(MissionNewswire) Salesian missionaries have been working in Egypt for more than 100 years. Primary and secondary education, high-quality vocational and technical schools and youth centers are accessed by both Muslim and Christian youth, as well as refugees in need of services.
In Alexandria in 1896, the Salesian House was founded by Father Rua to provide education to the many Italian migrants who lived there. Today, the Don Bosco School in Alexandria educates more than 900 students, mostly Muslim, in classes ranging from primary school to vocational training. The courtyards and playgrounds of the Salesian House are filled with students after school who connect with their peers in a safe and supportive environment. The institute is recognized, and partially funded, by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In Cairo, Salesian missionaries provide an excellent vocational school, recognized by the Italian state, that is attended by nearly 800 students from across the country. The school courtyard is often filled with Christian youth who are a minority in the country. Here, they have a safe space to connect with their peers. One Christian neighborhood in Cairo is particularly poor. It was built on a landfill and its residents survive by collecting waste and reselling recyclable materials.
Also in Cairo, the Salesian-run Don Bosco Zeitoun has been providing programs for poor youth and their families since 1985. Youth have access to counseling, team sports, music classes, tailoring courses, rights awareness and medical referrals. Here, Salesian missionaries provide services for 500 Sudanese and Syrian refugees between the ages of 15 to 25 years old. The center also provides assistance to close to 2,000 refugees including individuals and families who access the programs each month. Salesian missionaries provide emergency relief by meeting basic needs and providing shelter, safety and medical assistance.
“Salesian programs across Egypt provide education and social development services for youth and their families living in poverty,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth, regardless of faith and religious background, are able to access the Salesian program and gain assistance with homework, connect with their peers, and be connected with adults who provide mentorship and support in their lives.”
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), 26 percent of Egypt’s population lives in poverty, while 49 percent of those living in Upper Egypt cannot provide for their basic needs of food and shelter. Egypt’s unemployment rate has reached 13.2 percent and that number almost doubles for women at 24.2 percent. Egypt, the 15th most densely populated country in the world, has been experiencing a rise in poverty and food insecurity for the past three years, according to reports released by the United Nations food agency and its partners.
The country has witnessed significant political and economic changes since 2011. Through this transition, which includes periods of political unrest, the main income sources of the economy have been negatively impacted, particularly in the tourism sector, as well as revenues from the Suez Canal, oil and remittances from Egyptians working abroad.
Despite the visible progress to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Egypt has not reached the anticipated targets for poverty reduction, environment protection and gender equity. Egypt is still working on issues related to gender equality and the empowerment of women.