Today in Bolivia, more than 4,000 innocent boys and girls -- some as young as 6 years old -- live on the streets. Many have been abandoned by parents too desperately poor to feed them. Others have escaped violence at home or at school. At the Don Bosco Project in the capital of Santa Cruz, Salesian missionaries offer safe haven for homeless children with nowhere else to turn.
This project extends beyond emergency shelter, warm clothing and nutritious meals. The ultimate goal is to provide comprehensive rehabilitation and vocational training programs that offer a pathway to social inclusion and meaningful employment.
“This work is more important now than ever,” says Fr. Mark Hyde, S.D.B., director of Salesian Missions. “The number of children living on the streets of Bolivia alone has reached crisis levels. Without our help, these boys and girls literally fall through the cracks of a society bent on pushing them aside -- and the cycle of poverty and hopelessness continues.”
Each year, the Don Bosco Project serves more than 700 youth with a professional team of psychologists, social workers, health care staff and teachers who work together to address the children’s needs. TechoPinardi, the Don Bosco Project’s free overnight shelter, is often the entry point for the program -- and provides a concrete way for kids to compare the realities of living on the streets with the possibilities of genuine concern and support.
Youth who are ready to escape their current situation can learn about and explore new opportunities at Patio Don Bosco, a daytime program. Here, Salesian missionaries work with individual youth: To help them catch up on basic studies so they may return to school; to encourage participation in sports and other constructive group activities; and to help familiarize them with specific trades through practical workshops.
Finally, boys and girls who reach the age of 15, and who demonstrate a commitment to leaving the streets behind, can “graduate” to the Michael Magone House, where they learn trades such as carpentry, auto mechanics, hair dressing and more. Here, they truly strike out on a new path -- one that leads them from the streets to a life of meaningful work and community contribution.
Thanks to caring friends like you, children -- who may otherwise have been lost -- are turning their lives around. Your generous support helps Salesian Missions give hope to homeless youth in some of the poorest places in the world by providing the security, encouragement and education they need to break the cycles of violence and poverty.