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Mario Neon Duque Perez, a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco, has devoted his life to serving vulnerable youth worldwide. Starting his missionary work in the 1970s, he notably led the Don Bosco Center in Goma, DRC, transforming it into a sanctuary and educational institution for tens of thousands of disadvantaged children, earning international recognition including the 2009 UNICEF “Los Niños Primero” award.

Born on August 23, 1958, in Venezuela, Duque Perez was raised in a missionary Catholic family and later became a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco. This religious community, founded by Father John Bosco (Don Bosco) in Italy, is dedicated to serving and nurturing young people, particularly those most in need. Their mission centers on demonstrating and spreading God’s love through education and care for youth worldwide.

Duque Perez began his missionary journey in the 1970s on the Colombia-Venezuela border. By 1982, he had moved to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where he dedicated himself to aiding street boys in Lubumbashi. In 1997, he took on the role of director at the Don Bosco Center of Goma  – Ngangi in the DRC, where he served for 13 years. The center has been a sanctuary for around 40,000 children, including orphans, albinos, and those victimized by local prejudice and accused of witchcraft. Perez’s commitment extended beyond Africa when he traveled to Haiti in 2010 to support the earthquake-affected population.

The Don Bosco Center in Goma was originally founded in 1988 to offer sports and extracurricular activities for the youth in the Ngangi district. Due to widespread poverty preventing 80% of children from attending school, the center gradually evolved into an educational institution. The outbreak of war in Rwanda further transformed the center into a refuge for young people fleeing the conflict. Under Duque Perez’s leadership, the center’s contributions were internationally recognized, culminating in being honored with the 2009 UNICEF “Los Niños Primero” award for their exceptional work with children.