Arrupe Welcome Centre
Project Code: CBPT-1200051 | Project Location: Battambang
About the project
The Arrupe Welcome Centre, founded in 2001 by Bishop Enrique Figaredo Alvargonzalez (affectionately, known as, Bishop ‘Kike’), aims to promote the integration and independence of people with disabilities in society. By developing more sustainable activities at the Centre this project will enable the continued support of people with or affected by disability for generations to come. The centre seeks to provide care and support to people with disabilities (PWDs) of all backgrounds and capabilities. Each individual is given the opportunity to gain a quality education, increasing their life skills and employability. Those who are supported by this project also receive greater autonomy and self-confidence in their ability to live life to its fullest.
There are two key objectives for this project:
1. Promoting capacity building and employment opportunities for PWDs and people from vulnerable backgrounds.
2. Creating greater sustainability within the centre and wider community through social and economic activities.
- People with disabilities have been employed in the region.
- Books have been purchased for the library.
- People are receiving support through this project so far.
Updates & challenges
The project has progressed well, in a year of many challenges.
Currently the centre has 18 staff made up of ten men and eight women. Twenty-one students (nine boys and twelve girls) are living at the centre, they and their families receiving much-needed care and support.
The student centre had to close for a month and schools were closed for six months due to the pandemic. A variety of supplementary activities were organised for students and rice was distributed to families. There have been no school dropouts as students were able to continue their studies through following a study schedule and online learning during lockdown. A van has been purchased to assist in transporting children to and from school and can be hired out for other activities.
For the development of the centre itself, five people were employed, and a new tractor was purchased, to help plant 18 hectares of rice. This is expected to be harvested in the next few months.
“We are a step closer to being self-sustainable. The tractor made the work in the farm easier and we can become self-efficient as we can avoid renting machinery from
outside. The benefits from this will extend to all projects supported by the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang.”
Bishop Enrique Figaredo Alvargonzalez ( Bishop Kike)
Phia, a student who received a scholarship to attend a leadership program in the Philippines recently completed her studies in December 2020 and will use her new skills at the Tep Im Centre for university students. In the following months, two more students will join this program.
This project has allowed greater collaboration between the Arrupe Centre and other teams within the Prefecture. The centre has started working with SAM Kampong Chhnang and leaders within surrounding villages to find candidates suitable for Arrupe residency. There has also been greater collaboration with local government services and NGOs. Through a stronger relationship with ICRC one student received a prosthetic leg and another is in the process of getting a new KAFO orthosis.
Lockdown and wider restrictions have led to an increase in unemployment in the region. Many families facing unemployment have been supplied with emergency support and resources. The La Paloma Textile Centre had to reduce its staff to 75% due to a lack of demand and sales. The staff who had to stop working have been
given emergency support.
Although COVID-19 put many things on hold around the world this year, 30 PWDs have maintained employment through some of the centre’s social enterprises. These include the Lonely Tree Café, the Oh Battambang Hotel and the Yiey Ath Café.
Late in 2020 Cambodia encountered weeks of heavy rain which led to flooding. Students and staff were isolated for a week which was challenging, however, formative activities were organised and implemented to keep everyone occupied. The flooding also impacted families involved in the Outreach Program. In some cases there was significant damage to the rice fields, the project budget will be adjusted accordingly in response.
Stories from the ground
Theary has lived at the Arrupe Centre for ten years. She was in a land mine accident when she was young which lead to an inability to move her wrist and hand fluidly. In Cambodia many jobs involve working with one’s hands, with her injury Theary finds it difficult to find work.
“I used to work in a textile factory sewing clothes but could not keep up. I did not enjoy working there, we had extremely low salaries and abusive managers. I eventually moved to the Arrupe Centre where I am now in charge of the volunteer house. Living at the Centre has changed my life.”
Vanna is 26 years old and comes from a big family, of which she is the youngest. Her father left when she was a small child. Vanna had a difficult life. She had to work picking up garbage with her mother to support her family. Her mother had a drinking problem and was often violent. Vanna left home and sought refuge in a pagoda, cleaning and washing dishes in exchange for being allowed to live there.
Thanks to the support from organisations like Catholic Mission, Vanna was able to access quality education and life-changing opportunities. In 2020, she started working in the Apostolic Prefecture shop and moved to Arrupe Centre, where she helps to look after the children who live there.
Vanna always speaks with enthusiasm about how the Prefecture and Arrupe have changed her life and dreams of being able to set up her own shop in the future.
It is estimated that over 300,000 people in Cambodia lost their jobs in 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Those who have an impairment are most at risk of becoming unemployed. The Arrupe Centre provides people with disabilities with a safe home environment and/or assists them in finding employment, a vital resource at this time.
The Arrupe Centre aims to continue with the activities planned for this project, adapting them to the COVID-19 circumstances.