In Sri Lanka, Good Shepherd Sisters and other care organizations conduct residential centres offering support and rehabilitation for girls and young women experiencing disadvantage. Academic studies may be challenging for these girls, due to family difficulties and emotional burdens. Upon completing their ordinary level exam they leave residential care to return to their families, but they may lack the skills required to be truly independent. Also, this generation of young people is more and more challenged by the multitude of possibilities before them. Career guidance has become a need of our times.
The Sisters assessed that the girls could develop greater levels of competency and skills, within a framework of leadership development. A decision was taken in 2009 to plan a one year Residential Career Development Programme, and Seth Sevana was born. It is a Vocational Training Institute, providing one year free residential Wholistic Development Programme through Vocational and Professional Training. It operates from an existing building at the Good Shepherd Convent, Bolawalana, Negombo.
The Good Shepherd sisters in Sri Lanka manage the programme with the collaboration of international funding partners and with the support of local and foreign donors and a philanthropist. Professionally qualified lecturers are selected for each course to maintain the efficiency and high standard of the institution.
The participants of the programme are girls and women between the ages of 16-25, from child development centres, rehabilitation centres and institutions run by Good Shepherd Sisters and others, and from remote villages.
The girls and women who participate in this programme all benefit from it.
The programme focuses on Career Development in order to assist the trainees to find employment or to become successful entrepreneurs. It provides a growth promoting space where girls are inspired and empowered to become strong and creative leaders in their communities.
It is a residential wholistic Professional Development Programme. As well as all Course requirements, Seth Sevana covers the costs of food and lodging, medicines and other personal requirements. At times, the Centre also meets expenses of job placement and arranging hostel facilities.
Seth Sevana is registered in the Tertiary & Vocational Education Commission of Sri Lanka (TVEC) and from the first year it has been eligible to conduct eight certificate courses and to award students with following certificates:
Certificate course in Computer Application Assistant
Certificate course in Bakery
Certificate course in Beautician
Certificate course in General Cookery
Certificate course in Hair stylist
Certificate course in Tailor
Certificate course in Home gardening
Certificate course in Needle work & Hand work.
The Academic year runs from May to April and is followed by a period of 6 months on the job training.
Seth Sevana is also accredited to TVEC and its programmes have received National Competency. Students who are successful in this programme will be awarded the nationally and internationally recognized National Vocational Qualificational (NVQ) certificate, which is an excellent opportunity for those who discontinue schooling early. Apart from other common subjects, choice is given to the students to follow two or three NVQ subjects.
Seth Sevana is eligible to conduct NVQ examinations in these five subjects.
Computer Application Assistant NVQ exams for Level 03
Beautician NVQ exams for Level 03 & 04
Hair Stylist NVQ exams for Level 04
Tailor NVQ exams for Level 04
Baker NVQ exams for Level 03
Graphics Designing Course NVQ exams for Level 04 (Awaiting accreditation.)
Other short courses such as - Ribbon Embroidery, Needle work, soft toys, Fabric painting, Hand craft, Saree work, Jewellery making, Batik.
Life Education, Counselling & Personality Development – a monthly one day workshop.
Seth Sevana can cater for 35-38 girls each year.
‘Seth Sevana’ means Haven of Wellbeing. It expresses the core mission of Good Shepherd Sisters towards the empowerment of women and children. This was the dream of all of us in the Sri Lankan Province: to equip the girls in our residential centres with skills and training to face the future with courage before they left our homes and entered into society. This is especially needed for girls and young women who at an early stage in life have gone through struggles and have not had the opportunity to plan what they would want to be in the future. In such an environment Seth Sevana has become a green pasture and a preparation ground for them before they face the society with its challenges. Seth Sevana seeks to uplift every girl, making true the wish of our founder: ‘One person is of more value than the whole world’.
We have been able to offer restful shelter for some past students seeking to share their life experiences in a safe environment and looking for ongoing guidance. Some spend their vacation at Seth Sevana. They have a home coming experience.
Students from previous batches have learnt from life experience, still request some help and support and also take time to provide individual ‘mentoring’ for current students who are experiencing challenges. They are coming back to the sheep fold. Many of the past students are married and living a good family life.
Officially the programme begins with celebration of a special Mass to invoke blessings from God for the New Year. During the year the students engage in different activities related to wholistic development: social, psychological, physical and spiritual development. The Centre also provides relevant vocational training programmes, leadership development, life skill education, spiritual nourishing activities. Exhibitions showcase their creative talents. Outings, exposure and worksite visits enhance the training programme. Resource persons conduct workshops on Group and Personality building. Motivational sessions, Career guidance and orientation to select the subjects at their discretion are also conducted.
Students engage in full day activities including social, psychological, physical and spiritual development. They have exposure to outside visits such as exhibitions and site visits to gain first hand knowledge. Recreational activities are arranged. Participants share all the responsibilities of the Centre such as cooking.
After they went for on-the-job training many Students showed interest to continue NVQ Level 4 exam.
Students who succeed in obtaining NVQ Level 4 from Seth Sevana are able to join government Technical Colleges to undertake Level 5-6 which is Diploma and Higher Diploma. Level 7 is the Degree level from Univo-tech.
Many have found good job opportunities in recognized companies with a good salary and have settled happily in their lives. 80% of the past students are settled in their career path.
Not only do we find good jobs for students, but we also continue to support them for higher studies. Many have improved in their career paths. Still we have been unable to cater to the high demand for job opportunities. Now we are creating a circle of both entrepreneurs and employers which will be useful for the future.
A few girls have proceeded with higher studies after training up to degree level and we were able to motivate sponsors to cover their educational expenses.
Much interest is shown by others, especially students from other children’s residential centres, to enter Seth Sevana for the training.
Seth Sevana successfully completed 5 years in January 2014. All the students and visitors who step into Seth Sevana are amazed by its development within a short period of time. The sponsors are very satisfied with its progress and they are happily motivated to continue to fund the project. From the commencement of this programme four batches of students have passed through. Over 4 years, 121 students have successfully completed the programme and currently 39 students are studying in the fifth batch.
From the first year we were able to get recognition of TVEC and could receive accreditation for six NVQ courses in the Tertiary & Vocational Education Commission. Now we conduct National Vocational Qualification exams for 6 NVQ courses, and Students receive an internationally recognized certificate. Students benefited from the well equipped workshops for each subject.
So the Seth Sevana programme is a good opportunity for students who stop their schooling at an earlier stage. It enables girls and young women to face society and barriers which they meet without any difficulty. It provides guidance and support to this younger generation which is challenged with a multitude of possibilities.
Seth Sevana contributes to Goal 5. It promotes Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women.
Challenges include - at times:
Motivation and dedication of the students.
Emotional vulnerability of the students.
Results may seem poor in light of the resources expended.
Life challenges of students are complex.
Lack of consistent support for the students by their guardians.
The jobs found by the students may not be relevant to their studies.
Avenues for job placements may be closed off by students who do not behave responsibly.
Some students are too emotionally unsettled to remain in a job for long.
Need for better team work by the Sisters.
This is a demanding ministry. In order to be more effective we need to be fully strengthened by God’s abundant graces and blessings. This is also a collective mission of our sisters in Sri Lanka, as our girls and women come from child development centres and our communities all over Sri Lanka. It helps when all the sisters with responsibility for the girls become involved in their ongoing development. As Good Shepherd Sisters we need to give a girl another chance, over and over again. We appreciate the generosity of our local and foreign funding partners in helping us to be more effective and productive.