UNIVERSAL CHILDREN’S DAY: Salesian Missions highlights educational initiatives that bring hope to children around the globe
Salesian programs in Ethiopia, Guatemala, India and Nigeria 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, 2019) 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. This year also marks the 60th and 30th anniversaries respectively of the day in which the Declaration of the Rights of the Child was adopted in 1959 and the Convention on the Rights of the Child was held in 1989.
The theme of Universal Children’s Day 2019 is a continuation of the 2018 theme, “Children are taking over and turning the world blue.” This theme focuses on building a world where every child is in school, knows his or her rights, and is safe from harm. The day calls on global leaders to #GoBlue and commit to ensuring all children have access to education and are able to meet their potential.
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,” says Father Mark Hyde, 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.
The Bosco Children Project in Ethiopia rescues children from the dangers of the street. The project provides support and educational services in addition to an outreach orientation center and a hostel for youth, mostly boys, who are orphaned or live on the street.
The Bosco Children Project utilizes a three-step method for rehabilitation, including making initial contact with the children on the streets and building a relationship in an informal manner. This includes offering youth safe accommodation at the hostel where they can access meals, warm clothing, psychosocial counseling, and access to basic education and literacy classes.
When children are ready, and if they choose to, they are invited to formally take part in the next part of the program, which includes personalized care through counseling and specialized skills training in auto mechanics, carpentry, culinary arts, metallurgy, leather craft and more. Once training is complete, the project provides financial and career placement assistance, supporting the youth as they move on to become independent.
The Don Bosco Center, located in Tzacanihá, near San Pedro Carcha, Guatemala, has been welcoming children and youth from Raxruhá and the nearby city of Chamelco for 37 years. Father Antonio De Groot, founder of the center, lived and worked in Raxruhá before launching the center. This remote area, found at the edge of the forest, was almost inaccessible and had no basic services. The people in the region lacked basic education and lived primarily off the land.
One day, a young man asked Fr. De Groot if he could visit his home to help teach him how to read and write. Shortly thereafter, a second young man joined, then a third, and soon a small group had formed—all who wanted to learn. As the group increased in numbers, elementary structures were developed.
Today, the Don Bosco Center features beautiful and functional buildings and green areas. Salesian missionaries working at the center educate more than 1,500 students across three locations. The Don Bosco Center has been a true educational revolution within this geographical location.
The ability to attend formal schooling has highlighted the young students’ intelligence and attentiveness, their great desire to learn and their boundless energy. Many students who have succeeded in graduating from the Don Bosco Center have gone on to higher learning at the university level and are now working as professionals.
Salesian missionaries have been working with children in need in Jamtoli, located within the Indian state of Jharkhand, since 2012. The Salesian center, which is still small and under development, is dedicated to the education of children and older youth and the literacy of adults. Jamtoli is a tribal area lacking in social, educational, health and infrastructure opportunities. Here, every year, thousands of children aged 9-14 stop studying to work in the mines.
The people living in the Jamtoli area are extremely poor and mostly illiterate or semi-illiterate. They survive by practicing subsistence farming and animal breeding using rudimentary methods. Youth have very few opportunities to find stable employment and break the cycle of poverty common in the region.
Salesian missionaries bought 12 acres of land and have established some temporary housing for the Salesians on site and space for education. The goal is to build a formal school building with four classrooms where children and others in the local community can access education. The space would also be used for community gatherings and offer a play area for children.
More than 900 children, belonging to various tribal ethnic groups, would be positively impacted by this project along with 300 older youth and adults who could use the same space for literacy courses. The Salesian school’s long-term plan is to reach almost 1,600 children 5-14 years old.
Salesian missionaries in Onitsha, Nigeria, are establishing the Don Bosco Solar Energy Training Center thanks to donors from Salesian Missions. Donors have provided the funding for the materials, labor and staff for the new center.
The launch of this new Solar Energy Training Center is the first of a four-step process to develop a reliable and renewable energy plan in the region. The center will teach local youth the skills required to install and maintain solar energy systems and will also create job opportunities for the local community.
As the world faces growing environmental degradation and climate change challenges, there is a need to embrace sustainable development more than ever before. According to an article from Reuters, Nigeria has faced a population boom that has increased carbon emissions and stretched the country’s power supply. The country currently needs 10 times its current electricity to supply its 198 million people, half of whom have no access to power at all.
This new Salesian initiative will train poor youth in a sector that is highly sought after at this time in Nigeria. It will also provide the country with skilled labor to enable it to meet its renewable energy goals.
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