Workshops for the training and advancement of Adults

“ … To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each in proportion to his ability.” Mt 25:15

Paysandú is a city in the north of Uruguay, and we have been living in a working-class neighbourhood there for 12 years. We meet enterprising people: housewives, factory workers and unemployed persons, men and women. All these people want to do well, learn something new, enter into communication with others. It was in response to this desire that we began the "Artisan Workshops for Adults". 
This is a free service for the persons of the community and the neighbourhood. Not only do they advance, but they also bring Christian values to one another, there is increased solidarity and companionship, there is overall growth for people, they discover God in what is learnt, in what is taught, in what is done. 
1.- Monday, there is the Sewing Workshop: For the past three years we have had a sewing class for a group of women. They have made dresses, skirts, jackets, trousers, blouses, children’s clothes etc. This workshop began operating after we had received the gift of two sewing machines (second-hand). We were anxious to buy a "Multipunto" machine but it seemed out of reach financially. In 2011 we had the joy of being able to buy one with a donation from the "Paysandú Solidarity Fund’, a body that helps groups that are trying to improve themselves. 
Some of the women said that they "didn’t even know how to thread the needle of the ordinary machine, let alone the Multipunto, and now they are using both machines". They have been joined by three friends and are helping the newcomers. They have great joy in making clothes for themselves and for their families. 
2.- On Wednesday there is the Paper Basket Workshop: it is a fascinating technique, and is kept going thanks to the solidarity of so many people who help with the basic material – e.g. newspapers, magazines, paintings. 
At a Craft Fair they sold baskets, stationery, flowers, purses, picture holders, mats, pot stands. 
Some friends said that they: "never thought so many lovely things could be made with something like newspaper, so giving an opportunity for employment, using new techniques". There has been a great development of creativity, solidarity, generosity and friendship; we give thanks to God for the gifts we have received. 
3.- On Thursday there is the Workshop for Painting on Cloth: as in all the workshops, they teach one another, and help one another with the materials; it is a good beginning for discovering the colours of life. They share what they have experienced during the week; they pray at the end of the meeting and thank God for the gift of life. They show great solidarity in sharing the paints, suggesting what colour to use in the work. The levels of ability in the group are different and there is mutual help. 
Twelve-year-old Leonardo, after an accident that left him with muscular problems, was helped during his rehabilitation by learning to paint letters and numbers with his right hand. He took great delight in painting and showing his work. Selva (59), does not like painting on her own in her house; she prefers being in a group as it encourages her to participate and open up to another world as she is someone who finds it difficult to go out alone. 

4.-On Friday there is the Needlework and Crochet Workshop: at the moment the members of the group are sharing their knowledge, they are very good friends; they are progressing from being students to being teachers. They have a great deal to offer and put all their energy into it with generosity and joy. They have made shawls, stocking, slippers, jerseys, bonnets, pullovers, bags, scarves etc. 
They also learn "to weave" what happens to them in life each day, shouldering the difficulties and enjoying life as a gift of God, praying for those who are most in need, for all those who are ill. 
5.- On Wednesday and Saturday there are two Computer Workshops for Adults. This activity began four years ago with the local adults, a very new experience for them and for us. 
A group of workers, men and women, is learning how to enter into the world of communication. It began in 2009 with a group of women who succeeded in sitting in front of a computer and lost their fear of it. Some of them had a little bit of experience in typewriting, a friend said: "I work in a house and every day I dust the computers, I never thought I would be sitting in front of one, writing… I have entered the world of communication". 
She is happy; she communicates via the Internet with friends, with the young people where she works and she is continuing to learn. A Little Sister began by giving some introductory classes; she then asked an Internet teacher to continue. There was a student who surpassed all expectations, who continued studying and now it is she who is directing the two Workshops with nine students in each. She, the students and we ourselves are happy with this success. The Little Sister’s mission is continuing with the laity. 
End of year 
At the end of the year all of us together held an "Exhibition and sale of the work that was done during the year". It was a celebration day for the community, the families, the neighbourhood and the neighbours. 
Those attending the workshops were given an Attendance Certificate; it was the first certificate they had ever received and it was a great joy for all of them to receive such a distinction. 
They have managed to acquire manual dexterity and develop the knowledge that was dormant in each one; we emphasise the courage of the people, their determination as they try to overcome the difficulties they meet in their lives, their desire to learn, the joy they show as their dreams come true. Our parish priest, Fr Jesús said: "In the USA, in the Hall of Fame, a big star is placed on the ground for the persons they think are important; on seeing the journey of these people here I think that they are already ’inscribed in the Heart of God’, and that is what is important." 
Our mission as Little Sisters is: to encourage the people in order to bring them together – "Bring together a people for God"; to initiate the workshops, organise and animate them, look for teachers, support them. It is an opportunity to penetrate into the heart of the working families, of the poorest, to have a closer contact with those who do not have opportunities to go to academies or schools. On several occasions a Little Sister was the monitress while we were looking for suitable persons who would help the people to re-discover their roots, to encounter God. 
It is a Community work: we are all involved in some way with the Workshops, with the families, with the poorest. It is networking – they are connected through the LSA. 
God is manifested in many ways and is present today in the life of each one. We give thanks for His great love for us, for the signs of tenderness that are shown through so many persons who have such simplicity and solidarity. 
Hermana Maria Angélica 
Community of Paysandú-Uruguay
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