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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Adoptions lead to helping hand

by Danielle Portteus

Deb Lagger not only adopted two girls from Cambodia, but she also adopted the country.

Ms. Lagger adopted Hannah, now 8, and Kalliyan, now 7, from orphanages in Cambodia when they were infants.

Her love for her girls inspired Ms. Lagger, the director of workforce development for Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio, to donate money to build an English language and career center in Cambodia.

The center, which will be named after the girls, is scheduled to open this month.

"Cambodia trusted me to raise two of their most precious gifts, and I want to thank them by providing education and vocational opportunities that will allow Cambodians to rise above the unimaginable poverty that still exists," Ms. Lagger said.

The center will open a new world to those in Cambodia through education and provide a way to obtain jobs and careers that provide economic stability for them and their families, Ms. Lagger said.

Ms. Lagger has worked with three agencies to get the center build. Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio, Goodwill Industries International and Digital Divide Data have partnered to build the center as well as existing facilities in Battambang, Cambodia, and Vientiane, Laos, to provide career and life skills to those who need it most.

One center, located near the orphanage where one of the Lagger girls lived, teaches sewing skills. The new facility will offer more than one marketable skill, English language training and additional career development options.

"We hope to provide them not only with career and life skills, but also feeling empowered when they have completed their training," Ms. Lagger said.

For two years, some classrooms at Monroe Road Elementary, where the girls attend school, have donated money to purchase gifts for children living in the orphanages. Last year, a couple classes decorated water bottles and sold them in the cafeteria during lunch to purchase a well in the rural Pursat village, where villagers have to walk nearly two miles to get fresh water.

"Our Bedford community should be very proud to have young citizens who have humanitarian hearts at such a young age," Ms. Lagger said.

Meg Mall, manager of international development at Goodwill Industries International said in a 2007 e-mail that more than 500 people with disabilities, orphans and rural migrants benefited from the current centers in Cambodia and Laos.

"The center aims to serve more than 1,000 people in 2008," she said. "At Goodwill, we know that people are best able to focus on job training and career goals when they have a stable home life. The Family Resource Center complements existing employment and training programs by identifying the needs of the family and linking employees to community resources."

Ms. Lagger said the cost to sponsor a student at one of the family resource centers is $28.37 for the entire year.

For information about donating to the Hannah and Kalliyan Lagger Career and English Language Center, call Goodwill Industries of Northwest Ohio at (419) 255-0070.
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