Everyday somewhere in the world the earth is shaking, heavy rains cause the rivers flood the fields and villages, typhoons and hurricanes devastate the land, draughts destroy the crops depriving people of their basic needs. Only some of these break into global news because of their extend range and severe impact on the great number of people’s lives.
Salesian communities present in 132 countries in the world deal with these calamities and their effects on a regular basis. Most of the times, when the disaster affects limited area, communities and provinces respond locally. But in some cases, when the emergency hits with a great force like it happened in Haiti in 2010, in Philippines in 2013 or in Nepal in 2014, there is a need for international response and solidarity involving other Salesian provinces, Salesian organizations, institutions as well as private and public donors supporting the affected population in all phases of emergency relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation.
Since 2013, Don Bosco Network has been established by the Rector Major a focal point coordinating global emergency responsesof the Salesians. Joining the efforts of many Salesian NGOs, Mission Offices and other partners, we do everything we can to provide fast and accurate help in case of emergency.
Over the course of a few weeks, Covid-19 has gone from being a Chinese national problem to a pandemic involving the whole world. While the contagion has spread day by day in new regions and countries, the Don Bosco Network (DBN), the coordinating body of ten of the most important Salesian NGOs, has been hard at work. Under the patronage of the Rector Major, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, it has initiated a coordinated response to the current emergency under the guidance of the Congregation’s Emergency Response Coordinator – the coordinator of the Congregation’s Mission Office.
Recommendations to prevent contagions, suggestions on how to continue helping the population in different local contexts, and finally several ideas for drawing lessons from this pandemic: these are the fundamental elements of a fraternal letter sent by Bursar General, Bro. Jean Paul Muller, SDB, to the Salesian Provincials around the world due to Covid-19’s advancement at the global level.
“Dear Provincial, I hope you have been able to make your way back home. You can imagine how concerned we are about the situation …”, begins Bro Muller. He then goes on to indicate several of the most well-known and basic hygienic actions for one’s personal protection and the containment of infections, before suggesting a number of specific preventive measures for the Salesian religious communities themselves.
“Our models are Don Bosco and his boys at the time of a cholera epidemic. More recently, we’ve had our brave confreres in Sierra Leone and Liberia at the time of Ebola.”
The heavy rains and strong winds from the tropical storm Lekina, and the impact of the southwest monsoon, hit Cambodia’s coastal provinces, causing floods in several areas, including Sihanoukville. The Ministry of Water Resources and Meteorology had issued a statement, urging citizens to prepare for this serious natural event. However, the Don Bosco Technical School, the Hotel and Children Fund center of Sihanoukville, suffered flooding on the night between 8 and 9 August. Salesian Brother Roberto Panetto, Economer of the Don Bosco Sihanoukville Center, described what happened.
“Last night at 22:30 (August 8), the heavy rain made me have a walk to check the water level in front of our school. I advised some our staff families and guests at the ground floor of our guesthouse to get ready for some water may enter in their ground floor rooms,” said Br Panetto. “The level of the water on the main road in front of our school started to rise and in a matter of few minutes it was overflowing the dam-wall we had just built to prevent flooding.”
After weeks of torrential rains and floods, a large area between Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi has been hit by Cyclone Idai. Although the official figures are still being updated, the situation on the ground is defined as “terrifying”: over 200 victims already registered, but the estimates speak of more than 1,000.
Of the three countries affected by the fury of the cyclone, Mozambique is probably the hardest struck. The communities of the Salesians and the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Mozambique, despite not having homes in the tragedy’s epicenter, are mobilizing to assist the victims by providing food, clothing and basic necessities, as well as their prayers.
In the coastal city of Beira, 90% of the buildings have been destroyed or damaged, while most of the population is displaced. Also severely damaged are sections of the hospital and the city’s most important access roads. The port is only partially operational, but still allows for the arrival of aid by sea. Other central provinces of Manica, Zambezia and Tete have also been affected by floods, as well as part of the northern part of Niassa. Many of the inland villages have remained isolated and still inaccessible to relief efforts.Read more »
In recent hours more than 23,000 people have left their homes, the violence of the storm has already caused over 400 victims and devastated more than 5,000 homes.
