Roofs for the Roofless — Chennai India

Each year for more than twenty I have waited each Christmas for the annual

Dinesh (center) learns technique from Prabhu (right), a teacher of air conditioning and other electrical skills at a vocational training center run by Roofs for the Roofless in the city of Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. Students John Joshuran and Dinesh look on.

Dinesh (center) learns technique from Prabhu (right), a teacher of air conditioning and other electrical skills at a vocational training center run by Roofs for the Roofless in the city of Chennai, in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India. Students John Joshuran and Dinesh look on.

Christmas poem with its blend of incarnational theology and the politics of justice written by Savrithri Devanesen, co-founder with her husband Chadran of Roofs for the Roofless, which is now so much more than shelter — vocational training, a college, programs that benefit many people. A younger relative has taken over the Christmas poem since her death and one of their sons, Dayalan Devanesen has  returned to be the administrator this incredible mission. I include his recent article from a newsletter.

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Christmas, 2016

Love was born at Christmas
heralding visions of Hope
and Peace to all
Mankind betrayed that love
by Greed and Violence and Oppression

Innocent lives were lost
in meaningless destruction
We weep and cry for justice
Our minds are numbed
by still unfolding tragedies –
starvation, misery and desperation

Yet these voices from the past
are pleading for restoration
for healing and restitution

And each reflective thought of love
brings Peace and Joy from heaven above
So now and always we proclaim
Love was born at Christmas.

Sudarshan Devanesen

Students practice meditation together as part of their studies at a rural college sponsored by Roofs for the Roofless in Karanai, a village in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India.

Students practice meditation together as part of their studies at a rural college sponsored by Roofs for the Roofless in Karanai, a village in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India.

LIFE SKILLS WORKSHOP AT CDRCC

The Dr.Chandran Devanesen Rural Community College (CDRCC) at Karanai village was started in 2002. It has had a 100% employment rate for its Diploma students for the last 14 years. The motto ‘fit for life and fit for a job’ summarises well the College’s alternative education program. CDRCC seeks out and admits school dropouts for its courses. The vast majority are from the most underprivileged section of the rural poor. Skills development at CDRCC leads to empowerment and gainful employment. The College collaborates with local industries and identifies opportunities for employment and self employment.

Students spend 3 months of their 12 month course on LIFE SKILLS development. Many feel that this is the secret to the College’s success. Life Skills focuses on developing personality, self confidence, coping mechanisms and interpersonal relationships. Computer skills and developmental English are introduced during the Life Skills Course.

The Indian Centre for Research and Development of Community Education that supports Community Colleges across India invited Mrs. Regini Sekar, a teacher at CDRCC, to a Life Skills Refresher Program in September 2016. Emmanuel and I dropped in at the course. Regini and the two of us agreed that the teacher, Dr.Kaleeswaran had something special to offer the Life Skills Course. Dr.Kaleeswaran is the head of the Department of Culture, Communication and Visual Communication at the famous Loyola University College. An educator for the rural poor–he has directed many short films, conducted Street Theatre, written songs that develop awareness in Dalit women and children. He has worked in rural programs for AIDS, Cancer Awareness and behavior change sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We quickly invited him to run a workshop at CDRCC on Behaviour Change Communication.

Dr. Kaleeswaran arrived at .CDRCC on 26th October and in a short time had all the students moving around, singing, playing games, making creative drawings and paper toys. The students enjoyed themselves but were kept on track by the guru’s teaching …
This form of activity based learning had immediate rapport with the students. Dr. Kaleeswaran drew on emotion as a significant source of human motivation that could inspire or constrain. Movement is multisensory and heightens the perception of awareness and expands emotional expression. His songs and games were based on lived experience from their own culture and daily living. Motivation is critical to the successful acquisition of knowledge. This was ‘entertainment education’ with messages both to entertain and educate.

Regini Sekar has already been using songs and body movement in The CDRCC Life Skills course. Some new methods will be added to the course following the workshop. Life Skills increase capability and confidence to implement
new skills and gain positive attitudes about goals in life.

Many of the students said that the workshop helped them to look more deeply at their inner selves, respect themselves and their elders. One student summed it up well; ‘Believe in simple living, high thinking and creative work’.

‘India is the fastest growing large economy in the world today. India’s growth is not inclusive. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 1 and 2, eradicating poverty and ending hunger are a long way off, especially for the rural under privileged. Growth must be translated into jobs for the marginalized to become truly inclusive’. CDRCC is a small but important model for employment of the marginalized.

DR. DAYALAN DEVANESEN AM Director

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