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Salesian workshops launch careers

John Zaw
It is just another morning in August and a group of 15 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 their 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.
Aged fron 17- to 24-years old, the men  enrolled in a one-year programme in May 2019 at the Don Bosco Friend Youth Centre, 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 programme 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 programme, 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 Win said.
Many of the attendees also pursue extra classes in the evenings aimed at teaching them specific information related to business theory. “Eighty per cent of the course is practical and 20 per cent theory. I try to motivate them to become skillful professionals,” the Salesian priest said.
The priests also teach life skills, including such key topics as sex education, moral values and problems related to drug abuse.
The centre provides free food and accommodation and, while the attendees are asked to contribute toward their classes, most can’t afford to, Father Win explained.
Fruits of his labour
He proudly declared that two students who completed the course have opened cycle repair shops in Chin State and in a village near Mandalay, while some found jobs as welders at construction sites in Mandalay.
The priest said his plan is for the centre to hold bigger classes in future and expand the programme. “We aim to accept at least 30 youths in the future, even though we can’t yet accommodate that number,” Father Win said.
Justin Aung Thura Htet, a 22-year-old ethnic Karen from 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,” Htet said.
George Kyaw Linn, who attended the programme in 2014 and runs a small motorcycle workshop near the Salesian centre, said he is very happy to teach the skills because he knows it will help the youngsters become independent.
“It is my gratitude to the centre 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 centre also set up a street-children programme in 2013, which aims to help homeless youngsters become part of mainstream society. UCAN