INT’L DAY OF PEACE: Salesian Missions highlights life-changing educational programs
2023 is also 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Sept. 21, 2023) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in recognizing the International Day of Peace, observed on Sept. 21 each year. The United Nations General Assembly declared the International Day of Peace as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
This year’s theme “Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for the #GlobalGoals” recognizes individual and collective responsibility to foster peace and aims to bring the world closer to having more peaceful, just, and inclusive societies, free from fear and violence.
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said, “Peace is needed today more than ever. War and conflict are unleashing devastation, poverty, and hunger, and driving tens of millions of people from their homes. Climate chaos is all around. And even peaceful countries are gripped by gaping inequalities and political polarization.”
The U.N. noted, “2023 is also the 75th anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. IDP 2023 encourages all youth to be ambitious in their engagement as positive and constructive social agents, to join the movement to reach the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and contribute to building sustainable peace. Together we can help to lead our world towards a greener, more equitable, just, and secure future for all.”
Salesian missionaries provide social development and educational programs to youth and families in poverty regardless of gender, race or religion. They are on the forefront of trying to level the playing field for poor youth so that they have the skills and supports needed to gain an education and the skills needed for future employment.
“Around the globe, Salesian missionaries are feeding and educating impoverished children and those who have faced violence and war,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “We are working to change their lives and their communities and put youth on a path to becoming fully contributing members of their communities.”
St. Dominic Savio Youth Center, located in Tema New Town, a neighborhood in Tema, Ghana, provides a place for street children to seek shelter, live comfortably and access mainstream education at nearby schools. At the center, which was established in 2003, youth receive a range of support to help them recover from their life on the streets and prepare for a brighter future.
The center provides daily education where youth learn reading, writing, comprehension and simple mathematics. They are also provided a hot lunch in the afternoon.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the center’s oratory was closed to prevent the spread of the virus. It was finally reopened and oratory activities have resumed. Each Friday, children from different schools come together to play and are assisted with their homework.
At the end of 2022, youth at the center were taken on an excursion as part of the curriculum activities and to see beautiful places in Ghana. The 2022 trip was to the Chill River Resort. A Salesian noted, “The trip was so refreshing, and the children were very happy.”
Students and vulnerable community members in Haiti received healthy nutrition thanks to a partnership between Salesian Missions and Rise Against Hunger, an international humanitarian organization growing a global movement to end hunger. The shipment was received by the Salesian-run Rinaldi Foundation and then was distributed to The Immaculate Parish and Cité Soleil schools in Port-au-Prince.
The Immaculate Parish in Drouillard, one of the oldest housing projects in Cité Soleil, is located in a very fragile neighborhood where the presence of state authorities is totally absent. It is an area ruled by armed gangs that impose their law on the population and fight among themselves, which limits the Salesians’ ability to travel. Often community members leave their homes to take refuge in public squares or at a friend’s house.
Father Victor Auguste, economer of the Rinaldi Foundation said, “The greatest challenge during this period was the insecurity around the country caused by the gang activity, especially in Port-au-Prince. Much of Haiti was shut down, making it difficult for people to move around safely. Parents were unable to bring their children to school or to participate in other activities, so this time we also distributed food to older women living in the community since they were in need and we were able to reach them.”
Salesian missionaries at the St. Joseph Vocational Technical School in Khartoum, Sudan,* have been forced to leave the school due to the advance of paramilitaries and the ongoing insecurity in the area. Salesians and students have taken refuge several kilometers away. Sudan has been struggling with a bloody internal war that broke out after weeks of power struggles.
According to the World Health Organization, there are more than 900 dead and more than 6,000 injured. More than 2.2 million people have been forced to flee their homes. International organizations report several cases of brutal violence, looting and killings. The situation is dire and close to 11.7 million lack access to food, water, shelter and medical care according to the United Nations.
In addition, there are only a few hospitals that remain open in Khartoum. Some have been occupied while others have closed. Many have been bombed. Sudan has been beset by wars for decades, including the conflict in Darfur in 2003 and the devastating humanitarian crisis that followed. It is also in a very unstable region with many neighboring countries having suffered major political upheavals and conflicts, causing millions of refugees.
Salesians across the country have been responding, providing support for the most vulnerable including women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and those suffering from severe malnutrition. The three Salesian centers operating in Sudan are the St. Joseph Vocational Technical Center in Khartoum, St. Joseph’s in Kalakala and the Don Bosco Vocational Technical School in El Obeid.
February 24 marked one year since Russia invaded Ukraine* in a major escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Since that time, 2,700 schools have been bombed and more than 5.5 million schoolchildren have seen their education disrupted by the war. More than 8 million people have fled the country as refugees, according to UNHCR – the United Nations Refugee Agency. Nearly 18 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian aid.
Since the beginning, Salesian missionaries have been supporting people who remained in the country and those who fled to neighboring countries for protection. Salesians in Poland and Slovakia, among those in other countries, have welcomed refugees and provided shelter, food, medical support and education. Convoys of medical aid have also left Poland to help Salesians who are sheltering people in Ukraine.
Thanks to the aid received, some Salesian schools in Ukraine have been able to remain open and provide education in emergency situations by building shelters and providing support for water, electricity and gas supplies. There is also some psychological support for students, teachers, and families, while some school costs are being covered.
Sixty-six Salesian organizations from five continents have supported more than 100 projects. Projects include the construction of emergency shelters, support to refugees abroad and internally displaced persons, and educational programs and activities for children and youth. There is also a special emergency plan to cope with winter, as well as aid to affected communities with essential medicines, vehicles, field kitchens, food, clothes, tents, blankets and other specific forms of aid requested.
*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.
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