WORLD REFUGEE DAY: Salesian Missions highlights programs that aid refugees and internally displaced
UNHCR estimates that global forced displacement has reached 103 million people.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 20, 2023) 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 on June 20 since 2001. The day, which is coordinated by the United Nations 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.
UNHCR estimates that global forced displacement has reached 103 million people. This includes 53.2 million people who are displaced within their own country and 32.5 million refugees. More than 72% come from five countries including Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, Afghanistan and South Sudan. UNHCR expects the number to climb to 117.2 million people who will be forcibly displaced or stateless in 2023.
“Salesian missionaries live among the communities they work in and are on the front lines of the refugee crisis. They provide support and services for 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 Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian programs provide much-needed education and technical skills training, workforce development, health care and nutrition.”
To mark World Refugee Day 2023, 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.
While the province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of the Congo* faces ongoing clashes that have been displacing thousands of people, Salesian missionaries continue with their work. The medical center at Don Bosco Ngangi in Goma just delivered triplets for Dorcas Ndibungo, who had a boy and two girls.
Ndibungo, age 36, has been at Don Bosco Ngangi since she was displaced in November 2022. She fled Kibumba village in the Nyiragongo territory north of Goma with her eight children. She has been seeking shelter at the center since then and was fortunate to have the medical center to aid in her pregnancy and delivery.
Initially set up to provide care for youth living at Don Bosco Ngangi, the medical center later began providing maternity, consultation, laboratory, hospitalization, prevention, pharmacy and nutrition services. This has been particularly important with the addition of 28,000 people who have sought shelter on the center’s fields.
The medical center has been transformed into an emergency hospital for thousands who have been displaced. The medical team includes a doctor, a laboratory technician, a physiotherapist, a clinical psychologist, two hygienists and five nurses. The team is providing both preventive and medical care for those who have been injured and have emergencies.
In the first two months of assisting those displaced, the medical center treated 1,702 people, and in the last week of February and the first week of March, care was provided for 766 vulnerable people. A total of 16 women gave birth, nine patients were referred to more specialized facilities and 18 were hospitalized.
Don Bosco Zeitoun, located in Cairo, Egypt, provides education and support to Sudanese refugees in the country. Work with refugees began in 2000 when several arrived at the Salesian organization hoping to celebrate Catholic Mass.
The Salesian community welcomed the refugees with open arms. Initially, the Comboni Fathers were responsible for working with the refugees but gradually that work transitioned over to the Salesian community.
Since space is very limited, Don Bosco Zeitoun Oratory organizes activities for refugees three days a week. An average of 250 children attend the oratory, and mothers have their own meetings. On the three days when not working with Sudanese refugees, the Don Bosco Zeitoun Oratory organizes activities for as many youth from the neighborhood as possible.
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.
Salesian missionaries with St. Vincent de Paul Parish are operating the Don Bosco Gumbo camp for internally displaced persons in Juba, South Sudan*. The camp, established in January 2014 after the outbreak of the civil war in December 2013, currently hosts 10,000 people, most of whom are women, children and the elderly. Salesians provide shelter, food, education, medical care and other basic needs.
In addition to the camp, Don Bosco Gumbo provides education for more than 4,000 children and older youth in its schools. There are two kindergartens, two primary-middle schools, an accelerated elementary school, a secondary school, and vocational training center which offers courses in electricity, mechanics, stoneworks-masonry, solar panel technician skills, welding and computer studies. More than 700 older youth gain skills for later employment through this training.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of people living in nearby villages had little or no access to face masks, hand sanitizers, and immunization. They also had little information about the spread of COVID-19, leaving the population at risk. Salesians worked to create awareness and provide information to create healthy practices to fight the disease.
*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in these countries 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.
Contact: [email protected]