Programs provide educational services to young migrants.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (Dec. 18, 2023) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in honoring International Migrants Day. Each year, International Migrants Day is held on Dec. 18 to recognize the efforts, contributions and rights of migrants worldwide.
About 184 million people — 2.3% of the world’s population — live outside of their country of nationality, according to a new World Development Report 2023: Migrants, Refugees and Societies report. Almost half of them are in low- and middle-income countries. This statistic also includes 37 million refugees who have been forced from their homes from war, natural disasters and other great suffering.
For those who choose to leave their homeland, youth often leave in search of employment, education and a better way of life. The United Nations notes that youth are heavily represented in migration for humanitarian reasons including as refugees, asylum seekers and unaccompanied minors.
Salesian missionaries care for and provide educational services to young migrants in countries around the globe. Unaccompanied migrant youth often face rejection, homelessness, exploitation and delinquency as they make their journey to find a new way of life. They are also at risk of human trafficking and exploitation.
“No matter the reasons why youth are leaving their homeland for another country, Salesian programs help them have an easier transition into their new communities through language and skills training and workforce development programs,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian missionaries are also working to create new educational and employment opportunities in countries youth leave as an incentive for them to remain at home.”
To mark International Migrants Day 2023, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that provide life-changing education and social support to migrants.
Salesian missionaries in Egypt have been offering training to assist refugees in gaining the skills needed for employment or self-employment through the Sunrise Project for Cairo’s Urban Refugees and Vulnerable Hosts since 2014. The project continued during the September 2021-2022 funding cycle and was made possible thanks to funding Salesian Missions received from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM). The project was facilitated through a Salesian technical and vocational training center in Cairo.
The project improved the livelihoods and quality of life of more than 3,000 Sub-Saharan African, Yemeni, and Syrian refugees, and vulnerable Egyptians. Most recently, there were 498 trainees in the program and 375 successful graduates across 12 workshops. Of the graduates, 77% were refugees and 44% were women. Twenty-seven percent of trainees found formal employment. In addition, 80 trainees received a seed grant and one-on-one mentoring to start their own business. Of these trainees 75% were refugees and 69% were women. Salesians created a new method for the seed funding mentoring. Instead of an outside consultant coming in to work with the trainees, Salesians developed a business curriculum and utilized mentors acting as business trainers to build local capacity and provide trainees a more customized and tailored approach.
Follow-up with those who had received seed funding over the previous three years found that more than 65% of microenterprises were still operational after 12 months. Twenty-one percent of respondents said their income was sufficient to meet their household needs and 17% said they had enough to save.
The Sunrise Project team also developed a wider network of partners across to foster better outcomes for trainees. Among these are 24 companies and factories that are willing to employ refugees and guarantee their rights. This work has been important for securing internships for trainees and employment after graduation.
The Global Solidarity Fund project, set up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,* has helped improve the lives of more than 1,500 returning migrants, refugees and those internally displaced in the country, according to an article by the Vatican News. The project has brought together five religious congregations including the Salesians of Don Bosco, Salesian sisters with the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, Ursuline Sisters, Missionaries of Charity and Jesuits through the Jesuit Refugee Service.
Migrants and refugees from other African countries add to the more than 4 million inhabitants of Ethiopia’s ever-expanding capital city. According to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are over 924,000 refugees and asylum seekers residing in Ethiopia. A majority originate from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. In addition, there are 3.5 million people internally displaced in the country.
Under the project, Salesian missionaries and sisters have been responsible for providing skills training and job preparation, something the Salesians are known for around the globe. Courses were offered in tailoring, fashion design, hairdressing, domestic help, leatherwork, welding, electrical skills, carpentry, IT, graphic design and printing. More than 70% of those who have taken courses have already found work and companies are excited for the skilled labor.
Salesian Tijuana Project is committed to the most vulnerable people in the city of Tijuana, Mexico, especially migrants and refugees. The Salesian Center houses a refectory and other project activities. Since 1987, it has been providing services to migrants and poor youth living on the border between Mexico and the United States.
The goal of the Salesian Tijuana Project is to create an extensive educational network in areas where poor youth are at risk of social exclusion. The project took shape through Salesian oratories and educational centers where children grow up learning to share faith, culture, and sports within their communities.
The Salesian Center also acts as a hub for migrants who, besides much-needed material help, are also offered a familiar and welcoming environment. They can access haircuts, a change of clothes, a shower, and an opportunity to call and make contact with their families. The Salesian Center has a partnership with the Red Cross and local volunteer doctors who offer psychological and medical help.
Salesians at the center have been working to strengthen ties of friendship and collaboration with other government organizations and United Nations agencies. On April 5, the Salesian Tijuana Project received an official thank you from Giovanni Lepri, representative of the UNHCR in Mexico.
Don Bosco Foundation provides support and education for young migrants in Spain. The foundation develops projects to support youth in residential care as well as education and workforce development services. Two young migrants recently credited the support of the Don Bosco Foundation for their success.
Yassin Halim, a young man who received assistance in Don Bosco Foundation’s Project Buzzetti home, recently opened his own hairdressing salon in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and named it Don Bosco. When a customer recently inquired about the name, Halim said, “Because Don Bosco took me off the street.”
Halim arrived in Spain about four years ago by boat with only a backpack. He spent months on the road, ate meals at the Diocesan Caritas and took language classes with the Don Bosco Foundation. When faced with a deportation order for lack of documents, he was sent to the Don Bosco Foundation’s Project Buzzetti home. Today, Halim’s dreams have come true.
Another recipient of the Don Bosco Foundation’s support is Jimmy Samuel, a 21-year-old man from Venezuelan origin who arrived in Spain less than two years ago. Since then, he has worked hard to be successful and shown perseverance and gratitude for the support and opportunities he has been given. A Salesian said, “Jimmy won us over with that smile he never loses, with the melodious telling of his story, and with his satisfied look when he says he has managed to graduate.”
*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in this country were administered in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, including sanctions administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control.