Unsung Heroes

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A Lamp Still Burning Bright...

Sister Rose was a visionary. When you see the inquisitive and intelligent children from financially deprived coastal families of Valiathura at the Sr. Rose Memorial Education Resource Centre (SRMERC),  confidently explaining about the Terrestrial Remote Sensor and similar sophisticated equipment, one realizes how far her dedication has come through. Though she belonged to the church, she had her own defining ideas regarding her mission in life, which was to work incessantly for the betterment of a society largely comprising of fisher people. Originally from Vaikkom, Sr Rose did her personal management training at Xavier's Institute at Ranchi, Bihar. But it was in Valiathura that her calling in life lay.

 

 

Sr. Rose

 

 

Valiathura or the big port which went down in Travancore history as the most flourishing sea port of a bygone era had become a neglected area which had gained notoriety for been socially, economically and educationally backward mainly due to illicit brewing of liqour by the local coastal families. This was in the 1980s. Leaving the secure precincts of her St Roch’s convent, Sr Rose chose to walk into their midst as she felt the strong need to transform such a socially neglected area and uplift it through education and employment. She knew that the place needed her. And just as she expected, it was no cake walk.

 

 

Enthusiastic students at SRMERC

 

 

Rosamma Valiappan and Robert were Sr Rose’s staunch companions in those initial days in the 1980s when she started her work at Valiathura.  "We did a survey among the families to see and understand the situation. We found that in most families, children stopped their education at high school and started helping their parents in brewing liquor." It was wreaking havoc in many families as it was not just the men who took easily to drinking, but also the youngsters.

Sr Rose’s top priority was education. "We chose not to deal with the issue of illicit distillation initially since we knew that it would have got us  literally thrown out of this area. " So Sr Rose formed Cheruresmi Center (CRC) where she proposed to educate of the children and also provide training to girls of different age groups in handicrafts which would make them self-sufficient and help them lead a dignified life.

 

 

A student preparing for a smart class

 

 

“The children were initially bribed into attending classes with toffee. "If toffee can make a child enter the class, then why not?”.Sr Rose used to say,” reminisces Rosamma Valiappan, who moved to Valiathura to be a part of Sr Rose’s mission. The centre was registered in 1985 and the trust board was not controlled by the church but mostly comprised of people from Valiathura who shared her commitment and determination.

“Sr Rose would consult with the rest of us before taking any step. And she would turn anything, even a grain of rice into a piece of art and teach that craft to the girls,” Rosamma says with a smile. “Vallavanu Pullum Ayudham,” agrees Robert. Greeting cards came next for which they managed to find a good market. They got an order for 2000 cards in 1995! Then embroidery was introduced.‘Theera Jyothi’ encouraged children from standards 1-7 to attend morning and evening classes. Balavadi and nursery were started for small kids.

 

 

Robert explaining to the students

 


In those days, people used to bury the brewed liquor in our compound. But the uniqueness of Sr Rose was her capacity to take up activism and development side by side and carry out both.

While she put her heart into initiatives to look after the aged, maintenance of bridges and working towards improving the facilities in hospitals and other sectors of the society, when the time came, she also stood her ground firmly against illicit distillation in Valiathura. She took up satyagraha for this cause for ten days in association with the Fishermen’s Union in 1984. ‘Sthree Samajams’ were formed to tackle the menace and the police was alerted. Soon other social activists joined in and  the movement gained momentum against a social menace that was eating up Valiathura. “The change is now for all to see. Families no longer brew  liquor for a livelihood. Men do drink but the children and women in the family have escaped  its clutches and cherish their own dreams.”

 

 

Rosamma Valiappan and Robert listening to the students

 


“Rose slept in a tiny room that could barely accommodate her. What she wanted out of life for herself was little. She was engaged most of the time in giving others their rights and raise their standard of living,” Robert recalls. Unfortunately, as she strove for the people in Valiathura, there was something eating into her. The cancer was detected late. “She did not care about her own health,” Rosamma remembers fondly about her friend whom they all miss a lot.
Sr. Rose breathed her last on 29 Dec 2003. Her close friends who had stood by her gave shape to the Sr. Rose Memorial Education Resource Center (SRMERC) where children from poor families studying in the 8th, 9th and 10th are given thorough tuition as well as training in computer skills and English. It also houses  a good library for their use. None of them have failed SSLC so far...

 

 

 


And it is further taken up by the Coastal Higher Education Society (CHES) which helps those who passed SSLC to pursue further studies and other professional courses. It has, to date helped 15 students to take up career oriented courses. ‘Friends of Marine Life (FML) is another team formed in memory of Sr. Rose to take up various causes so that the social commitment and unconditional love that she showered on the poor people of coastal Valiathura will never die . And, no doubt, Sr. Rose must be looking down with joy and satisfaction on these efforts to keep her dream alive.

 

 

By Shameem Faruque

 
Posted By : Deepa, On Aug 24, 2011 06:13:16 PM
 
 
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