The Chennai floods of 2015 left in their wake mass destruction of property and lost lives. In the advent of this disaster, Vibha was one of several relief organizations and individuals that sprung into action to help revitalize the deluge-struck region and rehabilitate its survivors. Vibha provided funds to the grassroots Rural Development Organization (RDO) to carry out relief efforts in Kurunjipadi Taluk of Cuddalore district, Tamil Nadu. RDO, founded in 1999, has been working on the mission of establishing equitable financial opportunities and basic rights for underprivileged women and girls in Tamil Nadu. The organization’s primary focus is on creating women’s Self-Help Groups and regularly advising them on matters of financial security, health and education, such that they are able to care efficiently for themselves and their families.
At the time of the flood relief efforts, Ms Sreelaksmi and others leading the Vibha-RDO partnership saw an opportunity to complement the relief efforts and RDO’s mission with a vocational skills-training program especially for female survivors of the floods in Cuddalore district. Such a program would equip its trainees with professional cutting, tailoring and embroidery skills and technology, so as to enable them to work to independently support themselves using this training. This would also be an incremental step to increase labor force participation of women in India which has declined by over 7% over the past decade (http://www.catalyst.org/knowledge/women-workforce-india) .
This plan did not take long to materialize; the Vibha-RDO Skills Training Program in Kurunjipadi Taluk has successfully launched as of 3rd June, 2016. The project director of RDO recently submitted a report outlining its progress; through funding from Vibha, the program has been staffed and taken in 60 women trainees for its first batch of training. RDO aims to enroll and train over 200 women through such batches throughout the year! In late June, Vibha Atlanta volunteer Geeta visited the program office in Kurunjipadi and met with the trainees and flood survivor children under RDO’s care. During this visit she personally donated money and sewing machines to support the program. From her interactions with the trainees, it is clear that they find the program very helpful and empowering.