WORLD DAY OF MIGRANTS AND REFUGEES: Salesian Missions highlights life-changing programs
Pope Francis entitles message ‘Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay.’
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Sept. 24, 2023) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins Catholic organizations around the globe in honoring World Day of Migrants and Refugees. The day, celebrated on Sept. 24, will be the 109th celebration of the day, which was started in 1914 as a way to highlight and express concerns for vulnerable populations of people who have left their homes in search of safety and more opportunity.
Each year a theme is chosen for the day. This year, Pope Francis has chosen to entitle his annual message as “Free to choose whether to migrate or to stay.” In his message, Pope Francis said, “The decision to migrate should always be free, yet in many cases, even in our day, it is not. Conflicts, natural disasters, or more simply the impossibility of living a dignified and prosperous life in one’s native land is forcing millions of persons to leave.”
Further, Pope Francis said, “Persecutions, wars, atmospheric phenomena and dire poverty are among the most visible causes of forced migrations today. Migrants flee because of poverty, fear or desperation. Eliminating these causes and thus putting an end to forced migration calls for shared commitment on the part of all, in accordance with the responsibilities of each. This commitment begins with asking what we can do, but also what we need to stop doing. We need to make every effort to halt the arms race, economic colonialism, the plundering of other people’s resources and the devastation of our common home.”
Working in more than 130 countries around the globe, Salesian missionaries are on the front lines helping migrants and refugees in their new countries to become acclimated and access the resources they need.
Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions, said, “Salesian programs help refugees and migrants adapt to their new environment through language and skills training and workforce development programs. They also work to provide more opportunities for youth to remain in their home country instead of being forced to migrant for employment.”
To mark the Catholic celebration of World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2023, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that provide life-changing education and social support to refugees and migrants.
Haitian immigrants and those living in poverty in the Dominican Republic received healthy nutrition thanks to a partnership between Salesian Missions and Rise Against Hunger, an international humanitarian organization growing a global movement to end hunger.
The shipment of rice-meals was sent to the Don Bosco Salesian Foundation and then distributed to nine centers during the second half of 2022. The recipients, who work most directly with Haitian immigrants, included Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Montalvo Center, Santo Domingo Savio School Home, Our Lady of Altagracia Parish, Scalabrinian Association, Association of People with Physical-Motor Disabilities, Villa Juana Parish, Corazon de Jesus (Family Ministry) and the Cruz Jiminian Foundation.
Due to the current political crisis, there are many Haitian immigrants in the Dominican Republic. The donation of fortified rice has helped many families who are waiting for the necessary documentation to formalize their stay in the country.
In addition, many immigrants remain inside detention centers before they are deported back to Haiti. However, there is not enough space in the centers for all the people who are there. Receiving one meal a day is important for their health and provides great peace of mind for the authorities and organizations working with them.
Salesian missionaries in Egypt have been offering training to assist refugees in gaining the skills needed for employment or self-employment through the Sunrise Project for Cairo’s Urban Refugees and Vulnerable Hosts since 2014. The project continued during the September 2021-2022 funding cycle and was made possible thanks to funding Salesian Missions received from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). The project was facilitated through a Salesian technical and vocational training center in Cairo.
To date, the project has improved the livelihoods and quality of life of more than 3,000 Sub-Saharan African, Yemeni, and Syrian refugees, and vulnerable Egyptians.
Most recently, the training led to 498 trainees in the program and 375 successful graduates across 12 workshops. Of the graduates, 77% were refugees and 44% were women. Twenty-seven percent of trainees found formal employment. In addition, 80 trainees received a seed grant and one-on-one mentoring to start their own business. Of these trainees 75% were refugees and 69% were women. Salesians created a new method for the seed funding mentoring. Instead of an outside consultant coming in to work with the trainees, Salesians developed a business curriculum and utilized mentors acting as business trainers to build local capacity and provide trainees with a more customized and tailored approach.
Follow-up with those who had received seed funding over the previous three years found that more than 65% of microenterprises were still operational after 12 months. Twenty-one percent of respondents said their income was sufficient to meet their household needs and 17% said they had enough to save.
The Global Solidarity Fund project, set up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,* has helped improve the lives of more than 1,500 returning migrants, refugees and those internally displaced in the country, according to an article by the Vatican News. The project has brought together five religious congregations including the Salesians of Don Bosco, Salesian sisters with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Ursuline Sisters, Missionaries of Charity and Jesuits through the Jesuit Refugee Service.
Under the project, Salesian missionaries and sisters have been responsible for providing skills training and job preparation, something the Salesians are known for around the globe. Courses were offered in tailoring, fashion design, hairdressing, domestic help, leatherwork, welding, electrical skills, carpentry, IT, graphic design and printing. More than 70% of those who have taken courses have already found work and companies are excited for the skilled labor.
Abebech, an Ethiopian mother who arrived in Addis Ababa from Zwai in search of work, was taken in with her baby by the Missionaries of Charity. She then studied cutting and sewing at the Mary Help College of the Salesian Daughters of Mary Help of Christians and now works in a clothing company.
Salesian missionaries who remain in the Ukraine* and in surrounding countries like Poland and Slovakia are still hard at work caring for those who have been impacted and displaced. More than 8.1 million Ukrainian citizens, mostly women, the elderly and children, are living as refugees in other countries.
Salesian missionaries in Slovakia have been at the side of people in need since the first hours of the conflict, taking in orphans from Lviv and opening the doors to their centers to provide shelter for as many people as possible. Despite all the difficulties that a sustained effort entails, Salesians continue to care for them today.
Salesians have been providing basic needs like food, shelter and medical care. They are also ensuring education for youth and language courses for adults, so that they can become as self-sufficient as possible and find work to support themselves.
The psychological needs of refugees have not been overlooked. For youth, Salesians have tried to offer times of joy and peace and a sense of normalcy. For 47 orphans rescued from Lviv who were scattered among various homes, Salesians gathered them all during Christmas break to take them on a ski vacation and to enjoy time together.
*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.
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