sihanoukville – King Norodom Sihamoni presided over the opening ceremony for the Don Bosco Foundation’s hotel school Monday during his first visit to Sihanoukville since his coronation.
The King praised the efforts of the Don Bosco Foundation to help the government develop Cambodia’s human resources and offered some words of advice for the nearly 1,000 technical school students on hand.
“Please study hard, respect the principles of the school and respect your teachers in order to get the skills to further the future development of the country,” King Sihamoni said.
The Don Bosco Foundation is an international Catholic organization that provides schooling and technical training for disadvantaged youths in 128 countries, said Father John Visser, Cambodia’s director for the foundation.
The new Don Bosco Hotel School opened Feb 5 to 50 students hoping to learn the hospitality trade, said Brother Roberto Panetto, the school’s director. They join the 300 students already receiving training for careers in, among other fields, automobile repair, electrical work, welding and secretarial work at the Don Bosco Technical School to which the hotel school is attached, he said.
The new school will function as both a school and a hotel so that students can get firsthand experience dealing with guests, Panetto said.
Situated in scenic hills about 2 km from the popular O’Chheuteal beach, the hotel has 19 guestrooms whose rates will be $30 to $35 per night when it opens early next month.
Various NGOs help the Don Bosco Foundation identify and screen potential students from orphanages and poor families throughout the country, Panetto said. Students receive free schooling, room and board at the technical school.
Depending on their background and language skills, students are placed in one of four programs: front office, housekeeping, food and beverage service or cooking, Panetto added.
To help students learn to deal with customers, the foundation opened an Italian-style ice cream shop two weeks ago in Sihanoukville.
While not completely finished, the hotel still appeared bright and welcoming, with an impressive swimming pool and a pleasant view.
The kitchen and food preparation areas are state of the art, and large windows were installed to allow guests to see the students at work.
After six months of schooling, students will receive on-the-job training at hotels in Sihanoukville, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh for one month, Panetto said. Those who show promise will study one more year.
Twenty-year-old student Sam Bunlorm said she hopes to eventually work in the front office of a Sihanoukville resort. The daughter of poor farmers in Takeo province, she said that she is learning valuable skills that she never could have acquired at home.
“I am happy. If I could not study here, I would have to work in a garment factory.”
Panetto said he hopes the hotel school will become a popular spot for NGO workers who want to contribute to educating the disadvantaged while on vacation.
Still, it is unlikely that the hotel will make enough to cover its operating costs given that all of the students attend for free.
But Panetto said he was not too concerned about that for the time being. “For the rest, as we always say, ‘If we work for the poor, then God will help us,’” he said with a smile.