Kerala has suffered devastating floods before but, according to meteorologists, last week the rainfall intensity was 250% higher than average. The local government did not act promptly and it was necessary to drain the water from too full basins, opening the dam gates. The exact extent of the damage is still difficult to calculate, a clear idea can only be had when the waters totally withdraw. According to local premier Pinarayi Vijayan at least 83 thousand kilometers of roads are devastated, while about 20 thousand houses and some 40 thousand hectares of cultivated fields have been destroyed, reports the ANSA news agency.Read more »
Flash floods in Kerala have killed 87 people and displaced around 36,000 according to Indian officials, after heavy monsoons led to landslides and overflowing reservoirs across the southern state. Also the Salesians institutions in central Kerala are flooded. “We are unable to do anything due to incessant rain” the Salesians working there say.
Kerala, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the monsoon every year but the rains have been particularly severe this season.
An incessant downpour battered Kerala again on Wednesday, resulting in 28 more deaths and more destruction and forcing authorities to issue a red alert across the southern state. With these deaths on Wednesday, including five of a family, the death toll since August 8 climbed to 67.Read more »
The Don Bosco Network has been very busy the last few months with a number of important meetings and events (which are summarized below in this newsletter). The good news is the cooperation and networking between Salesian Family or-ganizations is improving. Only when we work in synergy, mutual trust and support we can ensure that the Don Bosco mission for young people will be long–lasting and sustainable with great positive impact in the lives of young people worldwide.
We are happy to welcome a new member to DBN: SAVIO from Slovakia. We are happy to see great interest from other Salesian organizations to cooperate and network with us through our online platform and other programs and projects. With a new board of directors and a new strategic plan for next 3 years, we hope to be of even better service to the Don Bosco mission. The main focus points for us in next 3 years are:
1) communication and synergy (including the online platform);
2) capacity building (PDOs, TVET…), effective support to SDB in emergency situations and training on prepared-ness for natural disasters; and
3) advocacy, development education and missionary ani-mation.
Thematic working groups are effective tool to achieve good results and impact.
I would like to conclude with a phrase from our mission state-ment: Youth at the heart of development! Let us remember this in all our activities.
With these words Joanna Stożek addressed all in the newsletter of last July. As the new President of the DBN, I would like to use the same welcoming words in this final newsletter of the year, because we are all brothers and sisters in the same family! Looking back at the last year, I would like first to express again my thanks to Joanna. I hope to be a worthy successor to her. Secondly I would like to thank all of you for your dedicated work and cooperation in the projects and actions undertaken on behalf of young vulnerable persons in many countries, especially those in emergency situations. I think that we can be proud of the way we are helping young people to “stand up” and, often, to recover their dignity. I am sure that many are looking enviously at our work, in particular our data-base developed and coordinated by Wojciech. DBN was established to respond to the needs of young people but this would not be possible without the active partnership with the Salesian Congregation. Therefore we are happy to adopt our new DBN logo, expressing our partnership with the Salesian Congregation. It is not only a sort of ‘convenience’, but it is an expression of real cooperation! I hope that in the coming year we will continue to make progress along the lines which the logo expresses. I wish you all a Merry Christmas and I send you and your families my best wishes for 2018.
The news of the disaster caused by Hurricane Maria has been distressing. “Puerto Rico under shock for the magnitude of the disaster,” wrote El País, which confirmed what Governor Ricardo Roselló had said: “This is a major disaster. No doubt.” The economic losses will amount to billions of dollars, according to Jennifer González, Puerto Rico representative at the United States Congress, who said: “We have never suffered a devastation like this.” There are no Salesians among the victims, but all Salesian centers in the country have been damaged.
