WORLD REFUGEE DAY: Educational and social programs aid refugees around the globe
Salesian Missions highlights educational and social programs that aid refugees.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 20, 2021) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in honoring World Refugee Day, held each year since 2001 on June 20. The day, which is coordinated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other international organizations, honors the plight of millions of refugees and internally displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes.
This year the theme for the day is “Together we heal, learn and shine” with a focus on how everyone needs to work together with refugees to help them access the services they need to build better futures. UNHCR noted, “People who have been forced to flee often struggle to find a doctor when they are sick. Far from home, they struggle to find schools for their children or even a place for them to run around and play.”
UNHCR has noted that a record of more than 80 million people had been forcibly displaced by mid-2020. Among them are nearly 26.3 million refugees, over half of whom are under the age of 18. Sixty-seven percent of those displaced come from the five countries of Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar. Turkey hosts the largest number of refugees, with 3.6 million people. Colombia is second with 1.8 million, including Venezuelans displaced abroad.
“In countries around the globe, Salesian missionaries are assisting close to 400,000 refugees and internally displaced persons whose lives have been affected by war, persecution, famine and natural disasters such as floods, droughts and earthquakes,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian programs provide refugees much-needed education and technical skills training, workforce development, health care, and nutrition.”
To mark World Refugee Day 2021, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that provide life-changing education and support for refugees and internally displaced people in need.
REFUGEES IN EGYPT
Salesian missionaries are able to offer training to assist refugees in gaining the skills needed for employment or self-employment in Egypt, thanks to funding from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) through a Salesian technical and vocational training center in Cairo. In 2020, 629 individuals were registered for technical and vocational courses and 60 for the micro-enterprise part of the project.
The project was first funded through Salesian Missions in 2014. To date, the project has improved the livelihoods and quality of life of more than 3,000 Sub-Saharan African and Syrian refugees and vulnerable Egyptians.
Rimonda Nadi, a sewing course student from Egypt, said, “After the course, I started to buy fabrics and make baby clothes. Then I started to put my products in different clothes shops for sale. This is something that brought me extreme happiness and pride because I can finally depend on myself and start to work.”
The project also provides life skills training, health awareness, entrepreneurship literacy workshops, job panels, seed grants, and violence prevention training to help refugees build the skills needed to succeed in the workplace and adjust in their new urban environments. One of the great successes of the project is the addition of social services, including transportation vouchers for travel to and from courses, fully funded for participants. Those engaged in the training are also provided vouchers to purchase groceries and other essentials from a local store. This helps to ensure that basic needs like nutrition are met.
Each participant also receives a primary care checkup and eye exam with a doctor who comes to the school. Some medicine prescriptions are included as are referrals for secondary care as needed.
REFUGEES IN PERU
Salesian missionaries in Lima, Peru, are working to accommodate migrants and refugees from Venezuela. In 2019, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asked Salesian missionaries to sign an agreement to set up temporary migrant assistance offices at the Salesian Institute, which is located in the Breña neighborhood of Lima.
Salesian Father José Valdivia, provincial economer of Peru, explained that the cooperation agreement was made through UNHCR. UNHCR has noted, “People continue to leave Venezuela to escape violence, insecurity and threats as well as lack of food, medicine and essential services. With over 4.5 million Venezuelans now living abroad, the vast majority in countries within Latin America and the Caribbean, this is the largest exodus in the region’s recent history.”
A total of 4.5 million Venezuelans had left their country as of mid-2020, according to UNHCR. This number includes 138,600 refugees, 808,200 asylum seekers and 3.6 million Venezuelans displaced abroad.
Salesian missionaries in Magdalena del Mar, Lima, opened the Don Bosco House for youth who arrive in Peru. They are offered food and accommodation. In support of the migrant assistance offices, youth from the Don Bosco House joined other young Venezuelan migrants and refugees who live in the Magdalena del Mar neighborhood to help set up the spaces. They worked with representatives from UNHCR.
REFUGEES IN UGANDA
Salesian missionaries living and working at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in Uganda have been able to provide food aid to 800 people at the camp thanks to funding from Salesian Missions.
Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp is currently home to more than 56,000 refugees and asylum seekers. It was officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. Several agencies are involved in providing food and education within Palabek. While some have left because of the pandemic, Salesians have remained.
Even before COVID-19, living conditions in Palabek were not easy. Food distribution was scarce and there were difficulties in accessing drinking water. With the arrival of the pandemic, everything has become even more complicated. The amount of food delivered to refugees once a month has been reduced by 30 percent, and classes and activities were suspended. UNHCR warns that unless urgent action is taken to address the situation, levels of acute malnutrition, stunting and anemia are expected to rise, especially among children.
In addition to providing food directly, Salesian missionaries are working to counter the food shortage through the cultivation of food including cereals, vegetables, and if possible, some cash crops such as sim sim, groundnuts and sunflower. The goals are to promote kitchen gardens of vegetables and fruits, hire land from the local Ugandans, and create agreements to work together with the host community. Salesians have provided several hundred kilos of maize, beans, soya beans, sim sim, groundnuts and many assorted vegetable seeds. They have also provided tons of cassava cuttings.
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