By Martin Zöller Kottavakkam, India (Caritas Feature) -- The sea was too rough at sunrise. And that helped 17-year-old Chandru have enough time to do his homework. On days of normal weather Chandru would have gone fishing along with his father and brother, without having enough time to give his best at the new job opportunity--being a carpenter. “Very well done,” his teacher praised looking at his work. But Chandru was not looking pleased at the end of the class. He doesn’t want to be only a carpenter, but he wants to continue as a fisherman. Chandru is both. “You’re a fishing carpenter,” a classmate says. Chandru laughs.
They are unlike millions of young Indians who do not have an opportunity for job training. Chandru and friends are now being trained by Chengalpattu Rural Development Society on the shores of Tamil Nadu, which was hit by the Dec. 26 tsunamis. With the sea having changed after the tsunami, the society wants to make the village youth think of opportunities other than fishing. “The fish is no more where we expect it to be,” Chandru says.Besides, fishermen are now afraid of the sea.
When an earthquake mid-October hit Pakistan and northern India, thousands of miles away, many fishermen stayed away from the sea for days. Therefore, “we want to give them a new perspective,” says Father Yesu Anthony, director of the society, the local Caritas India partner, while visiting the training centre in Kottavakam.
“In a few years, many will have gone for alternative livelihood - we’re opening the door to the world for them,” says the Catholic priest. Carpentry is not the only job training the centre offers. That is why Chandru is confused about the sort of job he should take up. Inside Kottavakam’s training centre, young people are also getting trained as electricians. Training classes on diesel engine repair will soon start. In two other villages, girls follow tailoring classes--five days a week, four hours a day. Within six months, all of them will have learnt the basic skills for a new job.
The priest said Caritas gives special priority to empower youth, wherever it works to help tsunami-affected. Although spoilt by the opportunities offered, Chandru continues to be a “fishing carpenter” and learns how to join wooden boards without using glue or nails. “Being a carpenter, I will have something to do in case of bad weather, like today,” he says. In his village Pannayur Chinna Kuppam, all men are fishermen. That, he believes, would make him the village’s only carpenter, giving him enough job. His immediate chance would come when local Caritas starts the housing program in his village within a few weeks. He would then learn more about the use of different working materials. Wood, of course, is the passion of Dominic Xavier, Chandru’s teacher. He stands beside his students, watching their work with hammer and chisel. Xavier, a seasoned carpenter, says each of his students should get a job after the six months. “I’d employ them as well; they have the basic skills and are willing to learn more.” Chandru’s work on a joint is almost finished. He saws the board on two sides, then takes the chisel and hits on the forth side. A wooden cube falls down. Chandru is enthusiastic. He must be now feeling like his favourite hero in Tamil movie. He had earlier described the hero as a “self-confident, good looking” person who “fights well.” Chandru and friends fight the misfortune of tsunami by taking up sawing and chiselling. Indeed, with the new job opportunity, he can be as self-confident as his favourite hero.