On International Youth Day, Salesians Review their Service among Young People in Africa

Logo for the International Youth Day 2020
Credit: United Nations

On the occasion of the International Youth Day (IYD) marked Wednesday, August 12, the leadership of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), has reviewed the various support initiatives that benefit young people around the globe, including Africa.

In a report shared with ACI Africa, officials of Salesian Missions highlight capacity building initiatives by SDB members in the West African nations of Benin and Liberia.

“In many countries where poverty is high and access to education is not universal, it is crucial Salesian missionaries offer technical and vocational training to as many youth as possible to ensure they have access to long-term stable employment,” Salesian Missions Director, Fr. Gus Baek says in the August 11 report.

The Salesian missionaries who run educational institutions, the Director says, “also work to ensure youth understand and know their rights and have the confidence and opportunity to ensure their voices are heard.”

In Benin, the US-based development agency supports homeless, abused and abandoned children through Foyer Don Bosco Centre in the Catholic Diocese of Kandi in the Eastern part of the country.

“Foyer Don Bosco serves boys and girls in very complex situations, including children who have been abandoned by their families, victims of abuse and victims of forced marriages,” Salesian Missions Media Representative, Hannah Gregory says in the August 11 report.

Through funding from Salesian Missions, the Centre has educated more than 3,700 people on the rights of children and the child protective systems, Ms. Gregory has reported, adding, “This included educating parents about the rights and duties of children, alert mechanisms, and early detection of vulnerable situations in children.”

To date, the Centre in Benin has been able to care for 77 children, reinsert 50 children into the programs and reintegrate another 50 children with their families, the New York-based official has reported.

With the support of Salesian Missions, SDB missionaries at Foyer Don Bosco in Benin have facilitated the teaching of school children and apprentices about their rights and duties, as well as about personal hygiene and whistleblowing mechanisms in the event of abuse, violence and exploitation, the Media Representative has reported.

Other activities undertaken at the Centre include public awareness events in the markets and on the radio about the country’s criminal law in the context of abuse, trafficking, mistreatment or exploitation of children, as well as training local authorities’ officials and religious leaders about their role in the protection of children, the August report indicates.

In Liberia’s capital, Monrovia where members of SDB have been ministering in Parishes, youth Centres, schools and oratories since 1979, Salesian Missions supports various schools such as Mary Help of Christians School and Don Bosco Technical High.

Mary Help of Christians School, which is run by Salesian Sisters, provides a foundation of education and support for young students who would otherwise have limited opportunities, Ms. Grgeory says in the August 11 report.

Started in 1993, the school serves about 560 students, with more than 100 of them benefitting from the institution's feeding program that is funded by the Salesian Missions.

To supplement current educational efforts, Ms. Gregory reports, Don Bosco Technical High launched a vocational training course for electronic-technicians in 2019 that is available to 90 high school students and 30 uncertified electricians each year.

The course is open to the high school students in the afternoons and to young workers in the mornings “to help them obtain certification to improve their options in the workforce,” the Salesian Missions official says.

“The launch of the electro-technician training was part of an initiative that included the renovation of existing space at Don Bosco Technical High School to transform it into a workshop,” Ms. Gregory says.

The initiative, she explains, “aimed to respond to the needs of the labor market while ensuring youth have access to vocational and technical training that assists them in finding long-term stable work.”

Established by the UN to raise awareness of issues affecting young people around the world, the IYD 2020 is being marked under the theme, “Youth Engagement for Global Action.”

The theme “seeks to highlight the ways in which the engagement of young people at the local, national and global levels is enriching national and multilateral institutions and processes, as well as draw lessons on how their representation and engagement in formal institutional politics can be significantly enhanced.”

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

Father Don Bosco Onyalla
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