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On International Day for Poverty Eradication, Salesians Focus on Youth in Rwanda, Togo

Don Bosco Technical and Vocational Training School in Rango, Rwanda, offers courses in construction, carpentry, welding and sewing to students including single mothers. Credit: Salesian Missions

On the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty marked Sunday, October 17, members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) have highlighted their programs seeking to empower young people in needy situations, including Rwanda and Togo.

A Sunday, October 17 report by Salesian Missions, the U.S.-based development arm of SDB, indicates that SDB members serving in more than “5,500 Salesian educational institutions and youth centers around the globe, educate children in some of the poorest places on the planet.”

“Whether it’s combating child labor, assisting homeless youth or building schools where children previously had no access to education, Salesian missionaries are ensuring those in need have access to programs and services,” the report published by Mission Newswire, the official news service of Salesian Missions indicates.

Officials of Salesian Missions further report that SDB members have had to “change how they provide services during the pandemic but have remained steadfast in helping those in poverty.”

In Rwanda, the Don Bosco Technical and Vocational Training School in Rango in the Catholic Diocese of Butare in the Southern part of the country currently offers courses in construction, carpentry, welding and sewing, they say in the October 17 report.

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“Each course spans two years of training, and the majority of students in the program are youth who come from vulnerable situations and have been living in poverty,” officials of Salesian Missions say.

They add, “Youth are 17-25 years old, and some are single mothers looking to improve their lives for their children.”

“The rate of teenage pregnancies in the country has had exponential growth in recent years and is becoming a major obstacle to social and economic development among the poorest populations,” Salesian Missions officials report in reference to Rwanda.

To address the challenge, they report, SDB members in Rwanda “have launched projects to help educate and promote family involvement while also providing skills training so that young mothers can find employment or start a small business, ensuring that they can live in a dignified manner with their children.”

For instance, SDB members in Rwanda have partnered with the Salesian Mission Office in Turin, Italy to “purchase 40 sewing machines to train and empower young mothers so they can acquire the skills to start a small business.”

More in Africa

“Launching a modest tailoring or dressmaking shop or a simple sewing workshop can help provide an income for families,” Salesian Missions officials say in their report on the occasion of the International Day for poverty eradication.

In the West African nation of Togo, officials of Salesian Missions indicate that “Bosco Global, a Spanish Salesian organization, with the support of the Municipality of Malaga, operates the Foyer Jean XXIII Education and Formation Center in Kara.”

“This center provides education and support to 183 youth at risk of social exclusion,” they add, and recall that the work of Salesian missionaries and Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Togo “dates back almost half a century ago.”

SDB members and those of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, also called Salesian Sisters in Togo “are committed to educating youth who are living in poverty and are marginalized in the community, and Salesian priests and nuns have trained thousands of youth,” Salesian Missions officials say in the October 17 report.

The Foyer Jean XXIII Education and Formation Center in Kara “ensures youth gain an education and find and retain employment,” they say, and adds, “Most of the youth in the program have dropped out of school, but they are now taking courses and workshops in cooking/pastry making and cutting and sewing.” 

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“Once they complete the courses, youth receive a diploma recognized by the state that facilitates entry into the job market,” the officials of the SDB development arm have reported.

They further say that the facility in Togo “adapts its courses to the needs of students and the local economy, ensuring that youth have access to the internships and apprenticeships they need to apply the skills they learned in the classroom.”

Held annually on 17 October since 1987, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty honors victims of extreme poverty, violence and hunger around the globe.

This year, the event was marked under the theme, “Building Forward Together: Ending Persistent Poverty, Respecting all People and our Planet.”

According to the World Bank report on “Projected poverty impacts of COVID-19,” between 71 to 100 million people are being pushed into poverty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

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“The majority of the new extreme poor are in South Asian and Sub-Saharan countries where poverty rates are already high. This number is expected to rise between 143 and 163 million in 2021,” the World Bank report indicates.

In the October 17 report, the Director of Salesian Missions, Fr. Gus Baek is quoted as saying, “Education is a primary pathway out of poverty, and we work to ensure that all children have access to a solid educational foundation.” 

Fr. Baek adds, “Salesian educational programs provide youth the education and technical skills training they need to prepare for employment and have productive lives while becoming contributing adults in their communities.”

He notes that Salesian programs also go beyond “traditional education and help youth understand their relation to their community and the world around them.”