Student volunteers from Salesian universities arrive in Tijuana
Salesian Center in Tijuana has been providing services to migrants and poor youth living on the border as well as refugees from Haiti
TIJUANA, MEXICO (Jan. 5, 2017) In December 2017, a group of Salesian university student volunteers from different locations across the United States, accompanied by Salesian Father Abraham Feliciano, arrived in Tijuana, Mexico to provide support for the Salesian Refectory Padre Chava, which assists migrants and people living in the streets. The volunteers contributed food they helped prepare and served it in the canteen to the many people in need.
The Salesian Refectory Padre Chava is located at the Salesian Center in Tijuana on the U.S.-Mexico border. The refectory provides meals and other assistance to migrants from Mexico, Central America and Haiti, as well as those who are homeless, the elderly, people with disabilities and those suffering from extreme poverty. Each day, 900 to 1,200 meals are served, and during Christmas, Easter and summer, the numbers increase.
Since 1987, the Salesian Center in Tijuana has been providing services to migrants and poor youth living on the border between Mexico and the U.S. The goal of the 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 Center acts as a hub for migrants who, besides much-needed material help, are also 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.
Those dreaming of being reunited with their families in the U.S. and those deported from the U.S. often arrive at the center with very little. The Padre Chava Refectory helps migrants obtain or manage their official papers and documents and plays a very important role in caring for the Haitian migrants who, in recent months, have flocked into Tijuana. In addition, Padre Chava acts as a hub for care packages, such as food and clothing, that have been sent as aid to those in Mexico in response to recent earthquakes in the country.
“Salesian missionaries in these communities continue to provide education, safety and the promise of a better future for youth in need,” says Father Mark Hyde, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Salesian students in the United States and across the globe often find opportunities to give back to others in need.”
According to UNICEF, there are 52 million people living in poverty in Mexico, approximately 45 percent of the country’s population. For children, the rate rises to just over 53 percent with more than 20 million youth estimated to be living in poverty and 5 million of those in extreme poverty.
Salesian missionaries in Mexico primarily direct their efforts toward the country’s at-risk youth, including girls and young mothers. Creating safe havens and improving educational opportunities are essential to deter youth from life on the streets where they are susceptible to drugs and gang violence.