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Rector Major gets a taste of India's Culture at Shelter Don Bosco
By Karen Laurie
Mumbai, Nov. 12. ''I'm glad Father Provincial made provisions to bring me here. He could have taken me anywhere else. I am glad he brought me here. I am very very happy. You are in our hearts before anyone else. All Salesians fathers, brothers and sisters are giving our life for you,'' said Father Angel Fernandez Artime, the Rector Major of the Salesians, also the 10th successor of Saint Don Bosco, on his maiden trip to Mumbai, where visited Shelter Don Bosco, Matunga, a Salesian-run home working with roofless and rootless street children from the city on November 12.
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Shelter is a part of the Don Bosco family of institutions that work with and for youth, especially those at risk. Over the past years, Shelter has responded to the growing needs and demands of youth in various ways, each of which has led to several different projects that seek to empower the marginalised child.

The youth, staff and management of Shelter welcomed Father Artime for a special Shelter Mela with a traditional aarti ceremony at 9.30am. Girls from Anmol, meaning priceless, which is a project for Girls at Risk, run by the Salesian Sisters in the city, then performed a special prayer dance.  

Anmol is an organisation that seeks to restore human dignity and build up the self-esteem of the girls on the street. It also looks to restore the girls, back to the family and to provide them with facilities for recreation, medical aid and education.

Boys from Shelter serenaded the Rector Major with a welcome song in English and Italian, telling him never to depart from their hearts. Father Artime was then felicitated with the customary Gandhi topi and shawl. The other dignitaries present: Father Maria Arokiam Kanaga, Regional Superior of South Asia, Father Horacio Lopez, Rector Major's Secretary, Father Godfrey D'Souza, Provincial of Mumbai, Father Savio Silveira, Vice Provincial and Father Manuel Murzello, provincial Economer were also felicitated.

Father Gregory Almeida, Director of Shelter, also the YaR commission coordinator for Mumbai province, addressed the Rector Major, saying, '' We have not seen Don Bosco nor had the privilege to visit Becchi or Turin (where Don Bosco lived and died) but looking at your smile and your friendly presence makes us believe that you are the living Don Bosco among us. For this our hearts are filled with gratitude and joy. We are really blessed with your presence.''

Shelter boys then performed a cultural Koli dance, giving the guests a sneak peek into the rich and diverse cultural heritage of India. Kolis are a fisherfolk community residing in the coastal regions of the state of Maharashtra.  

Youth from Baroda-based Bosco Snehalaya, which is a shelter for Young at Risk, performed a Gujarat folk dance to the tune of local songs. Snehalaya aims to love every street child and youth and to ensure that they receive opportunities for their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual development, which enables them to repatriate back into their family and reintegrate into society.

Youth from Bosco Boys Home in Borivli, which is a non formal technical school catering to the needs of school dropouts, the economically marginalised and orphans, joined forces to show off their talent by performing an intricately choreographed thematic dance on the song, 'Who am I?'

''We are very grateful to Don Bosco. It is a place where we grow and get a good life. Through our performance we want to give a message from our life that always have faith in God in all circumstances, even in danger,'' said James Edward (20) from Bosco's Boys Home, also the dance choreographer .

The boys were deeply moved on listening to a Salesian priest Father Rob Galea sing the popular Christian song as a contestant in Australia's 2015 The X Factor. In 2017, they found their perfect stage during the visit of the Salesian Rector Major.

Bosco Boys Home offers training to youth above the age of 15 and below 24. Youth must hail from economically backward sections of society. It offers youth from across the country a residential facility irrespective of caste and creed.

The Rector Major then released two new books, entitled 'Forever grateful to Don Bosco: Success Stories of Young at Risk' compiled by Martin D'Souza and the 'After Care Directory' compiled by Annie Cardoz and Saloni Shah.

The first book tells readers about 22 success stories of boys and girls from several Don Bosco shelters in the Mumbai province. One such story is of Prabhakar Nadar (30). He joined Shelter as a teenager and today is a driver by profession, with a home of his own. He was once a runaway, brought to Shelter from the railway stations of Mumbai.

''I am what I am because of Shelter Don Bosco and all the Salesian fathers. They trained me to be a driver and helped me get a driver's licence; otherwise I would have no identity. It is very hard to get jobs and any documents on your own for boys like us.''  

Speaking about the book, Father Almeida said, ''It is a book dedicated to Father Steve Rodrigues, a Salesian who showed us how to love and care for young at risk children who are lost, least and last. There are many more success stories of young at risk children but there are some who have come forward to be grateful to Don Bosco and to their respective YaR centres.''

The second publication is a compilation of contact details for after-care assistance for youth and various NGOs who seek to place their youth in the right organisations. Work on the book began after various NGOs realised that an after-care programme in necessary for children in need of care and protection or a juvenile in conflict with law that requires further assistance.

Following the book release, the Rector Major addressed the gathering, saying, '' All you youngsters are the first love of us Salesians and Don Bosco. My loving Salesian fathers, brothers and sisters, I want to thank you for dedicating your lives to serve these young people. I also want to thank all the staff members of the institutes for helping the youth.''

Then just like Don Bosco, the Rector Major was one with the youth as he sat among them, laughing, interacting, etching memories in their hearts and making a difference in their lives. As the curtain fell on the special event and Father Artime departed to the Don Bosco Matunga campus, a Shelter youth Santosh Waghmare (15) said, '' Long live Don Bosco!''


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