Hope, Rehabilitation Centre: Helping Women in Need
Iris CF Gomes
The Hope, Rehabilitation Centre for Women in Arpora, Bardez, Goa, where reside the sisters of the Presentation Society, endeavours to transform the lives of women struggling with poverty or abuse or both. In an inconspicuous, quintessentially Goan house you find young women working on their sewing machines and cutting fabric to fashion various products to earn an honest and dignified living.
The Presentation Sisters have their roots in Ireland and from there have spread all over the world. In India, their presence is observed in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi, Jammu and Kashmir, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, and other states besides Goa. The Sisters have been occupied with formal and informal education, social work, healthcare, pastoral ministry and justice and advocacy for marginalised and underprivileged persons, especially women and children, since their arrival in India in 1842.
The Roman Catholic congregation was founded by Honora Nagle, or Nano, who was born in Ballygriffin, County Cork, Ireland in 1718. The congregation was founded in 1775. Coming from a family of high social standing, Nano changed her life to reach out to the poor and the needy in Cork.
The Presentation Sisters in Goa are carrying on Venerable Nano’s vision in bringing hope to the beleaguered. The congregation began its work in Goa in 1958 and established two schools: St Pius X High School, Orlim and the St. Therese’s High School, Vasco. The Sisters brought in the migrants and their children within the focus of their charitable domain. In 1981, fifty migrant children were enrolled at St Therese’s High School, leading to other educational institutions following suit.
The Sisters ventured into the area of caring for people with HIV/AIDS by founding the Jeevan Jyothi Social Service Centre in Vasco. The Centre tries to remove the negativity and stigma attached to the condition and aids the infected people in managing opportunistic diseases. The motivation of keeping the HIV infected mother alive is at the core of their work. The Jyothi Project for Adolescence and Youth attempts to counsel and guide delinquent youths to lead a fulfilling and responsible life. Parents are instructed in the administration and adherence to ART (Antiretroviral Therapy) and the necessity of nutritional supplements to strengthen immunity through the Jeevan: Adult Care Project. Anjali is a nutritional project for orphans, HIV positive children and children from economically backward families while Swastya is a health project which aims to keep HIV infected children as healthy as they can be with regular check-ups for CD4 count and counselling for ART adherence. Nai Rishta is a sponsorship programme that enables volunteers and partners to improve the quality of life for an underprivileged child.
The Presentation Sisters have the Tarabai: Educational Support Scheme that provides school stationery, shoes, uniforms, rainwear, and tuition fees to needy children to curb dropping out of school due to poverty and illness. They also have Butterfly clubs for young children from poor localities in urban areas, which allow the children to come together in play with healthy attitudes.
The prevention of HIV/AIDS is a significant goal for the Sisters. They work with about one lakh migrants in South Goa to this end through counselling and health services to create an informed and stable environment for the migrants. ‘The Presentation Sisters are working with the government for the prevention of HIV/AIDS towards zero infection,’ says Sr Deepti Kuruvilla, who oversees the tailoring at the Hope, Rehabilitation Centre.
The Centre at Arpora operates from a lovely Goan house donated to the Sisters by the late Edward and Maggie Pires. The Centre provides jobs for young women who are escaping abuse, or are affected by or infected with HIV. Sr Deepti says, ‘These women usually come from North Goa: Pernem, Arpora, Bicholim, etc. They are usually known to us because of our work, but sometimes they are referred to us. Jeevan Jyothi in Vasco has a bigger set-up because it is in the midst of the slums and there are a number of people affected by and infected with HIV. This is also an alternative living for sex workers.’
Irene Noronha is the master tailor at the Hope, Rehabilitation Centre, and she designs the products and trains the women in tailoring. The standard items produced at the Centre are tablemats, bags, coasters, pouches, cushion covers, crochet work, decorative candles, etc. The Rotarians and volunteers bring free fabric, leftover cut pieces, and cut pieces from other tailoring centres, which removes the cost of purchasing material. Volunteers also sell the products mostly through sales, exhibitions, fetes and so on. ‘There are seven girls at the Centre right now. We can afford to pay that many right now. We pay them at the end of the week. Some work from home and are paid piecewise,’ says Sr Deepti.
One can place orders for any of these items or buy them directly from the Centre. This Christmas season will see Yuletide-themed creations on sale from Jeevan Jyothi and the Hope, Rehabilitation Centre to help these underprivileged women to earn a dignified livelihood and envision a happier future for themselves and their families. (Contact details can be found below the picture)