Nearly 90 percent of Pakistan’s 2.5 million Christians live in an area known as Youhannabad. Adults work as day laborers and street cleaners, in factories and brick kilns, or in Muslim households. They earn about 200 rupees–less than $3–a day. While parents work, children take care of younger siblings, so few attend school. Lack of education crushes their potential, especially for girls and young women.
In 1997, our sisters in Sri Lanka founded a mission in Youhannabad. They opened Salvatorian Center for Holistic Education in a former monastery, where girls and women learn child care and home economics. They also receive training as seamstresses and beauticians – both high-demand jobs in Pakistan. The center paves a path to a better quality of life for women and their families.
Lessons start with the basics. Sister Mallika Bandera, SDS explains, “Many girls have never attended school. We begin with teaching Urdu (Pakistan’s national language), English, reading, writing and mathematics. Then we can start home economics training.” The center also has a day care program for younger children, where pre-school lessons lay a foundation for learning.
Current enrollment is at 195 girls, women, and children in day care. Since 2011, more than 200 girls and women have completed training. According to Sr. Mallika, many quickly find jobs as seamstresses and beauticians and the work pays well. Some young women even venture into self-employment. To help with start-up, the three best seamstresses in each graduating class receive a sewing machine.
By providing practical skills, the Salvatorian Center for Holistic Education also fosters a sense of dignity and self-worth. Sr. Mallika explains that religious and tribal traditions often legitimize discriminatory practices toward Pakistani women. “Our graduates leave the school as well educated women with self-confidence. They have started taking their lives into their own hands.”
Will you open your heart to help Pakistani women stay on this path? Your generous gift for education and skills training will transform their lives.