Salesian Initiatives Transforming Lives of Thousands of Refugees, IDPs in Africa: Report

To help refugees gain skills for employment while at Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, Salesians operate the Don Bosco Technical Institute in the camp with the help of UNHCR. Credit: Salesian Missions

Thousands of Refugees and Internally Displaced persons (IDPs) in Africa are benefiting from projects spearheaded by the members of the Religious Institute of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), officials have said in a report.

In the Monday, June 20 report on the occasion of the World Refugee Day (WRD), officials of the Salesian Missions, the U.S.-based SDB development arm, say that “Salesian programs provide refugees much-needed education and technical skills training, workforce development, health care, and nutrition.”

“Salesian missionaries are assisting close to 400,000 refugees and internally displaced persons whose lives have been affected by war, persecution, famine, and natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and earthquakes,” the Director of Salesian Missions, Fr. Gus Baek, has been quoted as saying.

In Egypt, Salesian missionaries, through Sunrise Project for Cairo’s Urban Refugees and Vulnerable Hosts, are providing training with an aim of helping refugees gain skills necessary not only for employment but also for self-employment.

Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), Salesian officials say that the project is operated by a Salesian technical and vocational training center located in Cairo.


According to the June 20 report, the “project has improved the livelihoods and quality of life of more than 3,000 Sub-Saharan African, Yemeni and Syrian refugees and vulnerable Egyptians.

“The Sunrise Project is popular among refugees with more than 2,000 applicants trying for the limited number of trainee openings,” Salesian officials say, and add, “From the over 700 who were accepted and who completed baseline assessments, more than 500 received technical and vocational training.”

They further say that besides the financial support given to the refugees, the initiative in Egypt provides an avenue for the beneficiaries to display and market the products made through the skills offered during training.

SDB officials add that the display is done through “Rented tables at three local bazaars so that micro entrepreneurs could market their wares and services.”

They explain, “These bazaars were particularly helpful for female micro entrepreneurs who could display their sewing and handicrafts products or offer hairdressing or henna services."

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“Fifteen beneficiaries participated across the three bazaars. Additionally, the markets enabled beneficiaries to distribute their business cards for networking and potential future customer sales,” the Salesian officials say in the June 20 report.

In Kenya, the report highlights Kakuma Refugee Camp, “a place of refuge for unaccompanied minors fleeing warring factions in what was southern Sudan,” as one of the initiatives of Salesian missionaries in the East African nation.

“Today, Kakuma Refugee Camp has more than 225,000 refugees from nine countries including South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda and Burundi. It is estimated that more than 50 percent of refugees are youth and children,” SDB officials say in the June 20 report.

The refugee Camp that is operated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in partnership with the Salesian missionaries among other humanitarian agencies “offers refugees safety, security, and life-saving services such as housing, health care, clean water and sanitation.”

In the report, SDB officials indicate that the Salesians launched the Savio Club in 2014 with an aim of providing “character development for children in the camp”. The report further indicates that “there are more than 1,000 children involved in club activities.”


Meanwhile, in Uganda, Don Bosco Vocational Center that is located in Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in the Archdiocese of Gulu is transforming the lives of young people through education and vocational training with an objective of helping them secure jobs.

The June 20 report indicates that the center that is offering courses “in mechanics, sewing, construction, agriculture, hairdressing and solar energy” is benefiting more than 55,000 refugees and over 10,000 IDPs.

“Don Bosco Vocational Center has become a place where youth are nurtured, and they can access the skills to achieve self-sustainability,” Salesian officials say, and add, “To date, the center has trained more than 600 youth, most of them refugees who have returned to South Sudan to contribute to their country.”

In the report, the Rector of the Salesian community in Palabek, Fr. Ubaldino Andrade, says that the rate at which young people in the refugee camp attend the training indicates that they are thirsty for education.

“This fact testifies that the young people of the refugee camp are hungry for an education that allows them to offer their families a better quality of life and to contribute to the reconstruction of their country,” Fr. Andrade is quoted as saying in the June 20 report.

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Silas Mwale Isenjia is a Kenyan journalist with a great zeal and interest for Catholic Church related communication. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communication from Moi University in Kenya. Silas has vast experience in the Media production industry. He currently works as a Journalist for ACI Africa.