Population:14.1 millionLiteracy Rate:78%Religion: Roman Catholic (0.15%)
The Salesians are saving lives in Cambodia where one out of every three citizens live below the poverty line and barely survive on less than one dollar a day. Forty percent of children are chronically malnourished, among the highest rates in Asia. Young girls are at particular risk of human trafficking, child prostitution and substance abuse. Upwards of 20,000 children work the streets of Phnom Penh alone, and 670,000 children in the country are orphans.
Bring Classrooms to Refugee Camps
Through the United Nations, Salesians began providing technical vocational education to Cambodian refugees living in camps along the Thai-Cambodian border in the late 1980s. Then in 1993, at the invitation of the government of Cambodia, the technical School in Phnom Penh was established to republish, translate, and write books and educational documents that were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime. It contained the only working printing press in the country – and served as a model of hope through education.
More Missions in Cambodia
Through a land grant from the government of Cambodia in 2000, the Salesian literacy centers in Salabalat and Andung Chenh first provided educational opportunities to children of indentured brick makers living in the area. Since then, as brick factories have relocated in search of new sources of raw material, the literacy centers have expanded their reach to provide vocational educational opportunities and agricultural studies to area children from a range of disadvantaged families.
Students enrolled in the formal education program begin grade one at seven years of age. Students, who are selected based on economic need and pay no tuition fees. In the morning, they learn traditional academic subjects including science, history, math, and language. Afternoon studies include agro-vocational skills such as animal husbandry and cultivation of vegetable gardens. These skills provide hope and opportunity to youth.
Since arriving in Cambodia, Salesians have partnered with the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Education to open a total of seven vocational training centers. Approximately 1,300 youth ages 16-21 are preparing for their futures in one and two year vocational training programs in Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh, Toul Kork, Teuk Thla, Battambang, Kep, and Poipet. With their diplomas, students take with them skills in mechanics, welding, computers, printing and communication – as well as the hope for a new Cambodia.
The Salesians have a long history of teaching job skills to youth in Cambodia. Through the United Nations, they began providing technical vocational education to Cambodian refugees living in camps along the Thai-Cambodian border in the late 1980s. Then in 1993, at the invitation of the government of Cambodia, the technical School in Phnom Penh was established to republish, translate, and write books and educational documents that were destroyed during the Khmer Rouge regime. It contained the only working printing press in the country – and served as a model of hope through education.
Through the Don Bosco Children’s Fund, the Salesians provide assistance to children ages six to fifteen who are at risk of dropping out of schools due to the extreme poverty. Each year approximately 5,000 children receive assistance in the form of medicine, nutritional meals, clothing and personal items. Many children have lost one or both parents to HIV and are currently living with extended family members with elderly grandparents or neighbors. Often they receive little direct supervision, leaving them extremely vulnerable to outside influences. Without support from the Don Bosco Children’s Fund, many children would be forced to beg or turn to street crime in order to support themselves.
The Salesian Social Communication Institute, located in Sihanoukville, provides educational opportunities using state of the art equipment and facilities and highly trained instructors. Students are given the opportunity to become proficient in written and spoken English, website development, audiovisual production, and journalism. The educational opportunities students receive – at a low or no cost to their families – are among the best in Cambodia in the emerging field of Social Communication.
The Social Communications Institute focuses on enrolling students from underprivileged backgrounds. Through a special recruitment and enrollment process through which school administrators and instructors visit applicants’ homes, the Social Communication Institute ensures that need exists for each enrolled student.
The greatest achievement of the Social Communication Institute is that of its graduates―as webmasters, reporters for Khmer and English language newspapers, or instructors at technical institutes or traditional academic schools.
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