The Gift of Light - Epiphany
Pakkred, Thailand, 5 January 2018 -- Like the Star of Bethlehem, the first Salesian presence in Pakkred (Nonthaburi province, near to Bangkok, Thailand) too has brought the Light to many people living in darkness. This work began 80 years ago and the last 40 years have been under Salesian management.
Before the Feast of the Epiphany 2019 we might like to be enlightened by a Thailand-based story published in the recent issue of the Italian Salesian Bullettin (December 2018). Even for visitors to "Pakkred Centre for the Blind" this article offers an interesting insight into 'Salesian creativity' over the past 40 years when the THA Salesian province took over this institution founded in 1938. Indeed this story is eloquent testimony to the universal value of Don Bosco's preventive system as applied to the visually challenged in a non-Christian country like Thailand.
The first initiative of the Salesians when they took this Centre over was to establish an atmosphere of family spirit. After this initial period came a new paradigm - a philosophy and approach to education - shifting the emphasis from 'Vocational Training Centre' to 'Skills Development Centre'. The Salesians aimed at inserting visually challenged individuals into ordinary social life with all necessary dignity in a sustainable way. Although 60% of the students are born blind (genetic issues), another 40% of the students have lost their sight through accident or disease. The next step was to help the students with all possible means to enter ordinary social life, following the basic conviction that those who cannot see are not handicapped The Centre's educational team have developed many ways for them to live an autonomous life as good citizens.
The "Development Centre" means mastering the 3 specializations offered - Thai massage, horticulture and handicrafts. Most of the past pupils earn their living with Thai massage, also helping each other by networking in small teams. The Salesian Bulletin's interview with Bro. Suwan continues thus: "Our Centre is a true Salesian work, a mission to the poor and those without opportunities. I'm happy to live here! Before coming here, our students had no great desires or life dreams, lived with low self-esteem. Thanks to Don Bosco and brief Gospel stories shared during the good morning or good night talks, our students begin to see beyond the present. It is no coincidence that the motto of Pakkred Centre's 80th anniversary if spelt out in English is: "MORETHANEYESCANSEE" (More than eyes can see!).