CAMBODIA: Don Bosco Kep gives children who have been exploited through child labor a chance to regain their childhood and go to school
(MissionNewswire) Don Bosco Technical School (Don Bosco Kep) and Don Bosco Children Fund, both located in the Kep district within the Kep province of Cambodia, are working to provide a second chance for children who have been exploited, abused and caught up in forced child labor. Samai (age 11) and Phirun (age 13) were both exploited in a brick factory where they worked to earn money for their families. Now, they are attending Don Bosco Kep, reclaiming their childhood and gaining an education.
Also attending Don Bosco Kep is Danith, age 16. When Danith was just 11, he lost his sight and his family abandoned him in the streets. Now he is a participant, along with 50 other children, in the Sun Children’s program at Don Bosco Kep. In addition to education, the program includes housing at the school where the children are cared for in a family environment.
“It’s amazing how in a few weeks these children, who lived without a childhood, recover their smiles and their games. They return definitively to what a natural childhood should be,” explains says Father Albeiro Rodas, a Salesian missionary at Don Bosco Kep.
During the 2017-2018 school year, Don Bosco Kep educated 300 students, aged 3 to 22 years old. Father Rodas notes, “Every child, every young person, also represents a family, almost always of peasants and of low income. This includes children of indigenous families, those with physical disabilities, girls and young women at risk of exploitation and youth who may end up in networks of trafficking and illegal emigration.”
Once youth complete their early school years, they can advance to Don Bosco Kep Technical School which provides vocational training in electro-technical skills, media, secretarial work, hotel management and programming. The courses serve close to 200 students.
“We are very happy this year because we have been able to complete some buildings for the development of our programs, such as a new electrical department and a kiosk by the sea, where students can carry out their internship,” adds Fr. Rodas. “We have also launched a project to sell our products so as to increase our sustainability as a center.”
Don Bosco Kep graduates close to 150 students each year. The primary goal is for students to obtain a stable long-term job after they graduate. In 2013, the school began welcoming students with disabilities. School administrators were concerned that the campus was not as accessible as it could be for the new students to be able to access all of their classes. Often disabled students would have to rely on friends for assistance in getting to classrooms on higher floors and into dormitories, making them feel like a burden.
With USAID funding in 2015, Don Bosco Kep made modifications to the school. They included the installation of a solar-powered elevator with a walkway between two buildings in order to reach four floors in the main building and the construction of ramps to access areas for community gatherings. The funding also allowed for the outfitting of three bathrooms with accessible facilities.
According to the World Bank, poverty continues to fall in Cambodia. In 2017, the poverty rate was close to 14 percent compared to 47.8 percent in 2007. About 90 percent of the poor live in the countryside. While Cambodia has achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty in 2009, the vast majority of families who escaped poverty were only able to do so by a small margin. Around 4.5 million people remain near-poor, vulnerable to falling back into poverty when exposed to economic and other external challenges.
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World Bank – Cambodia