Salesians in Rwandan Diocese Empowering Vulnerable Children Through Vocational Training

Some children receiving training at St. John Bosco Parish and Salesian Vocational Training Center in Rango in Rwanda's Butare Diocese. Credit: Salesian Missions

Members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB) serving in Rwanda are reaching out to vulnerable children through vocational training initiatives being realized at St. John Bosco Parish and Salesian Vocational Training Center in Rango in the country’s Butare Diocese.

In a Wednesday, February 23 report, officials of the SDB development arm, Salesian Missions, say, “Salesian missionaries are working to help children who have been impacted by child labor, disease, hunger and mistreatment.”

“St. John Bosco Parish and Salesian Vocational Training Center have been in operation since 1996, providing education and social development services to help poor and at-risk youth,’ Salesian Missions officials say.

They add, “Missionaries provide education in several vocational courses including construction, tailoring, welding, carpentry, hotel-related skills, mechanics, cooking and hairdressing.”

Officials of the New York-based entity reveal that “many of the youth in Salesian programs in Rango are former street children.”


“They don’t go to school but survive by offering their labor and dedicating themselves to small trades and businesses,” the President of Don Bosco Mission in Turin, Italy, has been quoted as saying in the February 23 report.

Fr. Daniel Antunez explains that most of the children “ended up living on the street as a result of separations, mourning or simply because of too much misery.”

Street children, Fr. Antunez says in the report, “carry heavy bags, fetch water, collect and sell pieces of metal, empty plastic bottles, glass. Most of them suffer from malnutrition and other diseases.”

“They sleep with one eye open for fear that someone will steal the few, meager things they possess. They are frightened, abused, perennially tired, hungry,” he adds in reference to street children.

In the February 23 report, SDB officials cite UNICEF statistics, and say, “There were some 7,000 street children in Rwanda. The numbers have grown, however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis, as well as from school closures and the rising incidence of domestic violence.”

More in Africa

Salesians in Rwanda offer “a specific program for street children known as Don Bosco Children Ejo Heza, which in the local language means tomorrow will be a better day.” 

The program provides initial contact with youth living on the street and an invitation to access psychological, educational, and social rehabilitation that culminates in family reunification, if it’s possible, SDB officials say about the program that was launched in spring 2020.

“Children from the street started knocking on our parish door in Rango,” Fr. Antunez recalls, and adds, “By word of mouth, as their comrades had been treated well, they now come in large numbers.”

He continues, “We want them to go back to school and start living with their parents again because they have the right to a present as peaceful, trusting children and a future as respectable adults.”

Initially established to accommodate young Salesians preparing for the Priesthood, the Don Bosco Technical and Vocational Training School now serves as the site for technical and vocational education for young people, a large number of them coming from poor families.


Salesian missionaries have had a presence in the Great Lakes region of Rwanda for more than 50 years, providing education and social programs to give young people in the country hope for a better and brighter future.

Jude Atemanke is a Cameroonian journalist with a passion for Catholic Church communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Buea in Cameroon. Currently, Jude serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.