Author: Salesian Missions

Publication Date: August 19, 2020

WORLD HUMANITARIAN DAY: Salesian Missions highlights humanitarian assistance in the face of the coronavirus pandemic

Programs in Burundi, India, Malawi and Peru illustrate the work of Salesians around the globe that support this year’s theme, which is focused on humanitarian work during the pandemic.

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Aug. 19, 2020) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in recognizing World Humanitarian Day. Celebrated every year on Aug. 19, World Humanitarian Day honors the humanitarian efforts worldwide that support people in crisis.

The day was established by the United Nations to recognize those who face danger and adversity in order to help others. It was designated to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the UN headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.

This year, World Humanitarian Day honors “#RealLifeHeroes” and their contribution to making the world a better place. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs noted, “The world commemorates humanitarian workers killed and injured in the course of their work, and we honor all aid and health workers who continue, despite the odds, to provide life-saving support and protection to people most in need.”

The UN also highlighted, “This year, COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge to humanitarian operations around the world. The lack of access and restrictions placed by governments around the world has resulted in communities, civil society and local NGOs being the frontline of the response.”

Salesian missionaries are on the forefront of humanitarian efforts, including the ongoing response to coronavirus, in more than 132 countries around the globe. They provide immediate assistance during humanitarian crises as well as help rebuilding communities and restoring livelihoods.

“Because our Salesian priests, sisters and lay volunteers live within the communities they serve, they are perfectly positioned to respond in times of humanitarian crisis,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Salesian missionaries are providing food, hygiene kits and other supplies. They have also launched campaigns to spread awareness and ensure that people are taking prevention measures.”

In honor and celebration of World Humanitarian Day 2020, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight humanitarian relief in countries around the globe.


The Salesian Parish in Rukago, Burundi, has access to hand-washing stations thanks to funding from Salesian Missions. This project, which benefited 65,000 people in the parish and local

community, provided hand-washing stations in eight churches, 15 schools and the Don Bosco Oratory.

“Installing hand-washing stations in front of churches, offices, schools and playgrounds is an effective means of fighting the coronavirus pandemic while giving the local population the hope of living,” said Father Raphaël Katanga, economer of the Salesian Community in Rukago. “With the funding, we have also supported some vulnerable families from a local indigenous group, who were at risk of facing food shortage due to the limited circulation of goods and people.”

Salesian missionaries in Rukago operate a parish, schools, a youth center and an orphanage. In November 2019 Salesian missionaries inaugurated a new building for the Maison Cana orphanage. The orphanage is managed by the Daughters of Mary – Our Lady of Cana and was founded in 1994 by Salesian Father Vital Minani, who today is the vicar of the Mary Mother of God house in Rukago. The building is a large two-story structure. The work began in 2012 with the ground floor and continued in various stages based on the availability of funds from various benefactors, mainly from the Salesian Congregation.


Bosconet, located in New Delhi, India, was able to provide food rations to those impacted by the coronavirus lockdowns in communities in Shillong and Assam. The support was made possible through the generous support of a Salesian Missions donor.

As a result of the lockdowns, many people lost their jobs, including migrant, contract and domestic workers, and daily wage laborers. Migrant workers were not able to travel back home to be with their families, and were stuck with no work, no proper place to live and no food to eat.

Bosconet stepped in to help and began distributing dry ration kits on March 25. Through the support of the Salesian Missions donor, Bosconet was able to reach 780 families from May 16-30. Temporary laborers in tea gardens and daily wage laborers were provided dry ration kits to ensure they had food to eat.

Bosconet has been helping underprivileged children, youth and women across India through quality education, market-oriented skill training and the provision of services to help youth achieve a sustainable livelihood. Bosconet has been providing support to those impacted by the coronavirus since the start of the lockdown. Whether it’s been increasing awareness about prevention of the virus, handing out masks or ensuring people have food to eat, the Bosconet staff has been on the front lines providing help to those most in need during this challenging time.


St. Don Bosco Parish in Lilongwe, Malawi, received funding from Salesian Missions donors to buy maize to help families in the out-stations of the parish. In total, 382 families received the maize. At the Don Bosco Church, 280 families from 28 small Christian communities benefited along with families connected to Salesian centers in Mbunu, Kundi, Kangonoma, Chipeni and more.

Father Mulenga Oswald, St. Don Bosco Parish priest, said, “We sincerely thank Salesian Missions donors for their support, which enabled us to reach out to needy families of our parish. Salesian Missions prompt response helped us to mobilize and assist the people that needed help most.”

In Lilongwe, Salesian missionaries provide many programs to help support poor youth and their families. The Don Bosco Youth Center offers counseling workshops, seminars and educational literature that addresses the multitude of challenges faced by youth in the region. The program focuses on life skills training and the avoidance of high-risk behavior such as substance abuse and gang participation.


The Don Bosco Foundation in Lima, Peru, supports community kitchens to help address issues of hunger in the region. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are 3.1 million people in Peru who suffer from hunger. The fear is that this number will rise considerably with the pandemic.

In almost all of Lima’s poor neighborhoods and in its city center, families organize to cook what is given to them, often using wood to light the fire and recycled materials. They share meals among families to help ensure people have enough to eat.

Don Bosco Foundation supports local initiatives to feed families and ensure they have their basic needs met. In the face of the pandemic, the Salesian response continues to be vigorous and tireless. Salesians have launched an awareness campaign to help educate people about coronavirus and prevention efforts. They have made and distributed masks, sanitary kits and food to people in need while supporting local efforts like community kitchens. Salesians continue to assess the situation in their centers and communities and provide relief to those most in need.


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