The Don Bosco Sihanoukville Prison Project was created in November 2008 by the Salesian Community of Sihanoukville to train young inmates to ensure they can escape from their circle of poverty and get a job after they leave from prison. It consists in a training program of electricity, mechanic and small engine (motorcycles) and a complementary course of English, provided by the teachers of the Don Bosco Technical School.
In order to set this technical programs for young inmates, Don Bosco built a workshop inside the prison in agreement with the authorities and the support of different donors from the Netherlands through the Sawasdee Foundation. The Don Bosco Children Fund has monitored the prison in order to attend the entrance of any minor.
The Sihanoukville Catholic Parish uses to follow Catholic inmates in the prison, as well as to make regular visits to the place to provide charitable attention to vulnerable people, especially very young inmates, women and elderly. It is also a tradition the Christmas visit in which moment the local Catholic Church donates gifts to all inmates such as food, clothe, medicine and counseling. During these visits, Fr. Wirachai, a Thai missionary and then Parish priest, used to invite representatives from the Sihanoukville Salesian community. Fr. Albeiro Rodas, SDB, went several times with Fr. Wirachai to the prison and could prove that there were many young inmates aged 17 to 22.
The then director of the prison used to mention to Fr. Rodas that he would like to have a technical program for young inmates. At the middle of 2008 the M’Lop Tapang organization, a NGO working for the protection of street children in Sihanoukville, opened a sewing program for female inmates, being the instructor a former Don Bosco sewing teacher (the Don Bosco sewing program was closed in 2005 after the boom of garment factories in Cambodia).
Fr. Wirachai insisted to Fr. Rodas that Don Bosco could set technical short courses inside the prison, so all these young people could get opportunities to learn a skill and be useful to society when they finished their sentence.
Fr. Rodas proposed the idea to the Salesian local council and Fr. John Visser, Rector of the Don Bosco Technical School, requested to some donors in the Netherlands the construction of a building inside the prison that could become a workshop for young inmate students. At the same time, the Salesian local community (Fr. John Visser, Fr. Albeiro Rodas and Br. Roberto Panetto) met the authorities of the prison for the approval of the Project.
The Prison Project was approved by the Sihanoukville Municipality after October 2008 and works for the construction of the physical facilities and academic material started soon after to be finished by the end of November 2008.
Teachers, volunteers and social workers of the Technical School and Children Fund started activities inside the prison by November 2008 from Monday to Thursday (8:00 – 10:00).
On February 8, 2010 a journalist, Mr. Marcel Bauer and photographer Mr. Markus Matzel from Germany, contacted through Don Bosco Bonn, visited the project and published some reports in their country, promoting it.
On February 14, 2013, Fr. John Visser promoted the creation of a computer room to train inmates’ students in that program.
In 2015 the Sihanoukville Municipality decided to move the 1986’s prison from 127th Street to Kbal Chhay Waterfall area, besides National Road 4, outskirts of the city. In this sense, the authorities requested to Don Bosco to transfer the program and, therefore, to build a new workshop. Fr. Eugene Xalxo is already looking for resources to guarantee the continuation of this program.
Description of the workshops
- Electricity, 12 students.
- Welding, 12 students.
- Computer, 10 students.
- English, 15 students.
The Don Bosco workshops are also used for sewing classes provided by other organizations.
Student’s inmates can study 7 months and get a Don Bosco studies recommendation that they can used for their social insertion.
When the young inmates who have been studying with Don Bosco, get from Don Bosco 40 US dollars to facilitate their return home or look for job.
Since November 2008 to May 2016 about 80% of those who have attended lessons, have finished their technical training (about 300 young people.) Students are between 18 to 32 years old.
|Name of Project||Don Bosco Sihanoukville Prison Project|
|Location||127td Street (1989 – 2016) Kbal Chhay x NR4 (2017 and on)|
|Number of students||50|