November 8, 2013 will forever live in the painful collective memories of the Filipino people -- for on that day, Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) extinguished the flame of hope for thousands of its youth. Today, a unique partnership between the Salesians and Porsche has reignited that fire -- and with it, the promise of brighter futures for many of the typhoon’s young victims.
“It was a nightmare for us,” says Salesian student Chad Germanes, recalling the horror of Haiyan. “We were glad to have survived, because so many didn’t -- but we didn’t know what the future would hold.”
Indeed, Haiyan closely followed an already devastating earthquake, barreling into the islands and leaving unimaginable wreckage and suffering in its wake. More than 6,200 people died. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes. Millions more suffered from the after effects. And perhaps most distressing, far too many innocent boys and girls were left wandering the streets in emotional and physical desperation. Some had even watched their parents perish.
Despite the international community’s efforts to meet immediate humanitarian needs, the futures looked bleak for these children. How could they possibly overcome such desperate circumstances and improve their prospects for a better life?
Thanks to a partnership among automobile manufacturer Porsche AG, PGA Cars, and the Don Bosco Technical Center in Manila, some students directly affected by Typhoon Haiyan have gained the knowledge and skills to do just that; to be able to move forward from their tragic circumstances and take a path toward a better life.
First launched in 2008, this specialized program combines basic training in auto mechanics with hands-on experience in a service center. Students who enroll in the program first complete a 10-month course at the Don Bosco Institute -- where Porsche has established a dedicated training facility. In addition to the theory and practice of auto mechanics, students participate in intensive language lessons in English and Spanish, as well as in customer service
Twice per year, the top 35 students in the program advance to a comprehensive, nine-month program at the Porsche Training and Recruitment Center Asia. Here, they train to service official Porsche vehicles using specialized Porsche tools -- where they develop into sought-after “mechatronics,” or elite technical specialists, for Porsche vehicles. Recently, the program has expanded to include sister brands Audi and Volkswagon.
In 2014, following the tragedy of Haiyan, Porsche offered full tuition assistance to a group of young victims who otherwise could only have dreamed about enrolling in the program. Today, along with valedictorian Chad Germanes, they have graduated with full credentials and will easily find employment in a Porsche facility or dealership in Asia.
“This program has given us strength and hope to believe in ourselves, because we now have a very marketable skill,” says Chad. “We will never forget this opportunity, and we will not disappoint.”
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