Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: September 08, 2019

INTERNATIONAL LITERACY DAY: Salesian Missions highlights literacy and educational initiatives for poor and at-risk youth

Programs in Brazil, El Salvador, India, and the Solomon Islands illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe who focus on ensuring youth have access to literacy education.

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Sept. 8, 2019) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in celebrating International Literacy Day. Celebrated each year on Sept. 8, the day was launched in 1967 to “remind the public of the importance of literacy as a matter of dignity and human rights and to advance the literacy agenda towards a more literate and sustainable society.”

The theme for International Literacy Day 2019 is “Literacy and Multilingualism.” The day is also an opportunity to join in celebrations for the 2019 International Year of Indigenous Languages and the 25th anniversary of the World Conference on Special Needs Education.

UNESCO notes that, “Despite progress made, literacy challenges persist, distributed unevenly across countries and populations. Embracing linguistic diversity in education and literacy development is central to addressing these literacy challenges and to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

“Salesian missionaries focus educational efforts on literacy and an array of other foundational skill-building initiatives, including learning English language skills,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian programs aim to provide youth with the education needed to find and retain long-term employment in order to help them break the cycle of poverty and contribute back to their families and communities.”

In honor and celebration of International Literacy Day 2019, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs with a focus on literacy and that give poor youth a chance to gain an education.


Salesian missionaries operate a school in Marauià, a small village overlooking a tributary of the Rio Negro deep in the heart of the Brazilian Amazon forest. The area is populated by the Yanomami, one of the ethnic groups that lives within the Amazon. Salesian missionaries have been assisting this population for 100 years, ever since missionaries first arrived in this inaccessible and unexplored region.

The school in the village was built in 2011 but was seriously damaged in 2017 by a hurricane. After almost two years of immense difficulty, Salesian missionaries are now working to renovate the building to give the 128 elementary to middle grade students attending a better school environment. Currently, students are divided into three shifts—morning, afternoon and evening—to be able to accommodate all of them.

A new project, backed by the Salesian Missions Office (Missions Don Bosco) of Turin, Italy, is providing the funding to enable Salesian missionaries in Marauià to renovate the school roof which was torn apart during the 2017 hurricane, and reinforce the foundation, floor and exterior facade. The project is making the school safer for the students and is meaningful for the community.


The Salesian-run FUSALMO is offering an opportunity for youth to attend a new training course for call center employment. Held at the Don Bosco Youth Integral Program sports complex, operated by FUSALMO, in the municipality of Soyapango, El Salvador, the six-month course focuses on English language skills and offers specific workshops targeted to call centers. At the conclusion of the course, support is offered in finding employment in the call center sector.

According to statistics from the Foundation for Higher Education, the unemployment rate among young people aged 15 to 29 in El Salvador is 11.8 percent which is much higher than the national unemployment rate of 7 percent. Programs at FUSALMO are targeted to help youth, often at risk of gang violence, to find and retain employment.

FUSALMO offers traditional and non-traditional educational opportunities for at-risk youth. Through recreational programs, enrichment opportunities in the arts and music, vocational training and more, youth are encouraged to stay off the streets, learn to cooperate and co-exist, and gain the skills they need to become productive, contributing members of a more peaceful society. Founded in 2001, the organization has positively impacted the lives of more than 265,000 children and their families.


More than 200 youth have access to a better school environment thanks to Salesian Missions donors. Funding was provided to update eight classrooms at the Don Bosco Literacy Center, located in the village of Bualpui in India’s Mizoram State near the Myanmar border. The school’s classrooms consisted of dilapidated sheds that did not make for a conducive learning environment. The new facility, built with donor funding, is providing a structured learning environment for primary school children to focus on literacy and other school subjects.

One of the key challenges facing youth in India is the lack of education and the skills required to find and retain stable employment when they are older. Salesian missionaries provide youth access to primary education so that they can acquire the basic skills needed for later vocational and technical training or university. Salesian-run programs throughout the country have helped hundreds of thousands of vulnerable youth through the years, and this work continues today.


The Don Bosco Technical Institute Henderson, located in Honiara, the capital city of the Solomon Islands, launched a new project in 2019 to provide education to children living near the Ranadi dump site in a suburb east of Honiara. The families who live there experience high rates of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy and most spend their days at the dump collecting materials that can be recycled.

Children are very often working with their parents which prevents them from regularly attending school and receiving an adequate education. Due to the unsanitary conditions of the dump, the hygiene of these children and their families is precarious and negatively impacts their health.

Since March, Salesian missionaries have been teaching courses to children, between the ages of 4 and 13, to help them read and write and to refine their calculation skills. Upwards of 70 students attend these lessons. Courses are also organized for older children who want to specialize in welding. manufacturing or work in the hotel sector. To date, there have been about 25 applications to participate in these lessons.


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