Kawachi Chiyo (Jesuit Social Center, Tokyo)
The Bulletin has started a new series of articles “Windows to the World.” The Center’s staff and its collaborators will take turns narrating their social experiences and daily activities.
Have you ever heard of a group called “Camboren” ?
The meaning is “Association for Solidarity with our Friends, the People of Cambodia.” Since 2003, we have been exchanging views with people in Cambodia and decided to select programs of assistance, preferably those desired by the people there, concerning health, education, rural development, etc.
Camboren’s programs concentrate on poor communities located in the surroundings of Sisophon, near the northwest border with Thailand. Jesuit Services Cambodia is active in that region. As part of its solidarity with the people of Cambodia, Camboren organizes yearly study tours with young and senior members visiting the assistance programs. The participants, usually 10 persons, pay their own fare. They reduce their living expenses and support the projects with the savings thus made. It is consoling to see that they also make time to learn about the situation of our Cambodian friends.
At the time of the last tour we paid a visit to Ms Morm Vesna, a 26-year old lady who runs a dress-making shop in Sisophon. In her childhood her legs were paralyzed from polio. Her legs’ nerves were damaged and although she cannot walk she can somehow stand up. Camboren assisted her with a wheelchair. She attended a 12-month course in dress-making at the “Dove Center,” a technical school for the disabled built and run by Jesuit Services near Phnom Penh. After graduation, she went back to Sisophon, where she makes wedding dresses and uniforms for children with her sewing machine. She is the main income-earner in the family. She is proud of her graduation certificate, which hangs on the wall at the entrance of her house. Ms Vesna’s smiling face is always radiant with confidence. She was able to get an understudy to work at her shop. No matter how poor they may be, Cambodians spend lavishly on wedding feasts. In the show window of the shop she displays colorful buttons, beads and spangles and her good sense lures customers in to ask for the making of a dress.
The staff of Jesuit Services in the Sisophon area is often in direct contact with her family. The staff personnel know well their poor situation and look for ways to assist the disabled woman to support herself and her family. When she applied for training at the “Dove Center,” they checked carefully with friends of the family and relatives, not only on her personal abilities, but also on possible problems arising from moving far from rural Sisophon to Phnom Penh for a full year, especially with regard to her family.
Once everything was cleared, Jesuit Services in Sisophon introduced her to the “Dove Center.” Thus, she was able to receive the necessary assistance to start her training. She became proficient in dress-making and was, most probably, able to receive family support from the staff during her absence. Back in Sisophon after graduation, the staff of Sisophon visits her regularly and continues its follow-up to make sure that she can continue to be self-supporting.
The fact that such a disabled person is able to support herself economically instills confidence and can surely be considered a fruitful result of the assistance she has been given. Generous cooperation in solidarity has continued working in her case.
Every time Camboren organizes tours to Cambodia, the participants pay a visit to the “Dove Center.” We met Ms Vesna there when she was studying dress-making. As a matter of fact, she immediately recognized “Father Pipe” (Fr Bonet, the representative of Camboren) at the time of our visit to the “Dove Center.” Years later we were able to see how she was getting along with her work in Sisophon.