On Friday afternoon, September 22, returning from Santiago de Cuba, Fr Francisco Batista, Provincial of the Antilles – Province to which Puetro Rico’s Salesian centers refer to – was able to communicate with Fr Nicolas Navarro, parish priest of the Church of Mary Help of Christians in the Cantera district in San Juan, the country capital. “There is no structure that has not been hit by the hurricane. Electric poles and telephone service have fallen, as have a large number of trees which were knocked over by the hurricanes,” he commented.Read more »
The earthquake bearing a magnitude of 7.1° on the Richter scale that struck Mexico on Tuesday, September 19, has caused hundreds of victims: 217, according to the Civil Protection Service as of this morning, but the number may increase due to the high probability that there are people trapped under collapsed buildings. Mexico’s National Civil Protection Coordinator, Luis Felipe Puente, said the victims numbered 86 in Mexico City, 71 in Morelos, 43 in Puebla, 12 in the State of Mexico, 4 in Guerrero and one in Oaxaca. Unfortunately, following the collapse of the “Enrique Rebsamen” school, there are at least 25 children among the earthquake’s victims. The search for survivors is currently underway.
Shortly after the earthquake, the Provincials of the two Provinces of Mexico, Fr Hugo Orozco Sánchez, of Mexico-Guadalajara (MEM), and Fr Gabino Hernández Paleta, of Mexico-Mexico, sent a statement regarding the status of Salesians and the Salesian centers throughout Mexico, affirming there was no harm to people and that damage to property would be quantified at a later date.Read more »
Don Bosco Fambul in Freetown is assisting 300 children and young people affected by fatal mudslides in the Regent area of the city as Sierra Leone entered a week-long mourning period for the victims of the flooding that has killed more than 400 people, with fears that the death toll could rise as 600 remain missing. AFP news agency reported on Wednesday that among the dead were at least 105 children.
Peru is experiencing the negative effects of climate change, in particular due to the torrential rains of recent weeks. This weather phenomenon is causing major emergencies, disasters and floods in Piura (in the north) and other regions of Peru. In recent weeks, heavy rains and landslides (floods with water, stones and mud), hit the southern and central zones, including Lima, the capital. According to official figures the death toll is 62 people and 11 remain missing.
“The image of Ethiopia in 1984, with children emaciated to the extreme, and over a million deaths from lack of food, have remained in the minds of many Westerners as a reminder of a terrible word: famine” – Carlos Laorden.
“There are cases of deaths from starvation. We do not know how many, because we have no access,” says Luca Russo, Special Adviser to the FAO, referring to the current situation in South Sudan. In this catastrophic situation, the Salesians continue to stay with the people.Read more »
Salesian Missions, Don Bosco Mondo and other members of Don Bosco Network have launched an emergency fundraising effort to support missionaries assisting people affected by severe drought in Kenya. The government of Kenya has declared the country’s devastating drought a national disaster, with an estimated 2.7 million people in urgent need of food aid as a result of lack of rain and a worsening water shortage.
Salesian missionaries with the Don Bosco Mission in Korr—located in the north central region of Kenya— have already begun providing food relief with the limited means available. Right now, missionaries are providing milk, maize flour, wheat flour, oil and salt, which must be brought in from the community of Isiolo more than 142 miles away from Korr. Salesian missionaries are also providing access to clean, safe water from boreholes that have been dug. With food and water supplies running out, Salesian missionaries must rely on donations and financial support to assist with this crisis.Read more »
We realized this was the sole request of everyone we interviewed, praying for peace. It became clear what we were really set out to do here – relate Michał Król, Fr Roman Sikoń SDB and Darek Malejonek (Polish Singer) from Salesian Missionary Voluntary Service – Youth for the World (Poland) who have spent week in Syria. In choosing not to immerse ourselves in the convoluted political situation Syria found itself in, we focused instead on the lives of ordinary civilians and the Salesians who were trapped in the jaws of daily war, we also met with hundreds of young Syrians at the Salesian youth center who inspired us with their kindness and authenticity. They too did not hesitate to ask us to keep them in our intentions and prayers.
