South Africa

Population:50.13 millionLiteracy Rate:89%Religion: Roman Catholic (3%)

The Salesians are restoring hope in South Africa among those left behind, particularly young people. The country has been the hardest hit by the HIV/AIDS crisis and there is an urgent need for education to help prevent the spread of the deadly virus. South Africa is also plagued by high crime and gender-based violence against women and girls. A significant percentage of the population must struggle to survive on less than $1 a day.

Featured Mission

Bring Sports Programs

In South Africa, sports help engage and encourage students on the field and off.  As part of the “Don Bosco Learn to Live” program, youth participate in soccer teams to help build friendship, teamwork and self-esteem.  Recent highlights include a highly successful Learn-to-Live soccer tournament was held.  In addition, a local radio station had a special day with the children.  They donated soccer balls, games, soccer nets, practice shirts, whistles and water bottles. 


More Missions in South Africa

Build Schools

While enrollment rates in primary school continue to rise in South Africa, many of the most vulnerable children are being left behind.

At Salesian Missions “Learn to Live” educational program, street children arrive each day from shelters or off the street – eager to learn.  The program is recognized as an independent school by the Western Cape Educational Department and features Xhosa-speaking and Afrikaans-speaking classes.  Vulnerable children up to age 16 learn math, literacy and life skills.  Older students gain technical skills. 

All youth become empowered to permanently leave the streets, go back to formal schooling, obtain jobs and be reintegrated with their families and society.

Protect Youth from Disease

South Africa is the country hardest hit by HIV/AIDS worldwide, according to UNICEF.

The “Life Choices” program aims to decrease of HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, substance abuse and violence among youth. Funded by U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), work is based in schools from grades 4-12. An important component is voluntary counseling and testing as an effective method of preventing new infections. In addition, the program offers one-on-one mentoring, career and guidance counseling, parental skills workshops and teacher sensitivity.

Through this comprehensive approach, youth realize their value and look toward the future.

Teach Job Skills to Youth

In South Africa, youth are saying “yes” to learning job skills through the Don Bosco “Youth Employment Skills” project (YES).

The YES project began in 2002 with a grant from USAID, focused on youth who want to enter the job market. Youth study four sets of skills: computer literacy and office management, computer maintenance and repair, bricklaying, and tiling and mosaic. They also learn life skills, set personal goals and learn resume writing and interview skills. A full-time job placement counselor works with the business sector regarding potential job opportunities. Empower girls through education South Africa has one of the world’s highest crime rates, according to UNICEF. While violence impacts everyone, gender-based violence is a significant problem. Girls who live on the street face violence, drug addiction, abuse and other dangers. The “Unwind Your Mind” camps are specifically-designed to encourage girls to talk about what brought them to the street and consider their goals for the future. They also looked at the importance that young women play in society.

Feed Hungry Children

In South Africa, as well as many other countries, feeding programs are an important part of the school day. At the “Learn to Live” educational program, children arrive each day from various shelters or off the street. They are met with a nutritious breakfast that prepares them for learning

Build Youth Centers

A significant portion of people in South Africa still survive on less than $1 a day, according to UNICEF. Many youth lack hope for their future.

But the Don Bosco Hostel program, older street children are motivated to join a 12-month program to prepare them for a better life. Students take part in occupational, educational and life skills courses with the goals of finding jobs and reuniting with their families. Youth in emergency situations also arrive for specialized programs, including counseling and assistance finding jobs.

The program requires a high level of commitment, but results in students leading independent and successful lives.

Teach Leadership Skills to Youth

Students around the world face countless challenges regarding life choices. In South Africa, students have a chance to confront these challenges through the Dream2Be program. “Dreamers” belong to different groups designed in order for youth to talk to other youth in a positive way. Topics include drugs, crime, sex, teen pregnancy and education with the goal of generating debate and creating awareness about the consequences – as well as responsibilities the students share. In one powerful example of the effect on students, a 15-year-old girl came forward after a session and reported witnessing a murder. When asked what prompted her to report the incident, she said the Dream2Be program had taught her that she could make a difference stopping crime. As the result of this brave young learner’s determination, the suspected criminal was arrested and is now on trial for murder.

Give Hope to Street Children

In South Africa, the “Learn to Live” program empowers children to leave life on the street, return to formal schooling and be re-integrated with their families – and society.

A typical day is filled with positive activity. After arriving from shelters or the street, students first receive breakfast to prepare them for the day. They take part in classes and recreational activities including soccer, swimming, music, dancing, art and drama. Older students train in welding, woodwork and leather craft – producing items that are sold through craft markets. In addition, youth are employed through partnerships with local construction and engineering firms.

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