Indian Catholic News

Church-run training changes lives for young Indians

Skills save vulnerable from falling into the hopeless underbellies of big cities.

 
A Don Bosco Tech program teacher (center) guides students during a class on electronics at the church-run Jan Vikas Center. (Photo supplied)
Bhopal: 

At the age of 35, Renu Chouhan had already been married for 22 years.

But then she got divorced. Unskilled, unemployed and with no source of income, Chouhan joined her parents at a shanty on the outskirts of Indore town in Madhya Pradesh state.

But she fell into depression because her presence exacerbated their "hand to mouth" reliance on meagre daily wages.

Chouhan, who had previously studied up to grade 11, was told by a friend that she might be able to get help from the Catholic Church-run Jan Vikas Center.

"She was dead right," Chouhan recalls.

Upon completion in December of a three-month 'beautician' course, she began working for a private firm in Indore, the business capital of this central Indian state. With salary and incentives, she takes home about US$350 a month.

The Jan Vikas classes also developed her communications skills, including basic English.

"That helped me get the job," Chouhan explains.

She is among 624 formerly unemployed women and men that Jan Vikas assisted through skills training to obtain jobs during the past 18 months.

Just one month into her employment, Chouhan radiates self-belief. "Now, I will lead my life happily and support my elderly parents too," she says.

Divine Word priest George Payattikattu established the center in 2001 to help rag pickers, who were not covered by government welfare schemes largely because of their lack of documents to prove their identity.

"We focused on the overall progress of rag pickers such as their health, education of their children, personal hygiene, income generation and protecting their rights among many other activities," says the center's current director, fellow Divine Word priest Father Roy Thomas.

The number of rag pickers has dropped greatly since 2014 when the government launched a cleanliness drive that changed the way people dispose of their trash.

City residents are prohibited from using public areas as dumping grounds for domestic waste and are required to have it picked up in government vehicles.

Since September 2017, the Jan Vikas Center has also aided unemployed urban youths trapped by circumstances such as drug addiction, unwanted pregnancies and various forms of abuse.

With support from the Don Bosco congregation, under its flagship Don Bosco Tech program, the center trains people aged 18 to 35 in computer, electrical, sewing machine, driving, carpentry and other skills.

But Rosemary Julian, a teacher at the center, said job training alone does not guarantee a job.

"We also impart to them skills for communication, public speaking and basic English," Julian said.

"That will put them a step ahead of their competitors in the market."

A student is given a stream following a 10-day induction course to judge their abilities and aptitudes.

All of the students who have so far completed their courses have obtained employment.

The center keeps tabs on graduates for a year to offer guidance, Julian added.

Ritik Thakur, 19, got an online position with a company when he was in the last stage of his computer applications course.

"Now I want to continue my school studies, which were disrupted because of poverty," he says.

Until coming into contact with the Jan Vikas Center, Thakur was leading an aimless life, but now he has goals as well as self confidence.

Another beneficiary of the center, Shweta Keithwas, who is also aged 19, said she could not have even dreamt of the life she leads now if she had not joined the center for training.

"I lead an independent life," said the class nine drop-out when relating how the center helped get her a job in a beauty parlor. She now attends a dance class for two hours every day and has resumed the school studies she dropped after her father's sudden death.

Father Thomas said the center strives to bring struggling urban youths into the mainstream of society in order to prevent them from slipping into hopeless city underbellies.

Source: UCAN

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