UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY: Salesian Missions highlights educational and child rights programs that bring hope to children around the globe
Salesian programs in Colombia, El Salvador, India and South Africa ensure that youth are able to access the education and social programs they need to have hope for the future.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Nov. 20, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in recognizing Universal Children’s Day. Celebrated each year on Nov. 20, the day was established in 1954 to promote international togetherness and awareness on children’s issues worldwide. To date, 194 countries have signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and are bound by international law to ensure it is implemented.
Through education and social development programming, Salesian missionaries in more than 130 countries around the globe are working to break the cycle of poverty and bring a sense of dignity to all those they serve. Missionaries are also working 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 making sure those in need have access to programs and services. With more than 5,500 Salesian educational institutions and youth centers around the globe, missionaries are educating 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,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian missionaries provide education on human rights which gives 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 Universal Children’s Day, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight initiatives around the world that ensure children understand their rights and are able to access education.
Don Bosco City’s protection program, Making Impressions, was established to help children understand their rights and to restore rights for those involved in child labor in the Amaga municipality in Colombia. This program was created in response to social issues that have arisen from the area’s coal-based economy. Many families in the region make their living in the coal mining industry and children are often sent to work in the industry rather than attend school.
Not only are young men and boys being sent to work, many young girls are also faced with labor exploitation and other abuses. Forced to work, they miss out on important opportunities for education leading them to become dependent on others. This puts them more at risk of abuse.
Salesian missionaries operating the Making Impressions program use an interdisciplinary approach when working with participating youth. They work as a team with volunteers who have knowledge of the local job market and are able to connect with youth in need. These early connections foster values such as understanding, sharing and mutual respect.
Youth in the program are able to access child rights education and use a library which serves as a quiet space for learning and studying. Participants can also take advantage of recreational spaces which help to make free time more productive and aid in building better relationships with peers.
Don Bosco University in Soyapango, El Salvador, has provided 33 students academic scholarships which will allow them to continue their higher educational studies. The students selected have shown an attitude of commitment and responsibility to contributing to the country’s socioeconomic and cultural development.
The students will take engineering and technical university courses. According to Don Bosco University’s secretary-general, Xiomara Martínez, the scholarships add to the university’s efforts to provide financial support to students whose families have been affected by the pandemic and who are at risk of discontinuing their university studies.
During the virtual ceremony to award the scholarships, Martínez said in a statement, “The assignment of 33 new scholarships on this day, in addition to the 459 already assigned, is an important milestone for Don Bosco University. Even during this crisis, we have always tried to support our young people, and it is of great satisfaction for us to be able to do that this year, facing so many adverse circumstances. We must appreciate the effort, commitment and courage that each of us has put forth to get through this moment.”
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 available thanks to Salesian child rights education programs offered through the CREAM project (Child Rights Education and Action Movement) which is sponsored by the Office of Development of the Salesian Province of Bangalore (BREADS–Bangalore Rural Education and Development Society).
The project was initiated in December 2012 to reach the most disadvantaged children in 10 districts in the Indian state of Karnataka, especially in high-risk urban and rural areas. The goal is to work with youth to build a culture of protection of children’s rights with an emphasis on improving the potential of minors. It also aims to ensure the sustainability of activities and results. The project has entered a second phase working to reach 150,000 youth through child rights education.
Salesian missionaries in Cape Town, South Africa, have been responding to COVID-19 with relief supplies, psychological support and prevention campaigns. In the early months of the pandemic, the Salesian Life Choices program, part of the Salesian Institute Youth Projects, phoned 900 people, sent 800 messages and reached over 50,000 users on Facebook with prevention messages to combat coronavirus.
The Life Choices program also provided remote psychological counseling sessions for adults and youth, professional orientation sessions for teens, and job search advice for their parents. Staff members have also provided 220 vouchers to families for the purchase of food.
As educational lessons have started again, Salesian missionaries are focusing their attention on ensuring students and teachers have the information and resources they need to help prevent the spread of the virus. Salesians have donated sanitizing equipment and approximately 1,000 liters of disinfectants to 30 different schools. They also operate a medical emergency hotline and provided 563 meal tickets.
The Salesian Institute Youth Projects in Cape Town restarted programming on June 1 when the minister of fundamental education announced that students could return to school. As a new school year starts, Salesians want to ensure that their programs are adhering to legal requirements and public health measures to keep everyone safe.
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