These young people are the students of the year-long program launched by the "Don Bosco Friend" youth center. This is a course that started in May, and currently involves 15 young people between the ages of 17 and 24. It provides them with professional skills in motorcycle and car repair, welding and even driving lessons.
The young people who attend the course come from different backgrounds: some from states torn by the conflict between Kachin and Shan, some have had a problematic education, others come from needy families. The ethnic groups they belong to and the religions they profess are also different: there are Kachin, Karen, Chin and Bamar and they include Catholics, Baptists and Buddhists.
The course is held every year, and first started in 2013, always with the aim of helping disadvantaged young people stand up on their own, providing them with the skills they need to find work. Fr Andrew Yan Naing Win, who runs the program, said he always encourages young people to pay attention and learn about all aspects of the industry. Only then can they start planning life after the course ends.
"Acquiring certain skills is important so that they can find work in the places where they come from," explained Fr Andrew Yan Naing Win. "Many of the participants, therefore, also follow extra-curricular lessons in the evening hours. 80% of the course is practical and 20% of theory. I try to motivate them to become skilled and competent professionals," he added.
The Salesians also address other issues with the youth center children, such as problems related to drug abuse. The center also offers free food and housing, because most students cannot afford them.
Managing the center requires great commitment and effort, but it is also a source of enormous satisfaction. It is with pride, in fact, that Fr Andrew states that two students who have completed the course have now opened bicycle repair shops in the state of Chin and in a village near Mandalay, while some have found work as welders on construction sites in Mandalay.