Displaced Christians in India Rediscover Hope Through Sewing
By ICC’s India Correspondent
11/07/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “Our lives are changed,” Niharika Patro, a graduate from a sewing course started with the help of International Christian Concern (ICC), said. “Now, we can finally move on.”
Receiving little help from the government, Niharika and other Christian survivors of the 2008 Kandhamal riots, still considered India’s worst incident of Christian persecution, have been struggling to survive for over a decade. In July 2018, ICC started a six-month sewing course for nine Christian women living in a relief camp in Khoraput town, located in India’s Odisha state.
All nine of the women were displaced by the Kandhamal riots and have been forced to seek refuge in Khoraput town’s long abandoned relief camp. The objective of this training course was to provide basic sewing skills that these nine women could use to earn a livelihood. The results of this simple training were tremendous.
“Prior to the sewing course, there was no other option for me than doing menial jobs like working as a domestic servant with less pay,” Niharika explained. “Now, I am very happy to stitch clothes. I make at least 100 rupees per day while looking after my husband and kids.”
Recalling the night that she and her family were forced to flee their home village of Gumandi, Niharika said, “Ten years ago our lives were pathetic and we were surrounded with many uncertainties. Forty families had to run for their lives. We had to walk through thick forest in the dark for almost 80 miles with children and old people. The only thing that kept us going was our faith in Jesus.”
“Today, my is life different,” Niharika continued. “Thanks to ICC’s sewing training, it is possible for me to live in improved conditions. I am able to make a livelihood with dignity and self-respect.”
“Thanks to ICC’s sewing training, it is possible for me to live in improved conditions. I am able to make a livelihood with dignity and self-respect.”
This sentiment was echoed by Prabhasini, another graduate of the sewing course. As Prabhasini showed samples of her work, she said, “I am very proud to be standing on my own feet and meet my needs and the family’s needs through stitching clothes. I am very thankful for the opportunity to complete the sewing training course and start my own business. At times, I have had to say no to customers because I am getting more orders than I can handle on a daily basis.”
“The training has also given me a new aspiration to do an advanced training in embroidery because there is so much demand in the market for that work,” Prabhasini continued. “Before the training, I couldn’t think of aspiring to anything except the cramped abandoned government building we lived in with no hope around us.”
At age 17, Priya is the youngest graduate of the sewing training course. Living in a tiny hut where she takes care of her injured father, the sewing training has opened many new opportunities.
“I am now able to go the college because of the sewing training I received,” said Priya. “Before, I had to take care of my father because he sustained a bad injury due to an accident at the relief camp. However, I make my living by stitching clothes in the evenings. In the mornings, I am able to go to college.”
“When we fled our village, I feared that I will never complete my studies,” Priya continued. “But now, I thank God that I am able to do my studies as well as take care of my father.”
The sewing training course has brought transformational change to the lives of these nine Christian women. Not only have they gained a valuable skill, they have established livelihoods that have given them dignity, self-respect, and hope for the future.
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