Growing up in the suburbs of San Salvador, El Salvador, young Carlos faced a grim future. And it’s no wonder: as one of the most violent countries in Central America, El Salvador has entrapped nearly 60,000 young people into gang-related and other criminal activity that becomes almost impossible to escape from. But, the Salesians are on a mission to change that.
Young people who manage to resist this trap of misfortune too often lack the educational and employment opportunities they need to escape the conditions of poverty. Today, more than 50 percent of youth between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed or under-employed. Since 1991, Salesian missionaries at Ciudadela Don Bosco (Don Bosco Citadel) in San Salvador have been serving such youth by providing the educational foundation, technical training and life-skills development to help them find -- and excel in -- long-term jobs.
At Don Bosco Citadel’s Vocational Training Center, close to 1,700 students between the ages of 18 and 25 participate in rigorous, two-year training courses in electrician skills, auto mechanics, machinery maintenance and more. Most of these students would otherwise be unable to afford this level of education, which Salesian missionaries provide for free as an investment in El Salvador’s future.
Carlos, 19, is one such student. He couldn’t envision what his future might hold, but he is now studying to become an electrician, an opportunity enhanced by a partnership between Salesian Missions and ASAP (A Self-Help Assistance Program). The program provides toolkits to vocational graduates of Salesian schools while fostering cross-cultural understanding through entrepreneurship and educational projects.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, ASAP accepts donated tools that its volunteers then refurbish, bundle and send to vocational training programs where needed. Each year since 2015, ASAP has provided Salesian-run programs with life-changing toolkits: in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and now, El Salvador.
“This partnership has truly made a measurable impact on the lives of our students,” says Fr. Mark Hyde, Salesian Missions director. “In many cases, the tools ASAP donates would be difficult for our sites to afford or procure -- which can impact hands-on learning experiences. Now, students at Don Bosco Citadel have access to, and can learn how to use, cutting-edge tools that will fully prepare them for future work -- and empower them to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families.”
Carlos agrees. “These tools, and electrical training, are helping me to move forward in life. When I become a certified electrician, I will be able to find a job and help my two younger sisters go to school -- so they can build a better life, too!”
Our mission empowers impoverished youth by preparing them for meaningful work and a sustainable future through vocational training. What’s your mission?