INT’L MIGRANTS DAY: Salesian Missions highlights programs that support young migrants
Youth often leave their homelands in search of employment, education and a better way of life.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 18, 2022) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in honoring International Migrants Day. Each year, International Migrants Day is held on Dec. 18 to recognize the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide.
Youth often leave their homelands in search of employment, education and a better way of life. Many choose or are forced to migrate to escape poverty, violence, or conflict, or they are displaced due to the effects of war or climate change. The United Nations notes that youth are heavily represented in migration for humanitarian reasons including as refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors.
According to the U.N., there were 280.6 million global migrants in 2020, representing close to four percent of the world’s 7.8 billion people. In the last decade alone close to 60 million more people became international migrants. This has been driven by labor and family migration.
Migration slowed during the global COVID-19 pandemic but increased back to current levels in 2021 and 2022, once the lockdowns ended and vaccines became more widely available. People are on the move once again in search of work, better education and humanitarian protection.
Salesian missionaries care for and provide educational services to young migrants in countries around the globe. Unaccompanied migrant youth often face rejection, homelessness, exploitation and delinquency as they make their journey to find a new way of life. They are also at risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
“Salesian programs help migrants have an easier transition into their new communities through language and skills training and workforce development programs,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian missionaries are also working to create new educational and employment opportunities in countries youth leave as an incentive for them to remain at home.”
To mark International Migrants Day 2022, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that provide life-changing education and social support to migrants.
The Salesian-run Casa Betania, located in San Benito Petén, Guatemala, welcomes thousands of people every year, most of them migrants in search of a better life. Children, youth, adults, pregnant women, families, and the elderly find support and relief thanks to a group of volunteers.
One of these volunteers, Rosa Forlán, said that in the three weeks she worked at the Salesian facility she witnessed the tragedy experienced by thousands of people. She said, “Esteban arrived with his feet seriously injured by the long walk. Matias was picked up at the door, dehydrated, almost dying, and it was necessary to call for medical assistance. Hours later, Maribel arrived, a single mother with two children under 8, and Julia, with her three daughters. The eldest, aged 11, had a hand injured from a fall on the way across the border. I also met Luis, who appeared alongside Oscar, Lucas and William, who said they were unemployed, but with a desire to work and improve despite their poor education.”
Every day, Salesian volunteers listen to stories of migrants who arrive exhausted and tired, due to the high temperatures, hunger and thirst. At Casa Betania, they receive accommodation, food, rest, psychological assistance and other services.
Don Bosco Job Placement Network has been helping migrants find and retain safe and secure jobs, helping to mitigate challenges with migration. Recently, more than 400 youth who are skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled were provided with job opportunities across several business sectors through the network.
Don Bosco Job Placement Network has focused efforts on helping migrants in Ranchi, the capital of the Indian state of Jharkhand. The goal is to provide skills training and connect them with jobs in the formal labor market. Through Don Bosco ITI in Ranchi, youth attend courses and gain the skills they need. Once they graduate, the Don Bosco Job Placement Network can help them gain employment in fields that are hiring.
Recently, the network organized six placement drives which connected graduating students and migrants to partners from different employment sectors including manufacturing, hospitality, customer service, health services, financial services and IT.
The Salesian Tijuana Project has been providing services to migrants and poor youth living on the border between Mexico and the U.S. for 34 years. The Salesian organization is divided into eight programs including five oratories, two educational institutions and a public meal program, known as the Salesian Padre Chava Refectory. Salesian services are located in the city’s most vulnerable and high-conflict areas. Every month, 30,000 people access food, medical and psychological services, legal advice, sports, cultural activities, and basic education.
The goal of the Salesian Tijuana Project is to create an extensive educational network in areas where poor youth are at risk of social exclusion. The project took shape through Salesian oratories and educational centers where children grow up learning to share faith, culture, and sports within their communities.
The Salesian Tijuana Project also acts as a hub for migrants who, besides much-needed material help, are offered a familiar and welcoming environment. They can access haircuts, a change of clothes, a shower, and an opportunity to call and make contact with families. The Salesian center also has a partnership with the Red Cross and local volunteer doctors who offer psychological and medical help and assistance.
The “Stop Trafficking” campaign launched activities to promote development and reduce migration in East and West Africa. The project activities focused on youth in Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau.
The project provided access to education through scholarships and work grants so that youth were prepared for employment in the current labor market. The project also provided kits to allow participants to start micro-enterprises in strategic sectors.
The project strengthened the existing formal and informal psycho-social care that young migrants receive when they return back to their home countries to help them reintegrate into their communities. It also provided them with the resources to connect to education and employment in their own countries to reduce the need for migration. Finally, the project raised awareness among youth about the risks of migration. The work was done through a series of radio campaigns and cultural events, including theatrical performances, film screenings, and debates.
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