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THAILAND: Graduates of center for blind help students impacted by COVID-19

Graduates of Nonthaburi Skills Development Center for the Blind launch fund to help current students impacted by COVID-19


(MissionNewswire) In the fight against COVID-19, graduates of the Salesian-run Nonthaburi Skills Development Center for the Blind have pooled their resources to help current students who have been impacted. “Funds From the Blind to Fight COVID-19” is providing funding for medical care for those who have visual impairments and are positive for the virus. Funding is also supporting delivery of food packages to those in need in isolation.

Thailand, like many countries, is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases from the delta variant, which is roughly 70 percent of cases being diagnosed. Since the beginning of August, statistics are showing that more than 20,000 people a day are entering into the hospital system with COVID-19. The country’s vaccination program has been proceeding at a slow pace, and there are currently not enough vaccinations for every person.

The government has imposed new guidelines to help slow the spread, including a daily curfew.  Schools have been teaching online for the past three months and it’s expected that this new school year will also be online. One of the groups most challenged is those who are visually impaired. While some people have received help from the local government, others have struggled without assistance.

The funding initiative was launched by Father Charles Velardo, chairperson of past graduates of the Salesian school. The Thailand Salesian Social Communication Office stated, “At this time in the COVID-19 crisis, kindness of people in the society is spreading faster than the virus. Even though there are various ways of helping and varying amounts of help extended, the central point of great importance is the mutual sharing.”

The Nonthaburi Skills Development Center for the Blind trains 40 students with visual impairments each year. Students attend intensive two-year educational programs. When the program first started, students were taught trade skills in carpentry and woodworking. Some students were able to find work, but many others were denied employment because local employers feared workplace injuries and were put off by the higher costs of insuring visually impaired employees.

As a result, the program changed focus and in 1983 began training its students to be massage therapists. As an acknowledgement of the high-quality training offered and the program’s years of success, the Ministry of Public Health began to license graduates as doctors of Thai traditional massage. Most graduates are able to find work immediately and continue to hone their skills for many years. Through the program, the therapists-in-training see more than 150 clients each day.

Salesian missionaries provide education and social programs in Thailand to give poor and disadvantaged youth an opportunity for a brighter future. One of the best known programs is Don Bosco Technological College in Bangkok, which has been ensuring poor youth have access to advanced education since 1949. Its education programs allow youth to gain the skills needed to find and retain stable employment. To do that successfully, the college has developed partnerships that help train youth in employment sectors that need a skilled workforce and have the jobs available to hire youth right after graduating.

Thailand has shown considerable economic growth over the last 20 years, reducing its poverty rate from 21 percent in 2000 to 10.9 percent today, according to the World Bank. Although the country has made strides in reducing poverty, improving nutrition and meeting the basic needs of its residents, inequality is still pervasive.



ANS Photo (usage permissions and guidelines must be requested from ANS) 

ANS – Thailand – The visually impaired in Thailand helping one another fight Covid-19

Salesian Missions – Thailand

Salesian Thailand

World Bank – Thailand

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