Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: April 06, 2024

INT’L DAY OF SPORT FOR DEVELOPMENT AND PEACE: Salesian Missions highlights sports programs

Salesian missionaries provide sports programming in schools and youth centers.

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (April 6, 2024) 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 “Sport for the Promotion of Peaceful and Inclusive Societies” focuses on how “prominent sporting bodies engage in partnerships to make positive impacts for people and the environments in which they operate.”

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 countries around the globe. “Sports programs empower youth as well as educate them about teamwork, tolerance and respect,” said Father Michael Conway, director of Salesian Missions. “Learning and playing team sports teach important social skills while giving youth 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 missionaries started the Yankuam Jintia Soccer School in February 2020 in the Wichimi community in Ecuador. This was the first school of its kind for the Achuar community, an Indigenous population in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The school was developed by Father Agustín Togo, a member of the Wasakentsa community, who saw an opportunity to use soccer to educate and teach about Catholic values.

Four years later, the school has had a positive impact on the community. The school has provided an opportunity for youth to connect with their peers, learn important life lessons and do something productive with their free time. The one school has now grown to seven. Soccer schools are available in Wichimi, Patukme, Wasakentsa, Sapapentsa, Karakam, Wampuik and Wachirpas. The number of participants has also grown from 80 to more than 700 youth.

The soccer schools encourage participation and growth in sports skills. Fr. Togo explained, “Through soccer, which is so important in the life of the Achuar population, children learn values such as respect, discipline, responsibility and teamwork. But it is also a way for young people to meet God.” Fr. Togo organizes opportunities for prayer, confessions and celebrations when he has the chance to be with youth in the schools.

To strengthen the bonds between Achuar communities, soccer leagues have recently been organized in the under12 category. The operation of the schools is made possible thanks to the collaboration of people from the community who volunteer to conduct the training sessions. They are also responsible for the care of the equipment provided by Salesians in Ecuador and around the globe, including Salesian Missions.


Salesian missionaries with Salesian Redentore Amateur Sports Association, located in Bari, Italy, have won the “Sport of All Neighborhoods” competition under the “Sport and Health” category in a plan from the Ministry of the Economy. The “Redentore. The sport that regenerates smiles for life” project was approved and will provide two years of sporting, recreational, educational, and free activities for close to 500 children, older youth and the elderly.

The project will take place at the Salesian Redentore Center in the Libertà district of Bari, on the eastern outskirts of the city. The district has a population of 60,000 inhabitants, the largest multi-ethnic population and the highest percentage of minors undergoing criminal proceedings in the region of Apulia.

The project includes sports courses for youth and specific activities for those over age 65, including people with disabilities. Other activities that aid study, outdoor multi-sport summer centers, food availability, education and film groups will be supported by volunteers of the Universal Civil Service.


Salesian Missions Madrid in Spain, with the Salesian St. Stanislaus Kostka Province in Warsaw and Don Bosco Ełk, both in Poland, signed a collaboration agreement with Ciudad Real Madrid to establish a new Real Madrid Foundation socio-sports school. The school will help more than 100 at-risk youth, many of whom are refugees who have escaped from the conflict in Ukraine.

The Don Bosco Ełk socio-sports school will be the 21st project between Salesian Missions Madrid and the Real Madrid Foundation over the last 13 years. The first socio-sports school began operating in June 2010 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In 2012, social-sports schools opened in Portugal. Today, the schools train more than 4,500 youth every year in 15 countries on three continents.

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, 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.


The Don Bosco Youth Center in Lviv, Ukraine*, has started soccer training for young soldiers who have returned from the front lines and were injured fighting in the war. These young men have lost limbs and are rising to the challenges of their new lives. The plan is to develop soccer training so that the team can be involved in national and world competitions.

A Salesian explained, “Unfortunately, the war is bringing pain and suffering to all Ukrainian people. Many of those who went off to defend their homeland have lost their lives. Those who have come home will face disabilities for the rest of their lives. Salesians want to support them and help them deal with a difficult period in their lives, as well as help them reintegrate into society.”

Salesians hope to one day build a youth sports center on a block of land they already own. The field will be used for various sports and would be available for everyone in the city to utilize. The sporting activities will be aimed at young ex-soldiers who have been injured as well as children who have suffered amputations and have disabilities due to the war. The center will be designed to be inclusive and easily accessible to all.


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