To continue our series highlighting individuals and organizations with a focus on assisting women and girls in Cambodia, I would like to tell you about my latest visit to a place that is near and dear to my heart. It is a place that takes in girls and young women who would not otherwise be able to attend school, providing them with an education and skills that prepare them for life well beyond graduation.
The Don Bosco Foundation of Cambodia has offered training to disadvantaged and orphaned children since 1991. Run by the Salesian sisters of the Catholic Church in Cambodia, the Don Bosco Children’s Fund has helped more than 50,000 Cambodian children get a basic education and have trained 10,000 young Cambodians through one of their six technical and vocational schools. The U.S. Embassy strongly supports the mission of Don Bosco and other organizations dedicated to improving the lives of all Cambodians, but particularly those that place a special focus on empowering women and girls.
Earlier this week, I had the honor to visit the Don Bosco campus in the Phnom Penh neighborhood of Teuk Thla. I have been to Don Bosco schools before, and with each visit I am moved by the work being done by the Salesian sisters. They are dedicated to helping disadvantaged girls and young women, giving them a strong education, a sense of self-worth, and vocational skills they can use to become productive members of society and future leaders of Cambodia.
But on this most recent visit, I brought a special gift with me: live music. As part of the Embassy’s continued support of the children at Don Bosco and throughout Cambodia, we organized a concert of American music played by a fantastic group of musicians called the Trio Chicago & Friends. Serving as cultural ambassadors, this group uses music to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the United States and other countries around the world. The music was fantastic, the children were delightful, and everyone had a wonderful time. I could not help but smile at the pure joy displayed by the students as they danced and clapped along with the music written by American composers such as George Gershwin, Duke Ellington, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin, and so many more. It was an impressive audience, with over 600 Don Bosco students and their teachers in attendance.
The Don Bosco Foundation shares many of the same goals that we do, which is why the Embassy provides assistance to the organization. Funding not only delivers vocational training and skills; it also helps girls learn to make good choices in life and play more active roles in their communities. Thanks to this program, girls from Don Bosco will be better prepared to compete – both in school and the job market – and become productive, engaged citizens.
The music from Trio Chicago and Friends was a fun break for the students. After the performance, they returned to their classes and training. They are well aware of the hard work ahead of them, as there are many obstacles to success. However, being a girl or woman should not be one of those obstacles. Today, graduates of Don Bosco – both boys and girls – have opportunities available to them in Cambodia that their predecessors did not have. I encourage each of them and all of the young people around the country to work hard to fully achieve your potential.
When you meet the girls at Don Bosco, it is easy to see why I have so much hope for the future of Cambodia. These young women work hard and deserve the same opportunities as boys to accomplish whatever they want in life, no matter their backgrounds or hardships. The U.S. Embassy strongly supports the mission of Don Bosco and the many other organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of Cambodian girls.
As always, I look forward to receiving your comments and questions.