WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY: Salesian Missions highlights initiatives that care for and protect environment
Youth have launched important projects to help their communities and beyond.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 5, 2022) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in celebrating World Environment Day held annually on June 5. World Environment Day has the theme of #OnlyOneEarth and “calls for collective, transformative action on a global scale to celebrate, protect, and restore our planet.” The day is a reminder that there is only one Earth and it takes a collective to make real change.
“Salesian missionaries have an ongoing focus on the environment in their organizations around the globe,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “This has been driven by Pope Francis’ 2020 Laudato Si’, which underlined the importance of education and training that will help youth foster environmental responsibility. As a result, youth have launched important projects to help their communities and beyond.”
Even prior to the Pope’s call for action, Salesian missionaries launched the Don Bosco Green Alliance, an international collective of youth from Salesian institutions and organizations. Membership is open to all Salesian institutions and organizations worldwide. It began April 2018.
The Alliance’s priorities are combating pollution, reducing global warming and eliminating disposable plastics. In each of these areas, it aims to partner with ongoing global campaigns promoted by U.N. Environment or other international organizations.
Members of the Alliance have also undertaken such initiatives as environmental education to increase green areas and planting trees, the reduction of the use of non-degradable materials, promotion of organic agriculture and home gardens, preservation and conservation of water, and increasing the use of renewable energy sources.
In honor of World Environment Day, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian green and restoration efforts in countries around the globe.
Salesian missionaries with Don Bosco Youth Institute in Karjat, India, cultivated land and planted fruit trees, spices and medicinal plants. Don Bosco Youth Institute, a skills training center for poor youth, is located on a 67-acre property. Most of this property is hilly terrain, which has patches of thorny bushes that often catch fire during the hot summer season. For several years, this property was left unused and barren.
To raise funds for the project, Salesian missionaries launched the “Care for Creation – I will plant a forest” campaign and invited donors to sponsor a plant. In return, Salesians offered them free camping facilities for two days, which the donors and their families could use twice a year for three years.
Several donors came forward and dedicated large areas of the land to their loved ones. As a result, Salesians have created a flower valley, consisting of 33 varieties of flowering plants, and two mini forests with nearly all of the Indigenous trees from the region. The property also provides employment for a few people from the local tribal villages. To date, there are 7,323 trees planted including fruit trees, forest trees, spice plants, bamboo and flowering plants. Salesians aim to reach 10,000.
Don Bosco Youth Association, part of Don Bosco Dungalpitiya in Sri Lanka, organized a beach clean-up day. Youth had not been able to gather at the youth center during the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first time they were able to come together, they wanted to do something for the environment.
While cleaning a stretch of beach 1.5 km (approximately 1 mile) long, they picked up 100 plastic bags and 125 bags of miscellaneous waste. Local police supported the initiative and they provided instructions to the youth volunteers. The plastic collected was donated to an orphanage that will sell it to a recycling company, earning a profit for the orphanage’s livelihood.
Salesian missionaries have been operating in Sri Lanka since 1956. In 1963, missionaries set up their first technical institute. Since then, they have established 17 more in locations across the country, as well as youth centers and other programs to help youth in need.
Salesian Father Philip Gboa has launched a new Climate Club in Lungi, a small coastal town in the Port Loko District of the Northern Province of Sierra Leone. The club will be open to the more than 6,000 youth in the local Salesian schools and youth center and will have a focus on environmental education and activities. The goal is to start the club with at least 60 youth. Ten volunteer teachers at St. Augustine Agricultural Secondary and Junior Secondary Schools will facilitate the program.
While there have been some initiatives launched by the government, such as a last Saturday of the month cleanup, Fr. Gboa reports that the environment doesn’t stay clean long. He wants to teach children how to care for the environment and instill in them the knowledge of why it’s so important in order to have the greatest long-term impact.
The Climate Club will run three days a week and offer youth educational sessions and activities that will teach them about the environment and allow them to put those lessons into action. As an incentive to take part, Fr. Gboa said that youth who become ambassadors will be eligible for financial support to cover 50 percent of their university fees.
The Salesian-run St. Francis de Sales High School and College, located in Montevideo, Uruguay, is launching a bachelor’s degree in integral ecological education. The objective is to help youth understand environmental impact and their role in helping to preserve the environment.
The curriculum of the bachelor’s degree is structured around care for the person and quality of life, care for others, and care for our planet. The activities proposed will allow the exchange between young students and reality so that they can acquire the necessary skills to take care of their lives and the planet.
St. Francis de Sales has been in operation for 114 years. Four years ago, it developed an initiative known as “Bumerang” aimed at strengthening environmental awareness among students and educators. In addition to workshops to raise awareness, the initiative also focused on waste separation.
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