(ANS – Sihanoukville) – Sihanoukville is a seaside city in southern Cambodia. It overlooks the Gulf of Siam, which in recent years has seen rapid development, especially thanks to huge Chinese investments, providing a new and overwhelming tourist impulse to the area: hotels, condominiums, restaurants, tourist spots and 70 casinos. But far from redistributing this new wealth in a fair way, these investments are further widening the gap between those who can afford leisure and luxuries and those who make ends meet with humble and poorly paid jobs.

The Salesians have been present in the city since 1997 and, faced with these difficulties, have tried to tackle the problem by abandoning the city’s most expensive areas and concentrating the various works in a single complex, so that the mission could continue to be maintained with its own forces.

The center of Don Bosco Sihanoukville houses a technical institute with different fields of study and a hotel industry school attended by almost 500 students and 90 employees, a hotel and a boarding house that can accommodate up to 160 people and a community of 5 Salesians and 8 volunteers.

But on the night of August 8, 2019, an extremely violent storm – not unusual in these latitudes but still of exceptional magnitude – hit the city. At the time, there were about 250 people in the mission. The stream that runs alongside the Salesian work and which was once 15 meters wide in recent years, due to massive construction, has seen the size of its riverbed decrease to just 4 meters, with disastrous consequences for the mission.

The stream overflowed violently, breaking down the mission’s surrounding wall and pouring tons of water and mud into the property. In a few minutes, the water level reached 130 cm, destroying the technical workshops and laboratories, its offices and the rooms. The good news is that there were no casualties.

Unfortunately, the laboratory, with all its equipment, was destroyed, blocking the sources of income of the work, as well as the training activities of the students of the Don Bosco hotel school, who have the opportunity to acquire not only practical skills, but also contacts with the area’s restaurateurs who buy ice cream there for their own businesses.

The Salesians in Sihanoukville want to be able to return to normal as soon as possible. The first step is to restart the ice cream parlor-pizzeria, which was used – together with the hotel – to generate additional funds for the school and offer internship opportunities to the boys and girls of the hotel. Founded 12 years ago, the ice cream parlor-pizzeria was so successful that it was soon joined by an itinerant sales business with a pickup truck.

To ensure a bright future for the children in need in Sihanoukville, the Salesians are ready to roll up their sleeves again, set to go.

For more information, visit: www.missionidonbosco.org