CAMBODIA: Don Bosco Children’s Fund Supports More than 840 Youth Affected by HIV/AIDS
(MissionNewswire) The Don Bosco Children’s Fund provides services and support for AIDS orphans and children affected by HIV/AIDS in Phnom Penh, the capital and largest city of Cambodia, and surrounding areas. More than 840 youth are receiving education and health services as a part of the fund’s Project HIV/AIDS.
According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS, there were more than 75,000 people living with HIV in Cambodia in 2013. Children under the age of 14 made up 5,200 of the HIV cases in the country. Through Project HIV/AIDS, the Don Bosco Children’s Fund aims to provide holistic and proactive programs on primary healthcare and education, improve children’s health and welfare with anti-retroviral therapy and encourage public awareness and community involvement.
“Access to healthcare and education as well as supportive services to help youth affected by HIV/AIDS is critical to improve quality of life,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “It is important for young people to acquire the coping skills that enable them to continue on with their lives, attend school and integrate with their peers.”
Youth attending the program have access to a Salesian-run health clinic as well as counseling services. In addition, those who have no family support live in an orphanage run by Salesian missionaries which provides for all their basic needs as well as grants access to education, recreational activities and life skills training to help prepare them for the future.
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.
The Fund also operates both a primary and secondary school in Battambang with a focus on making sure young girls have access to education. With even a basic education, girls are better equipped to face the often daily dangers of human trafficking, child prostitution and substance abuse. Today, more than 2,000 girls who live in poverty have access to basic education and continued vocational and technical training through the Don Bosco Children’s Fund bringing the possibilities of jobs and independence within reach. In addition, hundreds of students at four specialized schools for young women are opening new doors for themselves by developing secretarial, printing, electronics and sewing skills.
“Many parents in Cambodia did not have the same opportunities for education as their children do today so they do not see staying in school as a priority, particularly when many children have been forced to work to bring in extra money for the family,” adds Fr. Hyde. “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.
UNAIDS – Cambodia
World Bank – Cambodia