CHENNAI: For the 66,000 Tamil refugees in the 110 refugee camps spread across the State, learning a skill and getting an education means the difference between a life of dependence and a life of dignity. Alahamma and Subhashini, along with their co-workers, stand proud testimony to that fact.
When Alahamma arrived in India, orphaned and seeking protection in a strange country, a hundred things could have gone wrong. But, the 16-year-old did the one thing that could protect her from the exploitation underwent by lot of refugees all over the world — she learnt a skill. “I shudder to think what could have happened if I had not been able to do that,” she said.
Alahamma heard of the vocational training that was being imparted to refugees by the Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR) and went for it. Now, 24 years after she landed on Indian shores, she teaches the same skill to fellow refugee women. “Learning a skill makes a lot difference in the life of a refugee. We need to be able to stand on our own and if we keep taking government handouts, even the hardest workers become wasted individuals,” she pointed out.
Sunbhashini meanwhile, is another example, but with one difference. She is one of the 23,000 children born to refugees in India. “I studied with the help of the government and learnt tailoring from this programme. I am literate and I can hold my own, even though life is hard. But, it would have been worse without this,” she stated.
OfERR has put nearly 6,000 women refugees through a basic tailoring course. While these women have skills enough to make it on their own, the organization offers another advanced course.