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India: training programs aid Chin refugees
January 04, 2013

India: training programs aid Chin refugees
JRS has been working with the Chin people since the office moved to New Delhi in 2010. The tailoring, computer and English courses will continue next year for a new group of women (Molly Mullen/Jesuit Refugee Service)

(New Delhi) January 4, 2012 – Twenty women graduated from the first Jesuit Refugee Service-sponsored Chin women's tailoring course here, receiving not only new sewing machines for Christmas, but the know-how to make use of them in the new year.

All 20 women – JRS staff and representatives from the Chin Refugee Committee and the Burmese Women's Department, community-based organizations that assisted in arranging the seven-month course – attended the ceremony.

The Chin people, many of whom are Christian who fled religious persecution in Burma, welcomed everyone with smiles wishing them Merry Christmas. In the tailoring centre, located on the outskirts of Delhi, hung the garments they had made, baby's dresses, Indian curtas, skirts and frocks, they now plan to sell in the neighborhood.

Standing in front of a small Nativity scene made of stones and pebbles, JRS South Asia Regional Director Fr. Stan Fernandes S.J. spoke at the ceremony of taking something ordinary – like a rock – and making it into something beautiful, like the scene of the first Christmas.

"You too have taken something simple – cloth – and turned it into something beautiful. We hope you take this and make more beautiful things for your family and community", he said through translators to the women and their children.

Of the 21,000 refugees registered with UNHCR in India, nearly 10,000 are Burmese. Without the legal right to work, most Chin women make a living cutting cloth in tailoring factories, earning roughly 2,800 rupees ($50) per month. But children, security concerns and health problems prevent some from working enough to earn a living. Now, they can work from home.

"I like this class very much. This will hopefully help my family with finances. I live with seven people and we need work", said one mother of three, who has been living in Delhi four years.

JRS has been working with the Chin people since the office moved to New Delhi in 2010. The tailoring, computer and English courses will continue next year for a new group of women.

"There are many tailors and companies in this area. We're sure they can get a job in their own neighborhood after this class. We took a monthly deposit of 200 rupees a month from each participant. Now they've completed the course, we'll give it back to them along with the machines so hopefully they can start something of their own", said Fr Thomas Job, who has been assisting with the tailoring, English language and computer courses JRS offers to the Chin.

by Molly Mullen
JRS International communications consultant

Learn more

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