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Missionaries get poor learners on the road

Center teaches how to start motorbike repair business

Missionaries get poor learners on the road
Vocational training students repair a motorbike in Phnom Penh.
Phat Samphy, Phnom Penh

July 1, 2011

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The Korean Missionary Society is helping disadvantaged Cambodians to set up their own motorcycle repair shops through its dedicated training center, KOMISO. Established on the outskirts of western Phnom Penh in March 2009, KOMISO has now trained around 50 people. As well as the technical aspects of repairing a bike, it teaches its trainees the basics of business ethics, planning and management. This gives them the skills, know-how and confidence they need to get their business up and running and to keep it on the road. “We launched the project to give people who are poor, vulnerable and alienated the chance of a new life,” says Dok Virak, project manager at the center. The courses are thorough and comprehensive; each one lasts five and a half months. But KOMISO provides help beyond the training. “We also give the trainees accommodation, food, transport, medical care and we lend them some money to get the business going,” says Virak. Sambath Rithy, one of the teachers at the center, points out that this additional support is vital. “The trainees can’t concentrate so well on their learning if they’re thinking about their poor families,” he says. Father Kim Ji Hoon, KMS, director of KOMISO, says the training they offer is especially appropriate for low-income people, because “they can acquire motorbike repair skills even if their educational background is limited.” He adds: "We don’t only teach the skills, we also focus on moral education, because we believe good morals lead to better service.” May Phirum, an ex-trainee who now has his own shop in Phnom Penh’s Dangko district, fully agrees with this.  “I was very interested in the moral education,” he says, “because it has helped me to behave more courteously. So customers like me and come back often to my shop.” Trainees are recommended to the center by churches across the country, as well as other NGOs and some local authorities. With few exceptions, they welcome the chance that KOMISO gives them. “I feel so happy to have a real skill,” says another graduate, Sourn Ratha, whose shop is in the city’s Sensok district. “My family’s living standard has got better and better because I can now earn between 25 and 50 US dollars a day.” Following the success of its training in motorbike repairs, KOMISO is now branching out to offer more vocational skills such as sewing and hairdressing.

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