Hurricane Matthew, one of the most catastrophic tropical storms of the past decade, has hit Haiti very hard. At least nineteen people have died. This is a Category 4 storm with winds that have reached a speed of 230 km per hour. The southern part of the country was the part most affected by the hurricane. The Salesians are safe and well, but the community at the entrance of the southern city of Les Cayes suffered considerable damage, although the buildings were able to withstand the strong winds.
The hurricane has stunned the entire country. All Haitian schools will remain closed until next Monday 10 October. Now the storm is heading for the Bahamas and the South East of the United States. The presidential elections in the country scheduled for next Sunday have had to be postponed. The Salesians have also had to postpone the celebrations for the 80th anniversary of their arrival, originally scheduled for yesterday 5 October.Read more »
(Rome, July 15, 2016) – Between Sunday and Monday last, thousands of frightened people sought refuge in the Salesian mission at Gumbo, 8 km from the centre of Juba, in South Sudan, because of the resumption of armed clashes. Now the mission is home to a huge number of people: between 5,000 and 8,000 by day, a number that increases at night because many return there to sleep. And they need everything: food, water, basic necessities.
In Gumbo explosions and gunfire were heard clearly, especially in the afternoon and evening of Monday 11 July even after the cease-fire by both sides had been proclaimed. “Gunfire, bursts of machine gun and bullets rose into the sky like fireworks. Within a short time the shooting came from all directions, and even approached our compound,” according to Salesian missionary Bro. James Comino.Read more »
Floodwaters and landslides in Sri Lanka have forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes, report agencies. At least 37 people have died and 21 are missing after three days of incessant rains and destructive landslides. “As Salesians we are here to help the people in desperate need although we ourselves are also suffering just as much as the people in general,” says Fr Joseph Almeida, provincial of Salesians in Sri Lanka.Read more »
On the 16th of April 2016 7.8 Magnitude earthquake struck Ecuador, more than 600 people died, and 14,000 are displaced. SDB community in Manta suffered damages to the buildings. Salesians are assisting the affected people with emergency relief help. Don Bosco Network supported the local SDB province and PDO to establish good communication channels with the donors. For more information visit Ecuador SDB province website: http://www.salesianos.org.ec/ and you will find all the current updates, reports and materials in the link Familia Salesiana Solidaria.
We are writing to inform you that unfortunately the Horn of Africa is facing another incredible drought and famine emergency due to El Nino climate event, that is affecting many African countries like Somalia, Northern Kenya and Ethiopia. The current emergency is even worse that the last of 2011 and till now there is not enough communication about it in the international media. The UN Dispatch has defined it has the worst drought in 60 years, affecting harvests, livestock and of course human beings.
Today, more than 10.4 million of Ethiopian people in different regions are affected by this severe drought, and this is documented by official international documents (OCHA – UN, and others). Read more »
Don Bosco Network is monitoring emergency flood situation in India. INM Madras province is mainly affected. Thanks to quick reaction of Fr George from Bosco Net, we have detailed information on the damage to the Salesian Communities and SDB relief activities.Chennai city has been experiencing incessant rainfalls last month. The lakes and rivers were are all inundated and now with day before yesterday’s heavy downpour up to 62 cms on a single day, they are all overflowing. These resulted in serious damage to the roads and residents areas causing floods, thus disrupting the functions of normal life. Airports have been shut, buses and trains have been stopped and next departure have been postponed indefinitely. Many people have lost their belongings and are not able to cook their daily food, more than 260 have died.Read more »
“I also appeal to you Provincials, to ask you with the urgency that you can determine, perhaps with your councils, what each province can do and what you can ask every community and parish to do, to be ready to accept migrant families in our works. We pay particular attention to unaccompanied minors and young people. We should also host one family, four or five people. With a little from everyone we can do a lot, in cooperation with local churches and the local area.”
We encourage you to read the letter sent to the Provincials of Europe by the Rector Major Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, concerning the refugee emergency. Read the letter here>>