IT student and textiles worker, Battambang, Cambodia
“It is like I have a new life."
Khean Chen's childhood in Pailin, western Cambodia was much like the thousands of other children growing up across the country in the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime.
His days were filled school, helping his family at home, searching for bamboo shoots, mushrooms and other fresh foods with his brothers on the nearby hillside and impromptu soccer matches with friends at every opportunity.
It was while searching for bamboo shoots that, at the age of 16, everything changed for Chen. He stepped on a landmine as he was walking through the undergrowth on the hill beside his home. His younger siblings witnessed the accident and ran for help. Chen was rushed to hospital and his life was saved, but he lost both of his legs. Chen spent weeks physically recovering, but the greatest battle he faced was adjusting to just how different his life would be.
"Immediately at the time of the accident, it was difficult to accept, since I used to be able to walk normally..."
Chen admits he reached his lowest point as he feared his permanent disability would mean becoming a burden for his family.
But, when Bishop Kike and his team arrived on Chen’s doorstep to invite him to the Arrupe Centre in Battambang and offer him a supportive home and the chance to continue his education, Chen felt hope again.
Ten years on from the accident, Chen has completed his secondary education and with the help of the Arrupe centre, he has gone on to study information technology processing at university, and gain employment at the La Paloma Textiles Centre, a Church-run social enterprise in Battambang.
"For me to complete my studies to the end and continue on to enter college, and in addition now I have a job to earn some income ... it is like I have a new life."
But it is not just technical skills that Chen has learned during his years at the Arrupe Centre. As one of the older residents at the Centre, Chen is a role model for the younger residents. Chen was supported through his greatest challenges and now supports other young people through theirs.
"At the Arrupe Centre, in my free time I teach the children and help to oversee things in the Centre too. There are many things to do here; we can grow vegetables or raise animals, and sometimes, we play sports together."
Chen has experienced first-hand the lifechanging work of the Arrupe centre. With everything he has gained and achieved he dreams of a living a life that will help others in turn.
“I would love to work at any place that can help other people”
"In the future I hope to have a good job so I will be able to help my family to be in a better situation."
“His family gave to him his strengths, yes because he gets love, but also his family gives him a reason to go ahead”
Bishop Enrique Figaredo Alvargonzalez
Chen’s strength and determination have meant that he has made the most of every opportunity that the programs at the Arrupe Centre have offered him.
He now has a hopeful future and is ready to change his family's circumstances and shape his country.
If Chen’s story inspires you, donate now to continue the work of the Arrupe Centre to ensure the same opportunities for others like Chen.