Center Gives Polio, Mine Victims a Future

Maryknoll Wat Than Skills Training Center graduated 10 students Tuesday from its 18-month program for victims of polio and land mine injuries.

The program provided 34 students with instruction in English, computer programs and office skills this past session and boasts a 100 percent record of job placement for its past two graduating classes. One graduate, Bun Thorn, spoke at the ceremony, telling how several years ago he aspired to be a doctor or a teacher but was denied entrance to professional schools because of his polio-inflicted disability.

“I felt hopeless,” he said. “Now I can get a good job and support myself and my family.”

Kim Mom, a lay missionary for the Catholic organization Mary­knoll, helped establish the center on the Wat Than  grounds in 1991.

“When I asked those first students what their dreams were, they said they had none. I said, ‘Let‘s dream together.’”

In the early stages of the program, students were taught manual skills such as weaving and carpentry, but the center soon found those job markets to be saturated. Since the center changed its focus to English and office skills, its graduates have become valued employees of many companies and NGOs in the city, said Charles Dittmeier, a Maryknoll adviser. Kim Mom said that none of Monday’s graduates have jobs yet, but she is calling offices around the city to help arrange interviews. “They don’t know the level of knowledge our students have, so we have to help introduce them,” she said.

Monday’s graduates, all visibly optimistic, were presented their diplomas by Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Ith Sam Heng.


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