Gregorius Priyadi SJ (Director, Jesuit Service-Cambodia)
Jesuit Service has been working in Cambodia for over twenty years. Since 1980 Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) had been present among Cambodian refugees and displaced persons in Thai refugee camps during the Cambodian civil war. Through a process of discernment, a decision was reached in 1989 for a JRS team to serve inside Cambodia, while another team continued to serve refugees in the camps. In 1990 JRS signed an agreement with the Cambodian Ministry of Social Action for a vocational training school for persons with disabilities, for integrated rural development, and for peace and reconciliation activities during an initial period of six years. The pioneering JRS group entered Cambodia in 1990 and established an office in Phnom Penh. After that JRS set up the Jesuit Service to serve poor people in Cambodia.
Jesuit Service Cambodia (JSC) is a non-governmental organization working in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs of Cambodia and is duly registered and recognized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since 1991 it has been serving in Cambodia for the development and accompaniment of the poor in the villages, persons with disabilities (PwD) and landmine victims, refugees, and marginalized people in society.
JSC aims at building up a society in which the highest four-fold Cambodian ideals of metta (loving kindness), karuna (compassion), mudita (altruistic or sympathetic joy), and upekkha (equanimity) will give birth to peace, justice, equality and the fullness of life for all Cambodians.
Its mission is to accompany and work with disadvantaged communities in upholding the rights, the welfare, and the dignity of the poor by implementing programs that alleviate poverty, improve education, and establish just relations in Cambodian society.
Jesuit Service-Cambodia Team
JSC team is a mixed team of women and men, Cambodians and foreigners of various nationalities, priests, sisters and lay people, Buddhists and Christians, married and single persons. All form the large family of Jesuit Service Cambodia with a very international character.
In 2013, there were 23 Jesuits (17 priests and 6 scholastics), 3 sisters, and 6 volunteers. They are of 10 different nationalities, working in Jesuit Service-Cambodia and the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang, which forms a mixed international community.
Working areas of Jesuit Service
JSC works in 7 places: Phnom Penh, Kompong Thom, Siem Reap, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Kandal, and on the border of Kompong Chang and Kompong Speu Provinces. All teams are led by Cambodians. In Kandal Province, Jesuit Service runs a center called Banteay Prieb, the Dove Center for persons with disability (PwD). Banteay Prieb is also the place where the Mekong Wheelchair is produced. The office of rural development programs for Farmers’ Solidarity and the Khmer women’s Association are also located there.
The works of Jesuit Service
The works of Jesuit Service can be grouped into the Metta Karuna (loving kindness) program and other special programs. The Metta Karuna program consists of outreach services to the poor and PwD in countryside provinces through social and educational projects. The projects are coordinated by the provincial offices in Battambang, Sisophon, Siem Reap, Kompong Thom, and the two bordering provinces of Kompong Chang and Kompong Speu.
The educational program aims at improving the quality of education and provides access to basic education for the poor and PwD. It is done by improving school buildings and supporting teachers through training and allowances. It also supports poor students with scholarships, bicycles, schooling packs, libraries, and village education on certain topics.
The social program aims at assisting the poor and PwD with enough resources for better quality of life by providing access to their basic needs, income-generating projects, and access to primary health services. It provides wheelchairs to PwD, simple houses for the poor and people with disabilities, wells, ponds, toilets and income-generating projects like cow banks, loans for farming and small businesses, home gardens, and health services.
The special program consists of services to the people through projects such as an ear-care program, book production, health soap, vocational school, children’s center, rural development and wheelchair production.
1. Banteay Prieb vocational school for PWD.
JSC runs a vocational school for PwD, located in the Ang Snoul district, Kandal Province, about 25 km from Phnom Penh. It is called Banteay Prieb, meaning Dove Center.
The overall objective and Specific Objectives of the project are:
1. To meet the needs of persons with disabilities to help them acquire employable skills and decent work
2. To assist persons with disabilities by promoting basic capacities necessary for social life
3. To improve the self-esteem, confidence, and wellbeing of persons with disabilities through community life among the participants
4. To ensure active participation of persons with disabilities in socio-economic activities in their communities
5. To tackle the vicious cycle of poverty and disability in their families or communities
6. To reduce the stigma against persons with disabilities in the community by enabling them to become valuable contributing members of society.
7. To assist persons with disabilities by creating jobs and income so that they can achieve financial independence through the manufacture of products, research & development, marketing, and reinforcement of capabilities.
The school offers learning skills in sewing, sculpture, electronics, mechanics, agriculture and shoe making. Every year the school accepts 100 persons with disabilities. They stay in the Center for one year.
2. Light of Mercy Home, center for children with disabilities (CwD)
The overall objectives of this project are to offer opportunities for children with disabilities to grow toward education of their full potential. They are provided with the appropriate care and activities to enable them to become independent and build their own future. The center accommodates 42 children with different disabilities: blindness, deafness, polio, or other physical disabilities. They come from the provinces around Phnom Penh. JSC sends them to the appropriate schools according to their disabilities and impairment.
3. Ear- Care Programme
The Jesuit Service Ear-care Program began in 1999 when our social and health workers visited children in the villages and found a distressing number of children suffering from deafness and ear diseases. Our workaims at providing medical assistance for people with hearing problems, as well as helping them to cope withthesocial integration issues they face. We run two ear clinics in Phnom Penh and Battambang. At our clinic in Phnom Penh, our team carries out otoscopy, audiometry, hearing-aid fitting and evaluates needs for surgery, which is usually done in the Battambang Emergency hospital. In Siem Reap, we perform screening tests, audiometry, ear washing and basic medical treatment. And at Banteay Meanchey, patients are given primary care and referred to Phnom Penh when needed.
4. Book Production
The objective of book production is to provide students/children with good reading material to help maintain or improve their reading ability, encourage them to build a habit of reading, and to learn morals from the stories. JSC publishes 22 titles a year. They are distributed to the village libraries as part of their educational programs. The books are also for sale in the market. Some NGOs buy our books for distribution among their projects.
5. Health Soap Bar
This project was started in 1997. Public medical service was not yet well established in Cambodian society which still bore the wounds of civil war. Hygiene was not the concern of the people. Lice and scabies were rampant. One joke said: where there is water, there are fish; where there is hair, there are lice. To foster people’s health, JSC produces 2 kinds of health soap for lice and scabies.
6. Rural Development (RD)
Rural Development consists of two main activities: Poor Farmers Solidarity Association (PFSA) and Khmer Women’s Association (KWA). PFSA is an association of farmers to help one another improve their life, build up among themselves a sense of unity and responsibility, and pursue the true meaning of solidarity towards a sustainable development of their life, their families and communities. Through a revolving loan scheme, members of the association are provided with small loans as a revolving grant that serves financial support and opportunities for farming, small businesses and other livelihood projects.
A further development was the creation of KWA, which sprang from the need to 1) educate community members on good hygiene practices, 2) provide literacy classes for children and adults, 3) address health concerns and practices, and other such needs in the villages. KWAs are also responsible for rice banks and village libraries.
The objective of wheelchair production is to help the mobility of PwD and their inclusion into social and economic life. Tricycles are also produced, especially so that students with disabilities can go to school. With these they can travel more easily and farther and get less tired. Recently, we also produced three motored wheelchairs. Some PwD could afford to buy these, enabling them to travel much longer. We have distributed wheelchairs and tricycles to PwD through our networks in the provinces. Some NGOs working also for PwD bought wheelchairs from JSC.
The average production is 1000 units of wheelchairs and 10 units of tricycles per year. The production is done mostly by persons with disabilities.