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Wonderful Things Are Happening At Padri Vjeko Centre
Monday, 25 November 2019 Written by Valerie Kae Ken

Wonderful Things Are Happening At Padri Vjeko Centre

Well, once again I am at Padri Vjeko Centre ! I arrived from Canada to find a visitor from Croatia, a lovely young woman named Martina. And what a joy it was to meet her. She was not only enjoying her time in Rwanda, going to nearby Gitarama/Muhanga and to Kigali, but was spending full days at the school - mornings in the Kindergarten classes and afternoons with the Primary students. I was delighted to find that she had also been busy organizing store rooms that had long needed to be sorted!

Soon another young Croatian woman, Petra, arrived, and the two of them continued to work together with the young children who absolutely loved having them in the classrooms. Then, no sooner had Martina departed, when a couple came to spend time as well... The young man, Tomo has a wonderful gift of playing the guitar and shared this gift with the children, teaching them songs as he played for them. His partner, a young woman, Antonella, was alongside him - coaching the children and introducing all sorts of new activities from which they learned so many things.

Wonderful Things Are Happening At Padri Vjeko Centre

This is what Kivumu is all about... having people who come to contribute their time and skills to help the youth. These kind of visitors are most welcome. And when they depart, they leave a part of themselves behind - in the form of what they have given selflessly and enthusiastically to the people of this rural community where there is great poverty, but also great joy!

I myself arrived in early September and immediately became immersed in life at the school. I marvel at how it is easy for me to pick up where I leave off, so that it hardly seems I’ve been away. Like last year, the level 4 tailoring class had a module which the teachers had left for me to deliver. The requirement of the module is for each student to have the materials to make a wedding dress, a maid of honour dress and a flower girl dress! Can you imagine? This kind of competency project for students, many of whom cannot even afford to buy a pair of scissors, a new pencil or a notebook! This is the sort of challenge we are having with the new curriculum that we are required to follow.

Wonderful Things Are Happening At Padri Vjeko Centre

The assessment projects are unrealistic and almost impossible to accomplish and I strongly suspect that other schools that are not as well equipped as Padri Vjeko Centre and who do not have teachers with enough education and experience simply pretend to fulfill these project requirements. Meanwhile our students (all 73 of them who are in level 4) receive some professional pattern cutting experience. What I have done is to have the students each create patterns for wedding and maid of honour garments using half-scale block patterns, the result of which are miniature dresses about 50 cm in full length. For the flower girl dress, we use a pattern block for a 4-5 year old child - this way, they can proudly give the finished dress to a young child to perhaps wear for Sunday church!

This is why the donations that are given to Padri Vjeko Centre are so important and so gratefully received! The funds are used to give the students the equipment they need to learn their trade, whether it be in Carpentry, Construction, Welding, Electricity, ICT and, of course, Tailoring. And this learning is what gives them the hope of a better future - of a way to earn a living to provide for themselves and their families. Only a very few of them may have the opportunity of going on to further education.

Wonderful Things Are Happening At Padri Vjeko Centre

Speaking of further education, I have been asked by Fra Ivica to develop a Level 6 (Polytechnic/college level) program in Fashion Design for the Centre. I am pleased to report that I have developed the curriculum outline for a two year program and the first semester for first year (there are two semesters in each year) is completely done! What I have done is to incorporate all the learning materials we have available at Padri Vjeko Centre - the books from the library, some digital resources (DVDs, CDs, videos from the internet), etc.

We, as teachers, are so fortunate to have the great support of our director, Fra Ivica, who works so hard to give us the resources we need. He has managed to get us sewing machines for the program and we hope to be able to have laptops for the much needed research that has to be done. I have developed “Student Guides” that will be given to each trainee so that they will become responsible for their own studies, placing the emphasis on their own learning experience. The program also includes Applied Mathematics, Geometry, Textile Chemistry and other generic modules so that they will have a solid foundation of general knowledge as well as receiving a higher level of designing and clothing construction.

Wonderful Things Are Happening At Padri Vjeko Centre

You see, here in Rwanda, as in many developing countries, a formal education in clothing design and production is simply not available. This results in ‘local tailors’ plying their trade on treadle machines, without the possibility of turning out quality garments that can be reproduced to any degree. What Level 6 & 7 students at Padri Vjeko Centre will learn is proper pattern cutting, a knowledge of the fashion industry and of sound production practices, as well as couture methods of sewing the clothing they create. All this is important because recently the Government has forbidden the import of used clothing that used to be sold in the markets. This means that the production of clothing at all levels of the industry has become not only desirable, but essential for the population of the country.

The next step is to upgrade the skills of the teachers here at Padri Vjeko Centre, and also to upgrade teachers within the country so that they will also be capable of delivering the course material. It’s a huge task, and I and hoping that some volunteers with pattern making skills and sewing experience will come to help out! Anyone with the much needed skills are most welcome to come! I guarantee that, like me, you will come to love this place and will want to come back time and time again!

Father Vjeko Center

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