Special report: Human Rights Day
In honor of Human Rights Day, Salesian Missions highlights its unique educational programs that are helping poor youth around the globe
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 10, 2017) Salesian Missions joins the United Nations and other organizations around the globe in honoring Human Rights Day, celebrated each year on Dec. 10. Human Rights Day commemorates the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This year, Human Rights Day kicks off a year-long campaign to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This milestone document proclaimed the inalienable rights that everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being—regardless of race, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
According to the United Nations, the Declaration was written by representatives of diverse legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world. It sets out universal values and a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, as well as establishes the equal dignity and worth of every person. The theme of Human Rights Day 2017 is “Let’s stand up for equality, justice and human dignity,” which encourages all people to stand up for basic human rights for themselves and others. The campaign has been launched with the hashtag #StandUp4HumanRights.
Through education and social development programming, Salesian missionaries in more than 130 countries around the globe fight to ensure that all youth know their rights, are able to fully participate in their communities and have their voices heard.
Whether it’s combating child labor, assisting homeless youth or building schools where children previously had no access to education, Salesian missionaries are on the front lines educating youth on their rights and ensuring access to programs and services they need. Working in more than 5,500 Salesian educational institutions and youth centers around the globe, missionaries educate children in some of the poorest places on the planet.
“Education is always our primary focus, but we know youth are dealing with much more than just needing access to education,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian missionaries also provide education on human rights, which provides vulnerable youth a sense of personal dignity and self-worth. At Salesian schools, young children gain an education, learn about their rights and freedoms and participate in sports and other activities—all in a safe environment that encourages learning and growth.”
In honor of Human Rights Day, Salesian Missions highlights its unique educational programs that are helping poor youth receive an education, understand their rights and find a path out of poverty, bringing them hope for the future.
Don Bosco Foyer in Porto-Novo serves boys and girls in very complex situations, including youth who have been abandoned by their families, victims of abuse and those who are victims of forced marriages. The program is a residential home for children coming directly from the street. There children’s most basic needs are met, including shelter, proper nutrition, clothing and access to adults who help them feel safe and protected from the exploitation and violence many faced while living on the streets.
In May 2013, Salesian missionaries at Don Bosco Foyer launched a program as part of a European Union collaborative initiative called Development and Action in the Republic of Benin. The program focused on the protection of youth at risk in the areas of Littoral, Ouémé and Alibori. The four-year initiative culminated February 2017 and aimed to strengthen the collaboration and coordination of the state and non-state organizations engaged in the protection of children. It identified children at risk and offered them advice, education and the opportunity to be rehabilitated. In addition, the program created awareness among local authorities, community leaders and the general population on the protection of children and the need for community programs to safeguard children’s rights.
In a country where less than half of children finish primary school, more than 50,000 children have received the encouragement and support needed to complete an elementary education through the Don Bosco Children Fund since its inception in 1992. The Don Bosco Children Fund assists poor youth between the ages of 6 and 15 who are either unable to go to school or have had to drop out due to poverty. Through the fund’s program, youth not only receive support to continue their education, they also receive a monthly assistance package consisting of goods and cash. Social workers ensure that participants make progress and remain in school and those with special aptitude are further supported and encouraged to pursue college coursework.
Close to 100,000 children have been educated about their rights through 907 special clubs and courses offered in schools across India. This education is thanks to Salesian missionaries’ child rights education programs offered through the CREAM project (Child Rights Education and Action Movement–Action Movement and Education on Rights of Children), which is sponsored by the Office of Development of the Province of Bangalore (BREADS–Bangalore Rural Education and Development Society).
The project was initiated in December 2012 in order to reach the most disadvantaged children in 10 districts in the Indian state of Karnataka, especially in high-risk urban rural areas. The goal was to work with youth to build a culture of protection of children’s rights. The project also puts a strong emphasis on improving the potential of minors as well as ensuring the sustainability of activities and results. The project has launched into its second phase working to reach 150,000 youth through child rights education.
Since 1987, the Salesian-run Tijuana Project has been providing services to migrants and poor youth living on the border between Mexico and the United States. The goal of the project is to create an extensive educational network in areas where poor youth are at risk of social exclusion, exploitation and child labor. The project took shape through Salesian oratories and educational centers where children grow up learning to share faith, culture and sports within their communities.
Many border towns are plagued by crime and violence such as the illegal trafficking of drugs, weapons, money and people. Salesian missionaries have been working in Mexico and in these border towns for more than 25 years and have recently increased cooperation between the Salesian Province of Mexico-Guadalajara and the Province of USA West. The goal is to work together to address the increase of violence and insecurity in the region and launch proposals for education, social integration, drug prevention and combating the effects of organized crime.
Currently, the Tijuana Project is serving more than 9,000 people in six Salesian oratories, a parish and a public dining hall which serves food to close to a thousand homeless and migrant people every day. The entire project is facilitated by six Salesian missionaries with the help of volunteers, local collaborators and benefactors in both Mexico and the U.S.