WORLD REFUGEE DAY: Salesian Missions highlights educational programs for refugees

Salesians also provide direct support of basic needs for refugees and internally displaced people.

NEW ROCHELLE, NY (June 20, 2024) Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in honoring World Refugee Day, held each year on June 20 since 2001. The day, which is coordinated by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and other international organizations, honors the plight of millions of refugees and internally displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes.

UNHCR estimates that by the end of 2023 more than 114 million people were forcibly displaced globally — a record number propelled by the war in Ukraine and other conflicts around the world. The agency is calling on the global community to give refugees more hope and opportunities while they are away from home.

UNHCR has noted, “The most effective way to support refugees is by including them in the communities where they have found safety — this means ensuring they can apply for jobs, enroll in schools, and access services like housing and health care. Inclusion paves the way for long-term solutions for refugees and displaced people, allowing them to thrive in a new country or preparing them for a safe return to their home countries.”

“Salesian missionaries provide support and services for refugees and internally displaced persons whose lives have been affected by war, persecution, famine, and natural disasters such as floods, droughts, and earthquakes,” said Father Michael Conway, director of Salesian Missions. “In addition to direct support of basic needs, Salesians ensure refugees and those displaced are able to access education and technical skills training so they can find employment in their new communities.”

To mark World Refugee Day 2024, Salesian Missions is proud to highlight programs around the globe that provide life-changing education and support for refugees and internally displaced people in need.


Salesian missionaries in Egypt offered 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 from 2014 to 2023. The project was 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. The popularity of the training grew throughout the years.

Follow-up with those who had received seed funding over three years as part of the project 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 were 24 companies and factories that were willing to employ refugees and guarantee their rights. This work was 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 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 found work and companies are excited for the skilled labor.


Salesian missionaries in Prato, a city in Tuscany, Italy, are supporting Afghan refugees with the “We are with you” project, thanks to the financial support of Don Bosco Mondo. The project provides reception, integration, education and social support for Afghan families who arrive in Italy seeking safety and a new life.

Mahdi and Tayeba Moshtaq, two married Afghan refugees, received support from the project. After the Taliban took over Kabul in August 2021, the entire Moshtaq family fled their country. The couple has two children, Narges and Amir, who were young when the family left. They arrived in Italy in January 2022 and were welcomed by the Saint Anna Oratory in Prato.

After completing  procedures to obtain a residence permit, health cards and refugee status, along with the A2 level Italian certification and the eighth grade diploma, Mahdi began working at a cooperative. Tayeba takes care of the children. In March 2023, Mahdi began an internship at a spinning company, which recently turned to an open-ended contract for him.

The family, now more settled, lives in one of the residences of Prato’s Reception and Integration System. Despite the distance from the Don Bosco Center, they continue to attend the oratory. Tayeba has said it is a real home where the family found much comfort and emotional support. Mahdi is grateful for the closeness and kindness of the people they have met.


Salesian missionaries live and work among the refugees at Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in the border town of Palabek, Uganda. They have been supporting refugees since the opening of the camp in 2016.

Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp is currently home to nearly 72,000 refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from South Sudan, and 60% are under age 13. It was officially set up to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. The country has 28 refugee camps for people from Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan and South Sudan. Nearly 1.5 million refugees reside in Uganda, according to UNHCR.

Palabek is not the typical African refugee camp but rather a settlement where local Ugandans from the north of the country and newcomers live together. The site provides a safe haven for many people who have lost their homes and loved ones to conflict, violence and persecution.

Salesians have established schools including a vocational training center and a parish, built a church and 17 chapels in nearby villages, and helped with education, food distribution and pastoral work. They organize youth sports and music. Education is a primary focus and one of the most effective tools young refugees can use to build their future.

*Any goods, services, or funds provided by Salesian Missions to programs located in these countries 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.



Laura Perillo
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