CAMBODIA: Life-changing Don Bosco Children’s Fund Helps Poor Students Thrive in School
(MissionNewswire) 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, Salesians in the country operate 45 schools in poor, rural villages through a partnership between Salesian Missions and the Ministry of Education. In addition, Salesians operate seven vocational training centers that impart much needed job skills.
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 in 1992.
The Don Bosco Children’s Fund assists 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 program, 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.
“My family is very poor and we live in very poor conditions. An opportunity came when Don Bosco staff visited our village. I applied and was accepted to study and provided with every means including food, uniforms and school materials,” says Un Panhavon, a 9th grade male student at a Don Bosco School in Battambang. “When I started to study in Don Bosco, I noticed that they aim for quality education and life. The school director and principal always motivate us to be good and honest citizens and to be always cheerful. All the teachers also encourage us to build a better and peaceful Cambodia.”
During the 2013-2014 school year, the Don Bosco Children’s Fund is supporting 4,426 students in Cambodia’s government-run schools and another 637 students in schools managed by Don Bosco Schools Battambang.
The Don Bosco Children’s Fund also operates both a primary and secondary school in Battambang with a focus on making sure young girls have access to education. In Cambodia, education for girls opens doors to opportunities. With even a basic education, girls are better equipped to face the 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 bringing the possibilities of jobs and independence within reach. Hundreds of students at four specialized schools for young women are opening new doors for themselves by developing secretarial skills and skills in printing, electronics and sewing.
“When I started to study in government schools, I was scared because I came from a poor family with no food to eat, no uniforms to wear and no books like other students. No one welcomed me and I stopped my studies to work for a small income to help my family, but when I transferred to a Don Bosco school I was given equal opportunities to learn like other students,” explains Morn Mary, a 9th grade female student at a Don Bosco School in Battambang.
“Don Bosco provided me food, a uniform and schooling materials. Above all, I found love and care among teachers and students. Now I have many good and honest friends and teachers really take good care of us students. Don Bosco prepares me for a better future,” she adds.
Students supported by Don Bosco Children’s fund have the opportunity to continue their studies and become leaders in Cambodia and later work to make sure that education can be available and accessible to all. Not only is education about learning to read and write, Don Bosco Children’s Fund provides a foundation for a career and a secure livelihood.
“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,” says Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Youth need the extra support to stay in school and get an education. The Salesians at Don Bosco Children’s Fund provide that much needed support and stability to help youth achieve.”
World Bank – Cambodia