Focus 2004

Uruguay - URU01-06-2004

Project: TACURÚ Social Work
Date of foundation: 1981
Place: Uruguay
Province: Uruguay (URU)


"It all began as a bit of a game, back then in ‘81, gathering the youngsters at weekends, those between 10-15 years of age, working in the streets, shining shoes, looking after vehicles or selling merchandise on buses. It took its name from that time, TACURÚ, since this is the name given to an ant, a worker-ant. We brought these wild young characters together to play, to give them catechetics, some kind of formative gathering and to give them something to eat". With these words the then Rector of this Salesian work began his explanation to the Human Rights Commission of the Montevideo Departmental Council, at the end of 1995.

As he explained at the time, this basic festive oratory of the Salesian seminarians was growing. Then, after a number of changing of locations as Don Bosco himself experienced and twenty or so years later we would like to show you a much larger auditorium.


TACURÚ belongs to a very poor suburb of the country’s capital, Montevideo, where public services are insufficient, and the population is in constant growth. Poor people displaced from other areas continue to arrive. It is an area that harbours thieves, unemployed, people without a present or a future, people who can only be spoken of as living in danger.

Children and young people under the age of 20 make up half the population. For them, even though there are some over-crowded schools in the area, there is a lack of secondary education and availability of work. For more than 1500, adolescents and young people, TACURÚ is an answer.


TACURÚ consists of two works, centred on the main street in the area, and practically at the extremes of its area of influence.

Towards the West, the Don Bosco Technical School offers three year courses, free for all practical purposes, in carpentry, cooking, tailoring, electricity, to more than 200 young people. Of course, the teachers do not simply limit themselves to providing courses for entry to the workforce but are committed to a work of education, knowing that this is "something of the heart". And so, if they are able, the youngsters want to stay all day: "here I feel myself to be at home".

At the other end of the suburb, Tacurú House offer further formative opportunities. We’ll describe them to you in order, according to the age group for which each exists, although some cover all ages.

At weekends, the House is never empty. The Festive Oratory calls together, Saturday after Saturday, some 120 youngsters. Here you find the same laughter, the same games, the same educational items that Salesians have always known as could be found at Valdocco. A little later, the Youth Centre opens for around 40 older young people, and where they can take up various groups and mature in experiences of apostolic commitment.

On the other says, each evening, when the schools have closed their gates, at the House, some 180 youngsters gather around their teachers at the Sports School. Here they are organised into age groups (from 8 to 15), and the learn, practice, and then enter and compete in a junior football league. Then they have a chance for a chat during the meal prepared by some parents, and head off home in orderly fashion.

It’s not only football however. Some, perhaps most, take part in other olympic sports, y and win medals int eh various categories.

At midday there are those who take part in Learning Support. There are around 50 students in circumstances of social vulnerability, and they are helped by a multidisciplinary team of teachers and technical instructors. But as well as helping them scholastically, the "support" has an integrative character about it: recreation, music, computers, sport, walks, breakfast, camps, meetings with parents, links with their schools.

And the fruits are obvious: the children who at the beginning of the scholastic year seem content with repeating, now succeed in their exams, year after year.

Youth House is an offering for 45 young people. Workshops, computers, outings, meetings, camps. The 45 are chosen from a group of around a hundred, depending on the level of difficulty experienced in their family situation. Followed up by another group of educators, they learn to live with others their own age, to share life and activities, to discover –at this difficult age- that the greatest richness of their youth is to know how to benefit from it for personal growth.

The Older Adolescents project is for 44 youngsters. Tacurú entrusts these ones, and those adults with them, with a thousand tasks: we find them helping out in the kitchen, working on the land; building the fences around the place, or shoring up parts of the house. From classes they go on to take part in retreats, outings and camps… the part they play in helping to maintain the place has two rewards: economically, for they receive a small stipend which they learn to spend wisely and to share with their families. In institutional terms once they have turned 18, the upper age limit for being part of the project, they are given preference in a project of  Work-Education contracts.

Some years ago, the local government launched a policy of Work-education Contracts aimed at those organisations who work for the most disadvantaged young people. Tacurú took advantage of this offer. Thanks to these contracts, around 500 young people over 18 and without opportunities, are contracted for a period to carry out service roles in the community (mostly, keeping the streets clean around a large area of the Capital), in exchange for an appropriate remuneration and with a commitment to preparing themselves better for the possibility of being able to more definitely fit into the work force.

This experience of contracts, that Tacurú has extended to other public and private organisations, has been exceptionally successful.

The requirement that the young people participating in these Work_education contracts prepare themselves, has given rise to other initiatives outside of Tacurú, which alone would not be able to meet all the needs of these young people. With the support of the Salesian NGO from Bologna,  “Amici dei Popoli” (Friends of the People) and funding from the European Union, a Qualification Centre has been set up.

Now, in its seventh year of existence with only a short interruption, this centre offers wholistic formation and qualification in sanitary matters (bathroom, toilet fittings), vehicle repair, electrical fittings, ceramics and informatics. More than 80 take part in this.  Those who have not already completed their schooling can do so and they receive an official certificate, approved by the Ministry of Education according to a previous arrangement.

Finally, it is worth mentioning a serivce which is no less important: the dining room. The kitchen and bakery offer daily around three hundred free meals to those taking part in the different projects and who are there around midday.

Other information
Total number of young people involved: more than 1500


Bernardo APoncini, 1521
12300 Montevideo - URUGUAY

Tel: (02) 355 22 90 - (02) 354 21 91
Fax: (02) 354 21 91
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