INT’L DAY OF SPORT FOR DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE: Salesian Missions highlights socio-sport programs
2023 theme focuses on the impact of sports on sustainable development and peace.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 6, 2023) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in celebrating the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, which is celebrated each year on April 6. The United Nations General Assembly designated the day in 2013, and it has been celebrated each year since 2014. The adoption of this day signifies the increasing recognition by the U.N. of the positive influence that sports have on the advancement of human rights and on social and economic development.
This year’s theme “Scoring for People and the Planet” focuses on the impact and influence of sports on sustainable development and peace. In a statement about the day, U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed said, “Sport has the power to align our passion, energy and enthusiasm around a collective cause. And that is precisely when hope can be nurtured and trust can be regained. It is in our collective interest to harness the tremendous power of sport to help build a better and more sustainable future for all.”
Salesian missionaries provide sports programming in schools and youth centers in more than 130 countries around the globe. “Sports programs are important for social integration and the promotion of values like teamwork, communication, respect, and team spirit,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Learning and playing team sports encourage leadership skills as well as teach youth to work as part of a team. Students also learn important social skills and have opportunities for growth and maturity.”
In honor of the International Day of Sport for Development and Peace, Salesian Missions highlights sports programs in countries around the globe.
Salesian Liceo Manuel Arriarán Barros School, located in La Cisterna, Chile, inaugurated a new multifunctional sports complex. The sports complex features two courts for volleyball and tennis, two basketball courts, a handball court, and a multi-court for other sports. The entire complex is equipped with lighting for evening activities.
At the inauguration event, Father Marcela Yánez, rector of the school, said, “In this place, we have a genuine Salesian space for meetings, sports and joy. Sports are important for youth development and that is why when we started improvements on the school, we set the courtyard among our priorities.”
Don Bosco Youth Center in Rundu, Namibia, has a renovated a children’s playground thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. Prior to the renovations, the playground was in a dilapidated state and dangerous, leaving children without a place to play and connect with their peers.
With the donor funding, Salesians were able to buy renovation materials and paint. The children who attend the youth center come very poor families and some of them have been abandoned. Since the launch of the primary school, close to 120 children use the playground each morning before school. On the weekends, 180 youth attending programs at the youth center utilize the playground. To safeguard the playground, Salesians have asked the school to contribute a small amount of money toward the maintenance.
Don Bosco Youth Center was opened in 2002, and provides shelter and services for homeless youth. The center offers computer classes for 65 students, preschool for 70 children and school for 104 students who have dropped out of formal education. In addition, more than 80 youth attend the daily oratory activities including sports programming.
More than 300 youth, ages 5-17, play sports and learn values thanks to the two social-sports schools the Real Madrid Foundation set up in Senegal with the collaboration of the Salesian Mission Office in Madrid. The programs are hosted at Salesian schools in Thies and Tambacounda. Most of the project’s participants come from local Salesian centers.
The partnership between the Real Madrid Foundation and the Salesians began in 2010 in Senegal and continued to schools in Central and South America. The first social-sports school was in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2012, social-sports schools opened in Portugal. Today, the collaboration has 21 projects in 14 countries and serves nearly 4,000 children each season, using educational sport and its values as a catalyst for the social betterment of youth and communities.
Both the Real Madrid Foundation and the Salesians are aware that sports are important for social integration and the promotion of values like teamwork, communication, respect and team spirit. The social-sports schools are housed in Salesian schools. As part of the Real Madrid Foundation’s “They play, we educate” program, participants receive nutrition, family and psychological support, regular health checkups, the opportunity to participate in social and educational workshops, gymnastics, crafts and reading, and citizenship activities. Training sessions on topics such as health, hygiene, values, and the prevention of alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse are also provided.
Don Bosco Ben Cat Youth Center, located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, held its summer basketball tournament in May 2022. This tournament brings together 38 teams and more than 300 young players who show off their skills during the competition. Salesian schools and youth centers value sports education to help youth on and off the playing field.
Salesian schools, services and programs throughout Vietnam are helping to break the cycle of poverty while giving many young people hope for a more positive and productive future. Salesian vocational and technical schools equip students with the skills they need to compete in the local labor market by offering courses that lead to employment in construction, hotel management, electrical and mechanical engineering, computer science, and other fields. Many Salesian students are school dropouts seeking a second chance.
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