In 1984 the first four students were admitted into the Redemptorist Vocational School for People with Disabilities. The school was founded by the late Father Ray Brennan after seeing many disabled beggars on the street of Pattaya. He wanted to do more than just hand out money and food, so he opened the school with the aim of giving young adults living with a disability the chance to learn a trade so that they could go on and ‘earn their own rice’.
Today the school has been upgraded to college status, and today celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of registration, and also recognition, by the Ministry of Education.
Since opening more than three decades ago the school has changed with the times. For many years the majority of the students had physical disabilities, very few mental disabilities were seen. Today almost half the current students are living with a mental disability, such as brain damage, and there are also students with multi-disabilities, coping with a physical as well as a mental disability.
Over the years the school has achieved so much to be proud of. Almost three thousand five hundred students have enrolled, and those who have graduated have gone on to live independent lives and ‘earn their own rice’.
Students have competed against students from top universities in computer and electronics competitions, and won.
Many are working is positions where they are promoting the rights of those living with disabilities.
Next time you go shopping at one of Pattaya’s many department stores and supermarkets and see a person with a disability working it is highly likely they are graduates from the school.
In recent years the school has reached out to young people living in the deep south of the kingdom, offering help to those injured and living with a disability in the war torn provinces, offering them an education, regardless of their religion.
Others have gone on to represent the school, the province and the country at national and international sporting events, including former teacher Suppachai Koysub, winner of four gold, four silver and a bronze medal from the Paralympic Games in Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
Earlier this year the Ministry of Education upgraded the school to college status. While the students will now receive a higher diploma the college will continue to welcome and admit students with little or no prior education on the Elementary and Pre-Education courses.
The college will continue to educate and empower people with disabilities. Empower them to have the confidence and self-esteem to go out into the workforce as equals, and with the education and skills to ‘earn their own rice’.