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BOSCO Refugee Assistance Programme receives Pascual Chavez Award 2013


By Antony Earathara
On the right: The Citation given to BOSCO; Group Photo: from Right - Fr. Jose Mathew (Director, BOSCO), Fr. Maria Arokiam Kanaga (Regional Councillor), Fr. Michael Peedikayil (Provincial, New Delhi) and Fr. Noel Maddhichetty (Secretary, SPCSA).
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Kolkata, Jun. 1. .  NEW DELHI:   BOSCO (Bosco Organisation for Social Concern and Operation), New Delhi has won the Pascual Chavez Award for Innovative Ministry, after having been short listed along with 3 other out reach ministry expressions of the Salesian Family for the year 2013.

The award was conferred on 28 May 2014 at Yercaud, Salem, on BOSCO, a refugee assistance programme in operation in the Indian Capital New Delhi. The award which consists of a citation and monetary token of appreciation was handed over to Fr. Jose Mathew, Director of BOSCO by Fr. Maria Arokiam Kanaga, the Regional Councillor of the Salesians for South Asia. The ceremony took place in the presence of over 40 Salesians who had gathered together for the annual general assembly of the Salesian Provincial Conference of South Asia (SPCSA) at  ''The Retreat'', Yercaud, Salem.
Pascual Chavez Award for Innovative Ministry was instituted in 2012 to highlight ministries which are  effective expressions of the Salesian charism in today's world. Innovative ministry of the Salesian Family are assessed on criteria in the  area of unique intervention, methodology, target group, strategy, capacity to be models, and impact. SPCSA states that the purpose of the award is ''to recognise a ministry of the Salesian Family and make it known for its novelty and propagate it more widely.''

BOSCO (Bosco Organisation for Social Concern and Operation) New Delhi is the second recipient of the award, the first having been Don Bosco Prison Ministry, Berhampore, of Kolkata Province, in 2012.

BOSCO is a social  development organization of the Salesians of Don Bosco of New Delhi, with focus on assisting and serving the large number of refugees who flock to the Indian capital. It serves approximately 22,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Delhi through its 14 centres spread across New Delhi in Lajpat Nagar, Malviya Nagar, Wazirabad and Vikaspuri areas.

BOSCO is also partnering with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, for providing access to health, education, community empowerment/self-reliance, psycho-social and other such support to refugees  in Delhi since the last one decade.

Education and Vocational Training form one of the key areas of BOSCO's work with refugees in New Delhi. ''BOSCO tries to provide admission to refugee children to government schools'', said Fr. Jose Mathew. ''We have also 7 outreach centres where refugee children are provided tuition and bridge classes. They are also provided uniforms and mid-day meals'', he added.  Children who are eligible are helped to obtain admission to National Open School (NOS) to do their 10th and 12th grades, and thereafter given the required tuitions for their studies.

Language being a big handicap for most of the refugees, BOSCO provides English and Hindi classes for them at 4 Training centres. They are also trained in basic and advanced computer skills for a period of six months.

Many of them are also sponsored for vocational courses of six months' duration in 26 institutes of the city so that they can get employment. BOSCO provides also job placement to the refugees. The Director clarified saying, ''Those who register with BOSCO as job seekers are groomed for interviews and are provided life skills training as well. Post placement follow up is also done for all in order to ensure that they get their wages on time and are secure  at the workplace.''

Psychosocial Support is another big service BOSCO provides to the refugees as most of them would have incurred a lot of trauma in the country of origin and would have also coping issues during their stay in New Delhi. BOSCO has technical tie up with VIMHANS (Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Science) in New Delhi to provide service in this regard.  Individual counselling, group therapy, de-addiction from drugs and alcohol etc. are provided to those in need. Single refugees without family support are institutionalised for their treatment. Fr. Jose Mathew pointed out that ''as part of the psychosocial support BOSCO has a special focus on unaccompanied minors who are here in New Delhi without family support. They are encouraged to take up studies and are provided life skills training.''

Health Support is another area where BOSCO has excelled. BOSCO supports refugees to have better access to government health facilities through Community Service providers, who themselves are refugees and able to speak in Hindi and English.  Refugees are provided with generic medicines that are not available in the government pharmacy through four chemists that BOSCO has tie up with. ''Health Camps are also organized at various refugee populated areas'', said Fr. Jose Mathew.

True to the Salesian spirit, BOSCO reaches out to the youth among the refugees through Youth Clubs. BOSCO has formed 11 youth clubs in the community, and these clubs serve to conduct awareness programmes and campaigns on Sexual and gender based violence, Education, HIV/AIDS etc. They also keep the youth engaged with sports and cultural programmes. Fr. Jose pointed out that ''currently there are about 1000 refugee youth associated with BOSCO Youth Clubs.''

Income Generation Activities are also undertaken for refugees who are very vulnerable and who find it difficult to take up jobs like single mothers, those on psychiatric medication etc. They have activities such as Knitting, Tailoring, Candle Making, Paper Plate Making, Paper Bag Making, Embroidery, Block printing, and Chocolate Making etc., which fetch them a tidy income.

Apart from these activities BOSCO also conducts frequent rapport building sessions between refugees and locals in their neighbourhood to improve their relations, and promote peace and harmony.

BOSCO has a dedicated team of 230 staffs and half of them are refugees themselves who find joy and pride in working for the cause of these most vulnerable people.

Fr. Jose Mathew highlighted the aim of BOSCO saying that it is to empower refugees to rebuild their lives by identifying their potential and building their own capacity. He added, ''Every refugee hopes and dreams of a war free peaceful world. We admire their strength and courage as they face new challenges and start life afresh trying to heal from the pain and trauma of losing their most dear ones back home in conflict.''
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