Good Shepherd Sisters began this project 'Vaigarai', meaning New Dawn during the time of war. At the height of the conflict, people were asked to relocate to the safe zone of the country. They were settled in temporary refugee camps. The sisters visited the residents of the camps regularly to bring a presence of healing. They found especially young people who were:
Psychologically, emotionally, and physically drained.
Dealing with the loss of many things in life.
Uncertain of their future.
Deprived of education and skills training.
Holding on to their faith and hoping for light.
They opened a residential service for young women and girls. At the beginning the young women were the ex-combatants of war and those who were badly affected by the war. When the war ended, the service expanded to accept young women from all over Sri Lanka who may have been:
Physically, psychologically and emotionally broken.
Orphaned due to the war.
Living in unhealthy and unsafe environments, having lost their homes and property.
Experiencing economic crisis.
The project has three phases
An educational programme for school drop outs and those who desire to continue their higher education.
A skills training programme – computer, language skills, tailoring, beauty culture, bag making, cooking.
A Livelihood programme – income generating programme.
The sisters with the support of mission partners manage the programme.
30 girls following the educational programme
60 young women in the skill training programme
25 young women in the livelihood programme.
The girls and young women are between the ages of 15 – 25 years.
To the Sisters, the girls and young women seemed as vulnerable as sheep without a shepherd, desiring new life and empowerment. They were lost. Their rights and dignity as persons were denied. They needed a place of safety to allow them to find themselves once again, renewed belief in their worth as persons and a sense of hope for the future. They needed an environment of respect, dignity and compassion.
Education and skills training gives new capacities, renewed confidence and empowerment to face the future.
Livelihood programme offers the possibility of self sufficiency.
Personal reconciliation with their own stories may enable them to be reconciled with those who have hurt them, and those to whom they feel distanced and anger.
As participants come from all parts of the country, they are enabled to experience the joy and challenges of inclusion, moving beyond boundaries.
Through a process of regular evaluation, feedback of the beneficiaries as well as those they work with helps to measure the needs and effectiveness of the programme.
The observation of the sisters and the continual monitoring of the lay staff enable effectiveness to be measured.
Follow-up programmes and referral services are achieved by networking with other organizations. These help to assess needs and update the programme for better effectiveness and benefit.
With opportunities for education and skills training participants are able to equip themselves, and the livelihood programme offers the opportunity for employment and stability to face the future.
Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger,
Achieving universal primary education,
A well trained staff will enable the ministry to be more effective.
This will also mean financial stability.