Volume 33 No. 3 | Spring 2023 4 Society Matters SVD project helps build a positive future for young people in Chad The Divine Word Missionaries in the poverty-hit African nation of Chad are supporting young people with a large youth animation project aimed at helping them build a positive future. The project is underway in the Parish of St Arnold Janssen in Laramanaye in the Republic of Chad, a large parish, which also takes in 53 outstations. Parish Priest, Fr Jean-Baptiste Huy Tran SVD, says the ‘Animation of Youth’ project covers a large part of the youth in the parish, including the children, girl scouts and boy scouts, the youth group and school students from 11 kindergartens, four elementary schools and a middle school. “We work in a rural parish with a demographic marked by the presence of children and young people,” Fr Huy says. “They need to be welcomed and accompanied to build their future. “Through this animation project we want to accompany them in discerning the dangers to avoide, which include drugs, easy money, early marriage, child trafficking, alcohol, pornography and communicable diseases such as AIDS. “We also want to work with them to raise awareness about the importance of education to build a better future.” Chad is one of the poorest countries in Africa, due to recent civil wars, coups and endemic corruption. The Human Development Index placed Chad as the 186th amongst the 188 countries in the world. Fr Huy says that with a failure to educate young people from both parents and the government, the parish has placed children and the young as their pastoral priority. Parents believe that working the cornfield and tending the animals are more important for children than going to school. There is poor infrastructure for schools and also a shortage of qualified teachers, particularly in rural areas. There are similar challenges in health care, especially in areas like primary health care and the fight against malaria, HIV-AIDS and infant mortality. The project includes a ‘Learning to read well’ program, which is an extra curriculum for primary school children at St Arnold Janssen Elementary School, involving two sessions a week for a two hours in the afternoon. “We also hold youth Masses in French in 20 outstations, usually followed by a light refreshment, a soccer game or a few dances,” Fr Huy says. The parish also holds a camp of friendship for Kemkogis. KEMKOGI is a Children’s Catholic Action Movement (ACE), and a member of the International Movement for the Apostolate of Children. “During the three-day camp, we allow Kemkogis to get to know each other better and boost a deeper friendship,” he says. To help encourage leadership skills in young people, the parish supports and accompanies 10 youth representing the parish at the national youth form in the Diocese of Lai. “And finally, we award gifts for the best student of each of the four elementary schools and middle school,” Fr Huy says. “These gifts consist of the total amount of school fees for the next year, a backpack, school supplies, dictionaries, school uniforms, and a few sheep and goats for the feasting with students as schools end.” Fr Huy thanked the Australia Province and its benefactors and partners in mission for providing financial support to organize the different activities to help animate the parish’s children and young people.