Wheelchair athletes give hope to disabled students

 The Thai New Year begins on April 13. For two young disabled people from Thailand, it will be an especially important day, because they will be in London for the first time - competing in the London Marathon. Ekkachai Janthon, and Amnouy Wetwithan, both 24, will be raising sponsorship for the Pattaya Vocation School for the Disabled, run by the Redemptorists. They have been training for months now in their specially-adapted wheelchairs on a dusty highway south of Bangkok. Ekkachai contracted Polio when he was one, and cannot use his legs very well. Amnouy was born with disabilities. She has always been wheelchair-bound. Both studied computing, electronics and English at the school. There are few facilities for disabled people in Thailand and they receive no state support. Most end up cared for by relatives - or living on the street. The residential school is the only one of its kind in the country and is giving disabled people the skills and training to earn their own living, be independent and even support their families. So far more than 2000 students have graduated from the school and gone on to full-time work. Besides giving training, the centre has a careers advice office that helps graduates and other other disabled people find employment. Amnouy, who now teaches English at the School said: "The education given at the Pattaya Vocation School gives people a chance to reach their full potential. It provides social activities as well as professional training and careers advice. It helped me so much I want to share that with others." Ekkachai said: "My family is so proud of me. I never imagined that I would have an opportunity like this. I am a little nervous about the cold weather, but very excited about watching Manchester United play, and of course raising money for the school which has given me so much help in the past years." The School has a huge waiting list and is hoping to build an extension in order to take in more students. Currently only 20% of students are women. They hope to take many more female students in future. If you would like to sponsor Ekkachai or Amnouy, please send cheques made out to: The Pattaya Vocational School for the Disabled, The Pattaya Orphanage Trust, 124 North End House, Fitzjames Avenue., London W14 0RZ.

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