Don Bosco Vocational Center, operating inside Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp in Uganda, offers education and vocational training to help young refugees prepare for employment.
There are courses in mechanics, sewing, construction, agriculture, hairdressing and solar energy. The center provides support for 56,000 refugees and 11,000 Ugandans from the northern region.
Don Bosco Vocational Center has become a place where youth are nurtured, and they can access the skills to achieve self-sustainability. To date, the center has trained more than 600 youth, most of them refugees who have returned to South Sudan to contribute to their country.
The recent introduction of upcoming courses brought together many people who are interested in what the center has to offer. Father Ubaldino Andrade, rector of the Salesian community in Palabek, said, “This fact testifies that the young people of the refugee camp are hungry for an education that allows them to offer their families a better quality of life and to contribute to the reconstruction of their country.”
Fr. Andrade added, “At the technical and vocational level, many young refugees want to go out to work, they want to learn a trade, that in most cases, allows them to return to South Sudan and contribute to the reconstruction of the country, destroyed by many years of violence and war.”
He highlighted a recent success. “We have the case of a student who learned mechanics and then took a driving course. She returned to South Sudan and is working as a driver in an agency, with a salary of $700 per month, far above the minimum wage in Uganda.”
Palabek Refugee Resettlement Camp was officially set up in April 2016 to reduce congestion in larger refugee camps in the northwestern corner of Uganda. Several agencies are involved in providing food and education within the camp. While some have left because of the pandemic, Salesians have remained.
Salesian missionaries at the settlement are offering much needed psychosocial support and pastoral care for thousands of Christian residents. They also operate four nursery schools that educate more than 1,000 children. In addition, there are children attending Salesian primary and secondary schools, and more than 700 families are supported by other initiatives.
Salesians also run a special sponsorship program to help youth attend school outside of the camp. Many children and older youth have to walk 10 to 15 kilometers (approximately 6.2 to 9.3 miles) each day to reach the schools.
The sponsorship program enables Salesians to take youth to boarding facilities outside of the camp closer to the schools. Youth are able to live and study there, as well as have access to healthy nutrition and recreational activities.