The current country representative of Don Bosco Foundation of Cambodia is Fr. Roel Soto, the rector of the Don Bosco Technical School of Phnom Penh. The country representative is the first authority of the Foundation before the Royal Government of Cambodia and to the international community. He presides also the Salesian Committee of Cambodia (SCC) that is the administrative body of DBFC.
Father John Visser
He is a Dutch that was born on August 2, 1933 in the city of Sneek, Friesland – Fryslan. After entering the Salesian Order of Don Bosco as a Catholic religious, he was sent to Thailand in 1956. In his formation he spent some years in Italy, India and Germany and he learned English, French, Italian, Germany, Thai and, lately, Khmer, plus his original Dutch and Frisian languages.
When he was expecting to retire in 1993, he was asked by the Salesian superior of Thailand and Cambodia to assist in Phnom Penh in the beginnings of the educative projects of Don Bosco in the impoverished nation. He accepted and became the country representative since then, the rector of the first technical school in Phnom Penh Thmey and the founder of the Don Bosco Children Fund of Cambodia (he created that successful experience in Thailand and opened a new chapter for the Cambodian children.) In 1994 Fr. John Visser received the Servitor Pacis Award:
John Visser, SDB, 62, from the Netherlands, arrived in Thailand as a missionary in 1957. His life’s passion and dedication has been to work exclusively for the poor. To this end, was actively involved in working in vocational schools for poor and abandoned youth, so that they might gain an education and develop skills, in order to provide for themselves now and in the future. He was of great help in finding the financial resources necessary to initiate and operate these tuition-free school. When in 1990 the Salesians were asked to assist the poor, orphaned and abandoned youth of Cambodia, it was Fr. John who was considered as the ideal person to create a Don Bosco Foundation in Cambodia. The choice was the right one, as he was instrumental in developing a vocational center for 200 young men, and by offering financial assistance providing many with food and basic education. His fruitful work became a model for non-governmental organizations.
In 2004 he moved to Poipet in order to develop the new Children Home for victims of human traffic. In 2006 he was transferred as a rector of the Don Bosco Technical School of Sihanoukville, where he is currently.
Salesian Committee of Cambodia (SCC)
The SCC is an official administrative body for the DBFC. It is the first authority for the general management of the Foundation, the relations with the Cambodian government and any other organization in the country and it gives reports to the Salesian Order of Don Bosco that has its headquarters in Rome.
The SCC was established in 1991, during the foundation of DBFC. Since then it has its headquarters in Phnom Penh, in the Tuol Kok District, although it keeps a near relation with the Don Bosco Technical School of Phnom Penh Thmey. It holds regular meetings and watches the development of all the Don Bosco works in Cambodia, following the institutional regulations, mission and agreements.
The board of trust is made like this:
- Rector Don Bosco Sihanoukville: Fr. John Visser.
- Deputy Country Representative: Fr. Leonard Ochoa.
- Fr. Roel Soto, Rector Don Bosco Phnom Penh / Salesian Delegate.
- Administrator / Secretary: Br. Roberto Panetto.
- Fr. Albeiro Rodas, Rector Don Bosco Kep.
- Account: Mr. Sok Aun.
- Chairperson: Mr. Un Son Jean.
- Members: Mr. Nget Tieng, Mr. Ang Udon and Mr. Kong Sambath.
There are also other departments that depend from the SCC:
1. Country Project Director of the Don Bosco Children Fund: Fr. Leonard Ochoa.
2. Country Project Director for Social Communication: Fr. Albeiro Rodas.
3. Director Don Bosco Children Home – Poipet: Fr. Gabriel.
Br. Roberto Panetto
He is an Italian lay brother of the Salesians of Don Bosco. He was born in the same city of the apostolate of Don Bosco: Turin on December 15, 1951. He was sent as a missionary to Thailand in 1975. He is instructor in mechanics, welding, printing, hospitality business, administrator of technical skills education and architect. He studied English in England and in India. He is fluent in Thai and Khmer languages.
In the 1989 he offered himself as a volunteer to the Khmer refugee camps in Thailand near the border with Cambodia. He was the founder of six technical schools of Don Bosco in the refuges’ camps. He learned Khmer language in the camps from the Khmer refugees.
When the war was over and the Royal Government of Cambodia invited Don Bosco to open a technical school in Phnom Penh, Br. Roberto volunteered together with Fr. Valter Brigolin to start this new mission. They arrived to Phnom Penh on May 24, 1991.
