NEW ROCHELLE, NY & KAMPALA, UGANDA (Aug. 12, 2014) More than 1,000 packages of fortified rice-meals have been donated to students in three Salesians programs in Uganda, allowing youth better access to nutrition. The donation was made possible through an ongoing partnership between Salesian Missions and Stop Hunger Now, an international relief organization that provides food and life-saving aid to the world’s most vulnerable.
Close to 67 percent of Ugandans are either poor or highly vulnerable to poverty, according to UNICEF. While the country has seen some economic growth as well as improvement in its Human Development Index ranking over the last 20 years, the country still ranks near the bottom at 161 out of 186 countries. After decades of war left many displaced, the people of Uganda face many significant challenges as they work to rebuild their country.
Approximately 86 percent of Uganda’s 34 million inhabitants make their living farming but nearly 40 percent of Ugandans lack access to clean water for work and household use. Uganda’s literacy rate has improved with 73 percent of the population literate but only 23 percent of Ugandans go on to acquire a secondary education. According to UNICEF, one of the biggest challenges in the country is combating the serious increase of HIV/AIDS that has left millions of children orphaned.
The donated meals from Stop Hunger Now are helping to enhance the educational environment for poor youth at three Salesian programs in Uganda. Students in elementary, technical and vocational schools in Kampala, Luweero and Kamuli were among the recipients.
The schools serve vulnerable children and focus on ending the cycle of poverty through education and workforce development opportunities. Through primary, secondary and technical schools, Salesian missionaries in Uganda focus their efforts on helping poor youth obtain an education and later, the job skills necessary for stable employment.
“We have seen the devastating results of conflict on individual lives, families and countries but we are also seeing how people, especially poor youth in Uganda, are making enormous efforts to overcome the challenges that they’ve faced to build better lives for themselves,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
Don Bosco Children and Life Mission, located just outside of Kampala, the largest city and capital of Uganda, was the primary recipient of the rice-meal donation. Through an educational program at the mission, more than 200 at-risk boys aged 8 to 17 have access to primary, secondary and technical education along with sports programming, youth clubs, guidance counseling and life skills training.
The meals are provided to students during the school day and serve as an incentive for families to send their children to school. As a result of the donation, students are thriving. Many have gained weight, suffer fewer illnesses and are more focused on their studies. Teachers are seeing better student performance in class as well as less conflict among students.
“Access to nutritious meals allows youth to be better prepared to take part in school activities and focus on their education,” adds Fr. Hyde. “Prepared students are more likely to learn valuable skills that will help them gain employment, break the cycle of poverty in their lives and enable them to give back to their communities.”
With programs in more than 130 countries around the globe and extensive knowledge and experience with aid shipments, Salesian Missions has one of the largest networks currently working with Stop Hunger Now. Salesian Missions’ programs make up an integral part of the existing infrastructure in many countries and the organization plays an important role in making sure aid from the United States reaches its destination country and gets into the hands of those who need it most.
“The partnership with Stop Hunger Now allows Salesian Missions to expand its scope of services to youth in need,” says Jessica O’Connor, property and logistics officer at the Salesian Missions Office for International Programs. “Operating feeding programs for youth in Salesian schools whose families cannot afford to feed them is very important and integral to the success of our students and their ability to gain an education.”
UNICEF – Uganda