WORLD DAY OF THE POOR: Salesian Missions highlights programs that support people in poverty
Education, workforce development and social programs help create a path out of poverty.
NEW ROCHELLE, NY (FOR RELEASE Nov. 19, 2023) Salesian Missions, the U.S. deveopment arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins Catholic organizations around the globe in honoring World Day of the Poor. The day, celebrated on Nov. 19, will be the 7th celebration of the day. This day was established by Pope Francis in 2016 at the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy in honor of the poor.
This year’s message from Pope Francis focuses on “Do not turn your face away from anyone who is poor” (Tob 4:7). In his address, Pope Francis said, “On this, the 60th anniversary of the encyclical Pacem in Terris, we do well to take to heart the following words of Pope Saint John XXIII: ‘Every human being enjoys the right to life, to bodily integrity and to the means necessary for the proper development of life, including food, clothing, shelter, medical care, rest, and, finally, the necessary social services. In consequence, every individual has the right to be looked after in the event of ill health; disability stemming from work; widowhood and forced unemployment; as well as in other cases when, through no fault of his own, he or she is deprived of the means of livelihood.’”
Nearly 30,000 Salesian priests, brothers, sisters, and novices are working in more than 130 countries around the globe bringing education, workforce development, and social programs to poor youth and their families. They work in some of the most challenging circumstances and are among the first to respond during humanitarian crises or natural disasters.
“Salesian missionaries serve those in poverty, providing education and social supports to help them improve their lives and have hope for a brighter future,” said Father Timothy Ploch, interim director of Salesian Missions. “Salesian missionaries work to meet basic needs like shelter, food, medical care and clean water while also working to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those who need it most. Once these most basic needs are met, youth have a better chance at succeeding in school.”
In honor of the World Day of the Poor, Salesian Missions highlights educational and social programs that are helping poor and at-risk youth meet their basic needs, receive an education, and find a path out of poverty.
Students in a Salesian school in Myanmar* have laptop computers thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. Donor funding was utilized to purchase 25 laptops to help the students with their education and for them to learn basic computer skills. The school set up internet and the electrical wiring for a new computer room for the 300 students as well as hired skilled staff to teach the course. The donation was sent in 2022.
Father Khun Myat Victor, provincial economer in Myanmar, said, “We have just set up the computer room and the first group of young people have begun their lessons on basic computer skills.”
Myanmar has suffered political violence and instability since the military coup took over power in February 2021. There has been ongoing violence and chaos, and schools have been shut because of this and the COVID-19 pandemic. Salesians are opening their schools to enable youth to get back to their education, which they have been without for two years. Classes focus on English, computers and math.
Salesian missionaries operate the Bosco Home Child Protection Center in Lagos, Nigeria. The center is a beacon of hope for youth who face uncertainty and despair. Currently, the center can accommodate 20 children, but Salesians are mobilizing to start a new project that will accommodate 80 vulnerable girls and boys. In addition, there is a Salesian Vocational Training Center that provides youth the necessary skills for employment to help them become self-sufficient.
A Salesian described the situation of homeless children in Nigeria. He said, “The city of Lagos, the most populous city with its 24 million inhabitants, has more than 100,000 children living on the streets. The situation they face is not simple. First of all, a differentiation must be made between street children, those who live on the streets of Lagos, and minors who are forced to beg or steal during the day but who still have a home to return to every night. These two situations combined generate very high numbers of children forced into insecurity, theft, delinquency or pick-pocketing. This is caused by extreme poverty, neglect, abuse and domestic violence.”
The center responds to the needs of these youth through a specific rehabilitation program that includes accommodation, meals, education, medical care, clothing, counseling and psychotherapy sessions, acquisition of professional skills, contacts with the family, and reintegration.
Students attending Don Bosco Technical School in Gatenga, Rwanda, received nutritional support thanks to donor funding from Salesian Missions. The support, which covered from January to May 2023, provided for the purchase of food for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the school.
Don Bosco Gatenga was established in 1976 to help orphans and disadvantaged street youth gain an education. Currently, the school has 366 students, and from that total, 289 students live in conditions of poverty and receive meals at the school.
The funding ensured proper nutrition so students could focus on their studies and had the motivation to learn. Often, the meals students receive at the school are the only meals they have in a day. As a result of this donation, the learning environment improved, and students and staff were more focused on their tasks.
The school also has an organic farm. During this first part of 2023, the number of vegetables planted in the garden increased due to more space that became available for the farm.
St. Augustine Agricultural Junior Secondary School, located in Lungi, Sierra Leone, received support from donor funding from Salesian Missions. The school, which was established in 1984, has 14 classrooms, a computer lab, an infirmary/clinic and an administrative building.
The school provides education to marginalized students in the region. It currently has 700 students, 34 teachers and four auxiliary staff, including a nurse. Given the economic condition of the country and the challenges faced by students, the school recently reintroduced its feeding program. A portion of the donor funding went to support this program and ensure students in need have access to healthy nutrition through school lunch.
In addition, funding provided for school uniforms and to support salaries for the auxiliary staff. Maintenance and repairs of the school buildings, assembly and sport grounds, school fence, bathrooms and canteen also took place with the funding.
At the school, Salesian sports programming provides much-needed recreation and life skills for the students. Funding provided for table tennis equipment, balls, and jerseys for soccer, basketball and volleyball.
To learn more and make a donation, visit SalesianMissions.org/lp/food.
*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.