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Burundi – New frontier of apostolate for people with disabilities

(ANS – Rukago) – As part of the new evangelization paths that call for the creation of new frontiers of the apostolate, the Salesian parish of Rukago has started a new branch: assistance to people with disabilities.

The first meeting especially aimed at people with disabilities in the Salesian center of Rukago already took place this past summer. On the occasion, the parish priest, Fr Benjamin Gahungu, said that diversity in society is a wealth that must not be hidden by fear. Then he announced: “The parish is organizing itself to offer you vocational training to promote your autonomy. You have many skills and talents that we will help you discover and develop to fight poverty. Our duty is to encourage, form and accompany you.”

After this presentation, there was a moment of questions and answers which stimulated those present to open their hearts. Then, during individual interviews, he was able to listen to the words of those who suffer, in addition to physical limitations, for the judgment of other people, or isolation, sometimes even in their own  families, and took the opportunity to console, encourage and confess those who had felt the need.

On the occasion, people with disabilities launched many proposals to Fr Gahungu and, albeit slowly, implementation is now proceeding.

The community economer, Fr Raphaël Katanga, and Sister Claudette Habarugira, head of the parish Caritas, are in fact in permanent contact with these new recipients. The Salesian community of Rukago and the members of the Parish Council continue to reflect together on how to respond to their needs. And the community of Rukago, the animating nucleus of all the parish activities, has begun the search for funding for the purchase of sewing machines and other equipment to be used in the vocational training of people with disabilities.

The training course will be validated by a certificate of professional qualification. It features a prolonged formation and is to be made available in various locations so as to meet safety standards.

Since the primary objective of this new apostolate is the social integration of people with disabilities, the Salesian community is not limited only to developing the path of vocational formation, but during the weekends it animates various recreational, sporting and cultural activities that help people with disabilities to develop self-esteem, build identity, maintain physical and mental health.

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