By Lorenzo Montanaro
From the very beginning the "saint of youth" always had an international outlook, and this grew over time. "Don Bosco Missions" is active in fifty countries. They have built 1,775 oratories and youth centres, 270 special works for young people in difficulty and more than 1,000 schools, as well as aqueducts, infirmaries, pharmacies, homes for the homeless, leprosy centres, nursery schools and medical dispensaries. As a result, there are now thousands of Valdoccos, where young people from all backgrounds, but especially the most disadvantaged, can play, study and find adults willing to take them seriously.
Brother Giampietro Pettenon, SDB, is President of "Don Bosco Missions". Recently he visited the Salesian Oratory located inside the juvenile prison in Antananarivo, Madagascar. "Even in a very difficult situation,” he says, “the Salesian novices are able to run an Oratory. Every Sunday, after Mass, they offer the young people a special lunch, the only full and abundant meal of the week. Then they organize an afternoon of great games."
In Madagascar it does not take much to end up behind bars, Almost all these 100 young offenders, aged between 8 and 18, are in prison for petty crimes. "The Salesians are working to improve their living conditions in the facility, but also undertake to provide an alternative to delinquency and unrest."
All over the country there are schools and vocational training centres where the Salesians are training future carpenters, bricklayers, welders, electricians, agricultural and livestock experts. The future of this community will always be at risk if it depends only on external contributions and so Salesians are working to make them autonomous. For example, 80 km from the city of Mahajanga, the Salesians have acquired 96 hectares of land and are now starting a large eco-friendly company to grow rice. "One third of the production will serve to feed the 3,500 children who attend the Salesian works, the rest will be sold, to give the people involved a minimum of economic self-sufficiency," says Bro. Pettenon.
Source: Famiglia Cristiana