Young girls are learning sewing training in the compound of the Sts.Peter and Paul Church, Yangon
With aid work in Nargis-affected areas winding down, the social arm of the Catholic Church in Myanmar is offering young villagers ‘life skills’ so that communities can develop and take better care of themselves.
Cyclone Nargis ravaged Myanmar in 2008 and religious organisations report that many families are still struggling to recover. As a result children’s education has been suffering.
“Rehabilitation projects are ending soon so we are providing training in certain skills so that villages can develop and prosper when we have left,” said Father Joseph Maung Win, director of Karuna Yangon Social Services.
He said 101 young people from 40 villages are currently in Yangon pursuing two month courses in mechanics, sewing and nursing.
Sixteen girls also attended a February course in collaboration with the livestock breeding and veterinary department in basic veterinary skills, he said.
The course in mechanics is really useful since we had to depend on others to repair boats and tractors, said Linn Yaung, 25.
“Now I will be able to do all this myself and I will share what I’ve learned with others for the development of the village,” he said.
Naw Wah, 22, said the nursing skills she is now learning will be very important.
“I’ll be able to provide medical care quickly. People have to travel along way to get care if they are ill or suffering from snake bites,” she said.
In another project, Pathein diocese
has introduced a commercial water purifying scheme, the profits of which will be used to help educate underprivileged children.
“We are looking to support children’s education in the long term by selling drinking water,” said Father Cyril Win Maung, who was behind the scheme.
He said when the diocese first bought the drinking water machine five months ago, there was initial opposition from priests and parishioners who said the Church should not be engaging in a commercial enterprise.
But now they can see the benefits since the business is now earning about 1 million kyats per month (US$1,000), Father Win Maung said.
Peter Zaw Moe Lwin, who is in charge of the business, says they are initially looking to provide guaranteed support for 100 children who would otherwise have had to rely on outside donations.
"We still need, however, to improve our marketing skills," he said.
Augustine, 14, who lost his father during Nargis, said his education came to a halt after what was the worst natural disaster in Myanmar since records began.
“Now I can finish my education thanks to the Church. I’ll show my gratitude by working hard in classes,” he said.
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