2022-12-06 CAMBODIA

Marist presence in Cambodia

The Marist Brothers have worked in Cambodia since 1998 when Brothers Terry Heinrich and Brian Etherington, from the Province of Sydney, were appointed to Phnom Penh. They arrived to support Cambodians after the Cambodian–Vietnamese War which ended with the Paris agreement. After a period of discernment searching for those in greatest need, Br Terry Heinrich and other brothers (Claudius, Badior, Paul, etc) founded in Cambodia the La Valla School for physically disabled children and youth in 1998 in Phnom Penh.

In 2010, Marist Solidarity Cambodia (MSC) was formed as a non-government organization to integrate various programmes and sites into one entity, which we now call the “LaValla Project”, with its own Board of Directors under the aegis of Marist Brothers Province of Australia. MSC aims to promote empowerment and advocacy for disabled children and youth in Cambodia.

Currently there is just one Marist Community, and two Brothers comprise the current community at the LaValla School in Takhmao. The Brothers are involved in Administration, especially in support of the finances of the projects and they are also working with the Board of Marist Solidarity Cambodia. The brother’s house is situated on the campus of the LaValla School.

Marist life in Cambodia is intrinsic to the LaValla Project. The staff are predominantly Buddhist and are Khmer speakers. There is some English spoken, but not fluently. So, Marist life does not follow the same pattern as in locations with a larger Catholic population. That said, the staff and students join with the Brothers in celebrating Marist feasts and local celebrations with a Christian/Buddhist prayer service.

School Ministry

LaValla School, in Takhmao, is an accelerated primary school program to provide an opportunity for students to complete a primary education in a shorter period than the government schools. Primary students in government schools only attend for half a day. At LaValla School the students have classes from 8.00am to 4.00pm. When the students have finished grade 6 at LaValla School, they have the opportunity to go to the government high school in Takhmao and live in the LaValla Village Hostel adjacent to the LaValla School. Initially founded in 1998 in Phnom Penh, the school moved to its current location in 2000, and next year will celebrate 25 years of care for these children from poor, mostly rural families throughout Cambodia.

LaValla Hostel provides residential accommodation for up to students from poor, rural families who are presently deprived of a secondary education because of the remoteness of their villages. The project also supports around 70 disabled young people living with their families and attending their local rural school.

Background

Cambodia is a country on the Indochinese mainland of Southeast Asia. Cambodia is largely a land of plains and great rivers and lies amid important overland and river trade routes linking China to India and Southeast Asia. The influences of many Asian cultures, alongside those of France and the United States, can be seen in the capital, Phnom Penh, one of a handful of urban centres in the largely rural country.

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