CAMBODIA: Don Bosco Children’s Fund Starts New Center for At-Risk Children
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Children Fund, a branch of the Don Bosco Foundation Cambodia, recently launched a new multifunctional center for children in the city of Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The center includes a kindergarten, nursery, daycare center, and shelter. The goal of the new center is to provide services to vulnerable women and children who are most at risk of exploitation, human trafficking and crime while living on the streets within the city.
The need for such support was so critical that before construction was even complete on the new center and its services made public, mothers lined up to enroll their children. Already, the kindergarten class has 15 children with 10 more in the nursery and two living at the shelter full-time. According to Brother Roberto Panetto, coordinator of the center, many of the children entering the program all suffered some form of physical and/or emotional neglect.
Some children accessing services had never been vaccinated and were sick upon arriving. Others had been living on the streets with single mothers addicted to drugs or alcohol. One 10-year-old girl could not read, write, or count. Without meaningful intervention, all of these children would have been at high risk for exploitation.
“At the center, these children receive nutrition meals, baths, and clean clothes,” says Bro. Roberto. “They see a doctor when needed, receive attention, and can play in a safe environment. And – most important – they are prepared for primary school.”
Once they finish kindergarten at the center, Don Bosco Children’s Fund will continue to assist them in furthering their education. Started in 1992, the Don Bosco Children’s Fund provides a variety of services and supports to assist poor youth between the ages of six and 15 who are either unable to go to school or have had to drop out due to poverty.
Through the fund’s programs, youth not only receive support to continue their education, they also receive a monthly assistance package consisting of goods and cash. Social workers ensure that youth make progress and remain in school and those with special aptitude are further supported and encouraged to pursue college coursework.
In a country where less than half of children finish primary school, more than 50,000 children have received the encouragement and support needed to complete an elementary education through the Don Bosco Children’s Fund since its inception.
“Before this new Salesian center, women and children living in poverty in Sihanoukville had little recourse and slim chances to escape the threats they faced while living on the streets,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “This program has given them a second chance. Youth need the extra support to stay in school and get an education. The Salesian missionaries at the Don Bosco Children’s Fund provide that much needed support and stability to help youth achieve.”
Cambodia has a long history of violence that has resulted in a quarter of Cambodians living in poverty and surviving on less than $1 per day, according to the World Bank. About 80 percent of the country’s population resides in rural areas and has limited access to education, healthcare and other public services.
Today, close to a quarter of Cambodians over the age of 15 are illiterate. With very little access to education, poor youth find it especially challenging to break the cycle of poverty. To provide youth with greater opportunity, Salesian missionaries in the country operate 45 schools in poor, rural villages through a partnership between Salesian Missions and the Ministry of Education. In addition, Salesian missionaries operate seven vocational training centers that impart much needed job skills.
Salesian Missions – A Future Free of Exploitation for Cambodia’s Children
UNICEF – Cambodia