With Fr. Valter Brigolin, Br. Roberto is considered the founder of the Salesian presence in Cambodia. In the Don Bosco school of New Phnom Penh he designed and follow the construction of the technical school. He also master planned the constructions of most of the Don Bosco schools in Cambodia. The buildings were created thinking in strong structures to support heavy machinery. They are wide spaces for the future development of educational projects for youths. No school lacks sport courts and green areas. They have large canteens capable up to one thousand students, dormitory for borders, parking area, etc. Every space was planned with a concept to facilitate assistance which is one of the most loved way of education wanted by the very founder Don Bosco. The designs of Br. Roberto have been admired by national and international observers as practical, modern and beautiful. Only the campus of the technical schools of Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville can be compared to any campus of a modern university.
At present Brother Roberto is the director of the Don Bosco Hotel School in Sihanouk Ville.
In 1994, Brother Panetto received the Servitor Pacis Award:
Roberto Panetto, SDB, 44, Italian, came to Thailand in 1972. As an expert technician and mechanic he dedicated his life to serving poor youth. When in 1987 the Jesuit Refugee Service invited the Salesians to work among the Cambodian refugees in the refugee camps, Brother Roberto was the first to volunteer. His superiors entrusted Brother and another Salesian to coordinate this ministry. With the aid of the United Nations and approximately twenty past-pupils from Salesian schools, they instituted five vocational centres, the first being opened in a Khmer Rouge camp. The project proved to be successful, enabling the refugees, upon their return to Cambodia, to bring with them the spirit of Don Bosco along with their newly acquired skills.
On February 11, 2007, King Norodom Sihamoni opened officially the Don Bosco Hotel School in Sihanoukville. This work has been lead especially by Bro. Roberto, who is currently the director.
Br. Roberto is also the administrator of the DBFC and his general secretary.
Letter of Br. Roberto Panetto during the Christmas of 2008 thanking the benefactors of the Don Bosco Hotel School (in Italian).
- Mago Sales Foundation (in Italian) and Br. Roberto.
Fr. Leonard Ochoa
He is a Filipino that was born on Isabela, Negros Occidental on October 11, 1949. After entering the Salesian Order of Don Bosco as a Catholic religious, he was sent to Thailand when he was very young. He did his theological studies in Jerusalem where he was ordained as a priest on April 12, 1979. He is fluent in Tagalo, Cebuano, English, Italian, Thai and Khmer.
He was sent as a missionary to Cambodia in 2000. He supported the development of the Salesian youth centers and other youth activities in Phnom Penh. He was selected as rector of the Don Bosco Technical School of Phnom Penh in 2004. Currently he is also the director of the Don Bosco Children Fund and coordinator of the Don Bosco works in Battambang and Kep. He opened the Bessucco Boys, an experience of formation in Don Bosco Phnom Penh and is leading the development of a new technical program, literacy and academic schools in Battambang. He is known as Father Leo.
He was an Italian (1938 – 2005). He was known as Don Battista or Bondeko. He was one of the leaders of the presence of the Salesian schools of Don Bosco in the refugee camps in Thailand and the creation of the DBFC in the 1990s.
Fr. Personeni was born in Villa d’Almé, Italy on April 12, 1938. He became Salesian aspirant in 1957. On October 30, 1961 he was sent to Thailand where he continued his religious formation. In 1969 he was sent to Jerusalem to finish his theologate and he was ordained as a priest in 1973.
After he returned to Thailand in 1973, he was elected as regional administrator of the Don Bosco works in Thailand and Vietnam. After it was going to be extended to Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.
In 1998 he was sent to Rome as a secretary of the General Administrator of the Salesians of Don Bosco. In 2002 he was back to Thailand in Udonthani, near the Laotian border. In 2004 he was in Bangkok as a regional procurator.
He went to Italy for a heart surgery, but he passed away during the operation on May 15, 2005.
He is remember of one of the greatest benefactors of the Don Bosco schools in Cambodia.
Other Salesian members of DBFC
- Fr. Valter Brigolin.
- Fr. Gerard Ravasco.
- Fr. Albeiro Rodas (Active)
- Fr. Luis Oyorzo.
- Fr. Roel Soto (Active)
- Fr. Ceferino Ledesma.
- Fr. Gabriel Kang.
- Fr. Yang Mark (Active)
- Br. Martin Tan Tai (Active)
- Br. Joseph Kizhakkedath.
- Br. John Nary (Active)
- Br. Jan Li (Active)
- Br. Charles Michael (Active)
- Br. Kong Somony (Active)
- Br. Joseph Khoa (Active)