Salesian workshops that launch careers7:29 PM, August 14, 2019
Myanmar:Myanmar youngsters from troubled backgrounds are given life-changing opportunities to better themselves.
Justin Aung Thura Htet from conflict-torn Kachin State prepares to overhaul a motorcycle engine at the workshop in Mandalay. (ucanews.com photo)
It is just another morning in August and a group of purposeful young men is busy at work at a motorcycle workshop in Mandalay, the second largest city in Myanmar. Some are carrying out major repairs, some are fixing the plugs and some focused on the tires and wheels.
As part of these youngsters’ on-job training, they are here all day every day (except Sunday), learning all they need to know about bike repairs. For these men this is a life-changing experience.
The 15 men, aged 17 to 24, enrolled in a one-year program in May 2019 at the Don Bosco Friend Youth Center, which provides vocational skills in motorcycle and car repairs, welding and even driving lessons.
They come from different backgrounds: some are from the conflict-torn states of Kachin and Shan, some had troubled upbringings, and some come from needy families in the hilly regions.
They comprise various ethnic groups — Kachin, Karen, Chin and Bamar — and count among them Catholics, Baptists and Buddhists.
The program was set up in 2013 with the aim of helping underprivileged young men to stand on their own two feet by providing them with the skills they needed to find employment.
Father Andrew Yan Naing Win, who runs the program, said it encouraged them to pay attention and learn about all aspects of the industry, as well as start planning for life after the course has ended.
“Acquiring the skills is important so that they have enough confidence to open their own shops where they come from,” Father Yan Naing told ucanews.com.
Many of the attendees also pursue extra classes in the evenings aimed at teaching them specific information related to business theory.
“Eighty percent of the course is practical and 20 percent theory. I try to motivate them to become skillful professionals,” said the Salesian priest.
The priests also teach life skills, including such key topics as sex education, moral values and problems related to drug abuse.
The center provides free food and accommodation and while the attendees are asked to contribute toward their classes, most can’t afford to, said Father Yan Naing.
Fruits of his labor
He proudly declared that two students who completed the course have now opened cycle repair shops in Chin State and in a village near Mandalay, while some have found jobs as welders at construction sites in Mandalay.
The priest said his plan is for the center to hold bigger classes in future and expand the program. “We aim to accept at least 30 youths in the future, even though we can’t yet accommodate that number,” Father Yan Naing said.
Justin Aung Thura Htet, 22, an ethnic Karen from troubled Kachin State, said he wants to learn about car and bike repairs because he failed his college exams.
He is currently being taught how to repair Chinese-made bikes but hopes in future to focus on the Thai-made Honda models, Scoopy and Click.
“I aim to open a motorcycle workshop in Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State so I am now trying hard to learn the skills,” Aung Thura told ucanews.com.
George Kyaw Linn, who attended the program in 2014 and runs a small motorcycle workshop near the Salesian center, said he is very happy to teach the skills of cycle because he knows it will help the youngsters become independent.
“It is my gratitude to the center that provided me morally and financially to start my own shop,” said Kyaw Linn, a 35-year-old father of three.
His key message is “to try hard, show perseverance and learn the skills with passion.”
The Mandalay center also set up a street-children program in 2013, which aims to help homeless youngsters become part of mainstream society.
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