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A House for Mentally Challenged Children and Young People Wishing to Learn a Trade

05/06/2019: South Korea

The 22nd General Chapter calls us to accompany the marginalized children and youth of the world, and this is what the Marist Community in Chungju, South Korea has been doing for thirty years. Br. Alfredo Herrera, of the Province of East Asia, explains how they are helping children who are mentally challenged or abandoned, as well as some of the unemployed youth in Chungju:

Our community has been in Chungju for more than 30 years. We built a house for children and adolescents who were at risk for a variety of reasons—being orphaned or abandoned, minor violations of the law.... It was a welcoming center, offering classes leading to academic certificates as well as training in a trade such as carpentry, craftsmanship and others, which functioned then and now as a welfare facility, and was funded with the help of the city of Seoul and private donations.

Since the house in Seoul where the children lived wasn’t suitable, the city government assisted with funds for the construction of the present center near Chungju. Casa Marista was here for some 15 years, but we noticed that more of the children sent to us were suffering from mental retardation. So beginning in 2004 the house became a residence for children with mental deficiencies. At the beginning of 2017 the name was changed to BUEN HOGAR (“Good Home”, “Ch´am Choun Chib”), whose residents were young people with severe mental deficiencies. Br. Laurencio Park is the director and Br. Paul Won is in charge of maintenance. In addition there are 34 other personnel, including cooks, a nurse, office staff, therapists, a driver, etc., dedicated to the care of the 30 residents.

Also on the Chungju property, in addition to the residence, is the TALLER MARISTA (Marist Sheltered Workshop). This workshop, which has been here since the beginning of our ministry, is intended to introduce the children to different trades. Its purpose has evolved in accordance with the changing capabilities of the residents, becoming over the last 15 years a center of work/employment where the graduates of the residence can earn a living in a setting designed for them. Thus the qualifier “sheltered” in the center’s name. They work on tasks that are within the range of their mental abilities. So the goal of the Workshop is not only to prepare the students for a trade, but also to foster habits appropriate to the work, so those who are able can find employment in other factories or institutions that are willing to employ them. For some of them, the Taller Marista has become a professional workplace. Presently, their work in the taller, under the guidance of Mr. Ju Bom Kim and Br. Moisés Cho, is the manufacture of cardboard boxes, visitor’s books and folders made with various types of paper. There are some 33 students between those who are in temporary training and those who are permanent employees of the workshop. In addition, there are 8 adult employees, including Br. Moisés and the director.

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