Nuns in San Thome campus run courses to help women earn

Two Catholic nuns of the FMM congregation based in the San Thome campus of St. Rapahel’s Girls School have been deeply involved in a slew of social work projects which were triggered by the pandemic situation in 2020.

These are projects that empower women who are either socially or economically weak or discriminated.

The latest project that Sister Philo and her colleague started is a short-term course in Home Nursing. “We have seen a big demand in home nurses since last year and want to train women in this line,” said Sr. Philo.

With basic lessons provided by senior nurses, the three-month course has 25 young women attending it.  The tie-up with Venkateswara Hospitals provides for hands-on training.

Once the first batch is skilled, the women will be placed and Sr. Philo says that a smart home nurse can earn as much as Rs.20,000 per month, working either for a few hours at a couple of places or for long hours at one place.

Since mid-2020, the nuns have been running courses in tailoring, computer skills for trans-women and in baking. And they credit their Provincial, Sister Nirmala G., for encouraging them on these projects.

The trigger for this project called ’Sudar’ was set off by the impact that the pandemic began to have on the poor in April – May 2020.  The nuns decided to launch a tailoring course for women because the skill was in demand and women could earn. When word went around, many women signed up.

“We did not want to offer it free because most people take these things for granted,” says Sr. Philo.  But she still found takers for the course priced at Rs.300. The women, after training were asked to take a government exam “ because this made them eligible to apply for bank loans to buy sewing machines.”

Some have begun earning after they set up the sewing machines at home.

Meanwhile, the nuns were visited by trans-women of this area, who sought food and help. This set off another trigger – to curate a skills course that would empower these people and move them away from the margins of life.  Thus started the course in the basics of computer skills.

Some of these trainees even got employment – Chennai Metro contracted them for work at the Old Washermenpet station.

The nuns realised that there was more to be done with this community.  So they started a course in psycho-socio analysis with the guidance of experts from the reputed NIMHANS in Bengaluru.

Says Sr. Philo, “Many of these women need guidance and help to move out of their old lifecycle and get mentally positive and strong to embark on new goals.”

Another project got underway when the owner of the Chennai-based multi-chain-restaurants ‘Hot Breads’ Mahadevan agreed to train a few single mothers at his bakery’s backyard in Alwarpet.  This place adjoins Winners Bakery where Mahadevan, a city Rotary Club and Chennai Corporation run a baking skills training centre.

A few women have passed this course in baking and have begun making biscuits and bread at a unit set up in the campus in San Thome where the nuns base all their activities. But funds are needed to get a full-fledged business going.

The Home Nursing course was also born out of needs expressed around the nuns at pandemic time – when some families with seniors or sick people sought out skilled home nurses.

The nuns are looking ahead, as the courses continue. But they are short on funds and welcome donations. Contact Sr. Philo at  9894480194

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