NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (OSV News) — While in the developed world, parents’ biggest concerns are often whether to let their children use cellphones and what sports classes they should take, millions of families around the globe face bigger problems than that, and some are even traumatizing.
Salesian missionaries around the globe provide for youth and their families who are facing challenges because of poverty, lack of education, hunger or homelessness.
“We understand youth can better focus on their education when they are in homes where there is stability and they have their basic needs met,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions, in a statement released ahead of the annual observance of International Day of Families May 15, said that to that end, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco helps the families across the globe especially those that can’t make ends meet.
“Children facing abuse, lack of food or no parental support struggle in their studies. This is why Salesians work with families to provide education, meet basic needs and offer wrap-around support services to ensure that the family has what they need to meet the physical and emotional needs of youth,” Father Ploch said.
International Day of Families is organized by the International Federation for Family Development in partnership with SOS Children’s Villages International and in collaboration with UNICEF and the Division for Social Policy and Development of the U.N.’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Salesian missionaries offer a range of social services and educational programs in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Malabo, the capital of Equatorial Guinea. Salesians operate a parish, a youth center, primary and secondary schools, and a vocational center. The Salesian vocational center is currently offering the program “Vocational Training for Young Mothers in Malabo.”
It caters to young women who had to drop out of school early because of pregnancy, those who were forced out of the home by their parents or those with children who are not recognized by their fathers. Currently, the Salesian program has 30 young women who are pregnant or have newborn babies. The program is supported by Don Bosco in the World Foundation, which promotes and supports programs in Salesian organizations around the globe.
Without the opportunity offered by the Salesians to learn a trade, these young women would not be able to get an education, as laws in Malabo prevent pregnant young women and young mothers from attending school.
Young mothers also are being trained in Rwanda. Salesian missionaries launched projects for young single mothers and at-risk youth in Rango in the city of Butare. The projects have the support of Mission Don Bosco in Turin, Italy.
To date, 40 young mothers have taken training to learn tailoring skills. They also have received a sewing machine and some essential materials to start a simple tailoring or sewing business that will provide an income for their families.
Father Remy Nsengiyumva, the parish priest in Rango, noted, “Many girls drop out of school due to poverty and unwanted pregnancy. To help them and their children, Salesians initiated the two-year tailoring training program at the Vocational Training Center.”
The new program, he says, “offers entrepreneurial training and provides a basic tool kit so participants can start an income-generating business. The center also offers courses in construction, carpentry and welding.”
Through the “Tomorrow Will Be Better” program, Salesians also have been able to support 120 at-risk children and youth who are runaways living on the street. Social workers were able to understand why they ran away from home and helped them reestablish a relationship with their families. As many as 89 youths enrolled in elementary school, 20 in secondary school and 11 in vocational training.
Many helpful projects come are prompted by a concrete need. Lucy George, a Salesian cooperator, saw a young mother named Jessy with her two children on a bus, and she heard Jessy talk about not having a place to live. George mentioned this to the students at Don Bosco Arts and Science College, and the students, staff and management took up the challenge of constructing a house.
George is a member of the order’s Association of Salesian Cooperators, a lay movement.
Volunteers with Don Bosco Arts and Science College, located in Angadikadavu in the Indian state of Kerala, built a house for a mother with two children. The family was homeless but now has shelter and the safety of somewhere to live.
The house is 600 square feet with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a work area. The cost was provided for by donations from students, staff, management and well-wishers. It is the fourth house constructed by volunteers of the college.
“The family is the main antidote to material and spiritual poverty, and to the problem of the demographic winter,” Pope Francis tweeted May 15. “Family-friendly social, economic and cultural policies need to be promoted in every country, as well as policies that welcome life.”
The Salesian missionaries are made up of priests, brothers and sisters, as well as laypeople — all of whom care for poor children throughout the world in more than 130 countries and help young people become self-sufficient by learning a trade that will help them gain employment.
To date, more than 3 million youth have benefited from services and programs funded by Salesian Missions and provided to children regardless of race or religion.