Sri Lanka – “Bosco Sevana”: Salesian home that welcomes and raises minors in difficulty

by Fr. Sebastian Fernando

Among the various Salesian homes animated by the Sons of Don Bosco of the “St. Joseph” Vice-Province in Sri Lanka, a social work dedicated to the rehabilitation of poor and most needy youth stands out: it is the “Bosco Sevana” center, located in the small Sri Lankan coastal town of Uswetakeiyawa. Built and started more than 25 years ago, in 1996, as a rehabilitation center for sexually abused minors, it was able to effectively counteract the rate of child abuse in the district and has since been converted into a children’s home where the poorest, most marginalized and vulnerable such as street children or orphans, are welcomed and guided to become responsible citizens.

The reality of Uswetakeiyawa, however, remains problematic to this day. It is a small village located near Negombo, one of the country’s major commercial centers, and its area is home to a large bilingual (Sinhalese/Tamil) population with a majority of Catholics. It is known for its long beaches and fishing industry. Most of its population consists of very poor fishing families who do seasonal work; they go fishing in faraway places, leaving their children unattended.

These children, mostly in the age group of 7 to 16 years old, often grow up abandoned to their own devices and begin to be victims of drug addiction and sexual abuse at an early age. As a result, the dropout rate has risen alarmingly, exceeding 53 percent. Indeed, the recent political crisis in the country is only the latest of the problems compounding an already dire situation for the population.

In the face of these difficulties, and recognizing the priority value of the Salesian action carried out at “Bosco Sevana,” the great machine of international solidarity is moving. “Missioni Don Bosco,” the Salesian Mission Office of Turin, has in fact launched a project to support the running costs of the center, which currently houses 30 children in vulnerable conditions.

Over the years, the activity has managed to sustain itself thanks to the generosity of local people and organizations, but due to the current economic crisis on the island, expenses are no longer sustainable and the local religious need help to continue to offer a better future for the children under the protection of Don Bosco.

The goal of the project is multifaceted: to ensure that the children receive healthy nutrition and good health care; to make sure that they can attend the nearby state school; to allow them to participate in evening educational support classes – which, moreover, also benefit local children; and, in general, to give them the opportunity to continue growing up in a protected family environment, enjoying moments of sports and play like all children in the world.

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The society of St. Francis de Sales or Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB), is a religious Congregation founded by St. John Bosco in 1859 in Turin, Italy for the purpose of helping, educating and training poor boys. To date, services of the Salesians have spread to 131 countries in the world. In Sri Lanka, the very first Don Bosco Centre was established in 1956 at Negombo. The Salesians of Don Bosco have, to date established 18 centres in different parts of the country. 


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