(ANS – New Rochelle) – Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco, joins humanitarian organizations and the international community in celebrating Global Day of Parents, which was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012. The day, celebrated each year on June 1, honours parents throughout the world and provides an opportunity to appreciate all parents for their commitment to children.
This year the U.N. is focused on the role that parents have played during the pandemic. The U.N noted, “As the anchors of the family and the foundation of our communities and societies, parents have the responsibility of sheltering their families from harm, caring for out-of-school children and, at the same time, continuing their work responsibilities. Without support from parents, children’s health, education and emotional well-being is at risk. By introducing family-friendly workplace policies and practices, companies and organizations will be in a better position to promote children’s safety and well-being and provide systematic support to employees.”
In their work in more than 130 countries around the globe, Salesian missionaries provide support to the parents of the children in their programs. Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, said, “Supporting parents is essential for children’s well-being and to helping youth stay in school and focus on their studies. While our primary focus is on education, we also aim to provide wrap around services that help youth and their families lead healthy and productive lives.”
In honour of Global Day of Parents, Salesian Missions is proud to share programs around the globe that provide education and support for parents and their children.
The Salesian International Volunteering for Development (VIS) has opened a new shelter for youth and young single mothers in Luanda, Angola. Young women are able to live in the shelter, receive services and be protected from the dangers of the street.
Every year, the shelter will provide support to 20 underage single mothers. They will be able to access medical support, psychological assistance and vocational training courses. Family reunification will be made possible when appropriate.
Dana is a 15-year-old young woman from a broken home who recently came to the shelter. She was living under a bridge in Luanda with her baby daughter Sofia. While Dana found a family with other youth, she also faced violence and degradation, which only worsened with the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dana gave birth to Sofia at a small medical clinic on the outskirts of the city. Sofia’s first cradle was a cardboard box. Dana had few resources and knew she couldn’t raise her daughter in those conditions. She first met a VIS volunteer when Sofia was just a few weeks old.
When a VIS volunteer made the offer of the Salesian shelter, Dana wasn’t sure, but she finally accepted. Now, Dana feels at peace knowing she and her daughter are safe. They have access to resources they never had before, and Dana has a real chance to gain an education to be able to provide a better life for them both.
For the last two years, the Don Bosco Center, located in the city of Bukavu in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has been supporting women who wish to join women’s groups run by the Association Villageoise d’Epargne et Crédit (AVEC), an association for savings and credit in the villages. The Don Bosco Center has helped create 20 groups of women, mostly mothers.
Every week, the women had been depositing 1,000 to 5,000 Congolese Francs (CF), which is roughly 60 cents, into their group’s safe, in addition to depositing another 200 CF in the solidarity fund. After a few weeks, the group members can apply for credit and receive up to 10,000 CF to help in situations of necessity such as the birth of a child, an illness or a death in the family. AVEC groups promote solidarity, teach money management and savings and give the possibility to apply for a loan to start a small business.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the conditions in the DRC have worsened and many women no longer have the money to pay their AVEC group dues. Two social workers with the Don Bosco Center in Bukavu have been trying to help.
“Nicole and Gisèle have distributed start-up aid, from $50-$150 to over 120 very poor mothers who were unable to start a small income generating business and participate fully in the AVEC group,” said Father Piero Gavioli, director of the Don Bosco Center.
The “Brilliant mothers – Empowerment of single-parent female families” project facilitated by SolSal (Salesian Social Service) has been awarded the “Social Value Award” by the Cepsa Foundation. The project, promoted by the Salesian Foundation, is carried out in Evora, Portugal, and is one of five Portuguese projects that was recognized.
The day-to-day demands for women who are raising children without the support of their husbands, partners or extended family are difficult. They may also face dealing with low income and low education levels, which have a great impact on their family, relationships and self-esteem.
The project addresses parenting, along with personal, social, and professional challenges through an integrated approach. There is school and educational support for youth, support in accessing services to understand individual and family rights, workshops on personal care and attention habits, assistance drafting a resume, and help searching and applying for jobs.
The Salesian-run City of Hope, located in Lusaka, Zambia, is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic under the guidelines set forth by the Zambian government. Girls in the program made face masks that they are wearing and distributing to others while also working on completing their school packages, studying, reading, and making crafts.
The Salesian sisters who operate City of Hope have also focused on working with teachers, mothers and other educators to teach children about issues of sexual and gender-based violence, which has increased during the lockdown within the communities. They have sent informational letters to youth to educate them on these subjects since the youth cannot be taught in classrooms.
“We are trying to be close to them through these other means even despite the challenges around country-wide lockdown measures. So far, we are doing well and our message is reaching them,” said Sister Prisca Mulenga Mwila, a Salesian sister at the City of Hope.
Salesian sisters are also preparing various support projects for once the lockdown restrictions ease, including continuing with longer-term fundraising efforts to support all of the self-sustaining programs in the community. In addition, the Salesian sisters are harvesting four to five trays of eggs a day from the chickens they have on the farm.