On International Day of Persons with Disabilities, Salesians Highlight Programs in Africa

Logo of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) marked December 3.

On the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) marked Thursday, December 3, officials of Salesian Missions, which is the U.S. development arm of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), have highlighted their programs that support people with special needs in the world, including Africa.

In the world’s second largest continent, Africa, members of SDB are supporting people living with disabilities in the East-Central African nation of Burundi and the West African nation of Sierra Leone, a December 3 report shared with ACI Africa indicates.

In Burundi, plans are underway to establish a vocational center to aid in the social integration of people living with disabilities, a project that members of SDB serving at Rukago Parish of Burundi’s Ngozi Diocese will implement.

SDB members and representatives of the local community have already held a meeting “to discuss ways in which the community could support those with disabilities, including by offering vocational training so that people could live a more independent life,” Salesian Missions officials say in their report shared with ACI Africa ahead of IDPD.

“As Salesians work to roll out new vocational training, they have begun a search for funding for the purchase of sewing machines and other equipment to be used in the training,” they further say and add, “The course offered will provide a certificate of professional qualification upon completion.”


Since the primary objective of this new initiative is the social integration of people with disabilities, the Salesian community is also providing recreational, sporting and cultural activities that help people with disabilities to develop self-esteem, build identity, and maintain physical and mental health, the leadership of the Salesian agency says in the December 3 report.

In the West African nation of Sierra Leone, SDB members serving at Don Bosco Fambul, one of the country’s leading child-welfare organizations, recently launched a therapeutic center for abused minors, officials of the development agency have reported.

Salesians at the therapeutic center located in the Archdiocese of Freetown have already welcomed many minors who have suffered physical and sexual abuse, they add in the report.

“Often the injuries these youth sustain as a result of the abuse can lead to both physical disabilities and mental health challenges,” officials of the New York-based SDB agency observe.

Security agencies, lawyers and child protection agencies are working collaboratively with Salesians at Don Bosco Fambul in the fight to protect children, they add in their report.

More in Africa

The clinic within the therapeutic center “will be able to issue forensic reports on abused minors arriving at the center. In turn, police will be able to conduct investigations early and arrest the perpetrators,” they add in reference to the Salesian project in Sierra Leone.

The staff working at the therapeutic center are expected to complement efforts of the Salesians serving at the rest of Don Bosco Fambul who have been on the forefront in efforts to help save young women facing abuse and prostitution and to rehabilitate street children and reunite them with their families.

“Children living in poverty with a disability are even less likely to attend school when compared to their peers,” the Director of Salesian Missions, Fr. Gus Baek has been quoted as saying in the December 3 report sent to ACI Africa.

He adds, “Youth with disabilities have the same ability to achieve as their peers if given the opportunity. Salesian missionaries in programs around the globe initiate projects that pave the way for advanced research, learning and innovation that aid inclusion of people with disabilities.”

In his message of the day, Pope Francis said IDPD is an occasion for him to express his “closeness to those experiencing situations of particular difficulty during the crisis caused by the pandemic.”
“All of us are in the same boat in the midst of a turbulent sea that can frighten us. Yet in this same boat, some of us are struggling more; among them are persons with serious disabilities,” he added in his December 3 message.


Proclaimed by the United Nations in 1992, IDPD aims to promote an understanding of disability issues and mobilize support for the dignity, rights and well-being of persons with disabilities.

The day also seeks to increase awareness of gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of political, social, economic and cultural life.

This year’s IDPD is being commemorated under the theme, “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World.”

At least 1 billion people who amount to 15 percent of the world’s population are living with some form of a disability, with 2-4 percent of them experiencing significant difficulties in functioning, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) 2011 World Report on Disability.