Salesian programs aid the inclusion of people with disabilities.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 3, 2023) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and countries around the globe in honoring International Day of People with Disabilities. Since its inception in 1945, the United Nations has outlined and reiterated its commitment to calling for the creation of inclusive, accessible, and sustainable societies and communities. In 1981, the U.N. proclaimed Dec. 3 as a recognized day for the celebration of the achievements of people living with disabilities across the world.
Almost 1 billion people, or 15% of the world’s population, are living with a disability, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) World Report on Disability. Nearly 250 million are living with a mental or neurological condition, and almost two-thirds of these people will not seek professional medical help, largely due to stigma, discrimination, and neglect.
“Children and older adults with disabilities often lack the same opportunities as their peers,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian programs around the globe facilitate social and educational projects that pave the way for advanced research, learning and innovation that aid the inclusion of people with disabilities.”
Salesian Missions is proud to highlight Salesian programs that advance inclusivity for people with disabilities on International Day of People with Disabilities 2023.
Don Bosco Job Placement Network in India, through collaboration with Bangalore Rural Education and Development Society (BREADS), organized a job fair for employment seekers with disabilities. Working with Samarthanam Trust for the Disabled, Don Bosco Job Placement Network held the job fair at Bell Hotel Majestic for more than 100 candidates with varying levels of disability.
At the job fair, Quess Corp. Pvt. Ltd. Bangalore recruited candidates for jobs in warehousing, business process outsourcing and e-commerce, and logistics (packing and billing). The Don Bosco Job Placement Network coordinator and the Quess team assisted the candidates in career counseling and explaining the job roles. Of nearly 40 candidates who applied for the various jobs, 12 received immediate offers and others were shortlisted for future placement.
The Don Bosco Job Placement Network aims to improve employment opportunities for underserved job seekers through career guidance and skills training. The organization also enables access to secure job markets through job referral services, ensuring retention, and improving quality job opportunities with adequate wages and decent, safe, and secure working conditions.
The new Latin American Center for Comprehensive Care for Spinal Cord Injuries was inaugurated on Aug. 16, 2022, in Guadalajara, Mexico. The event included a Catholic Mass, the ribbon cutting, a ceremony of speeches and videos, and a social hour. The new treatment center was developed for people living with spinal cord injuries thanks to funding Salesian Missions received from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s American Schools and Hospitals Abroad (USAID/ASHA) program.
The “Raising Standards of Care for Spinal Cord Injury Patients” project constructed and equipped Mexico’s first comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation center to assist patients who have been paralyzed by spinal cord injuries, with a special focus on youth. The center is outfitted with state-of-the-art equipment such as advanced rehab exercise bikes, kinesitherapy equipment for upper and lower limbs, walking support, and electric standing frames. The center also generates and promotes new science and technology for the treatment, care, and rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injuries for their independence and reintegration.
It is anticipated that in the first four years in operation, the center will treat at least 500 patients with spinal cord injuries, mainly youth and adults between the ages of 12-35 who live in poverty and a state of high vulnerability. This will also indirectly benefit thousands of family members who are responsible for the care of the patients, as well as health care professionals who will benefit from new technologies and methods for treating spinal cord injuries.
Don Bosco Technical Institute and Assistance Center in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, provides education for youth who have not been able to complete a traditional high school education. The center has been in operation since 2001, starting with 30 students. Today more than 300 students are gaining skills in car mechanics, tailoring, secretarial services, welding and construction.
Yanjinpagam is a sewing teacher at the institute. She said, “At age 5, my health worsened and my back began to round and lose mobility. My legs became paralyzed, and I was unable to speak and stand. I spent seven years in bed. Then at the age of 12, thanks to an operation, I partially recovered the use of my legs, and at 12 years of age I finally went to school for the first time at the Don Bosco Secondary and Technical School. After graduation, I was very worried because of my disability. I didn’t know which company would hire me.”
Yanjinpagam found work through the school where she had gained her education. “To my great surprise, the director of the school approached me and asked me to become a laboratory assistant with a great salary. I was overcome with joy. Subsequently, I was offered a scholarship to study fashion design at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. I worked and studied at the same time. To this day, I work as a sewing teacher and help my family. My life has changed for the better. I was truly blessed. Unfortunately, my back got worse due to osteoporosis and the lowering of my spine. However, I am deeply grateful to God and Don Bosco for giving me the opportunity to change my life. Thank you to all the benefactors who generously supported the work of the Salesians in Mongolia.”
Close to 5,000 people with physical disabilities attended a special gathering to celebrate Christmas in 2022 at the Divine Mercy Center at the An Lac parish in the Vu Thu district of Vietnam. The participants were served by nearly 1,000 volunteers including college students.
Salesian Bishop Peter Nguyen Van De, emeritus of Thai Binh, started the annual gathering 21 years ago as a professor in the seminary after he ended his Vietnam provincial term in 1996. He believes the event is an opportunity for people with disabilities to interact with one another, take part in recreational and cultural activities, and experience the real love and joy of Christmas.
During the gathering, participants listened to talks about church and marriage, had medical check-ups and received medicine. They also played traditional games for gifts, watched cultural performances, enjoyed meals and attended a Mass. Among the Christmas gifts given were new wheelchairs.
Nhan, a 34-year-old woman who has complete paralysis, was taken to the center on a special bed by a relative. She has attended this annual event seven times. She said, “I am delighted to attend the gathering where I feel loved and respected, meet other people who have similar conditions, and relax with leisure activities.”