Friday, June 5, 2009

To fish or not to fish--that's the dilemma!

We’ve all heard the saying “Give someone a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach ‘em to fish and they’ll eat for a lifetime.” But what happens if the learner doesn’t fancy mastering the art of fishing…what then?

Well then perhaps the smarter move is to find what the learner really wants to learn and then give him the tools of the trade to make particular mastery of the skills needed a real possibility.

Single parents by virtue of the fact they have kids to fuss over, generally don’t make for good or reliable students. Some folks wonder why with all the ‘free courses’ available in the marketplace more single parents can’t garner the skills they need to get on with life.

Take Rainah Kinsang for example. It’s been exactly a year and six months since she became a single mother after her hubby drowned while spearfishing in an abandoned property development site in Subang. This single mother of four boys struggled to raise them single-handedly, found it too tough and promptly packed them off to their grandparents in Sabah while she returned to Subang ostensibly to make something of herself.

She was offered a fully paid 2-year course to learn how to do facial and hairdressing by the YWCA training team. She attended for less than a month and dropped out for good. Seems she didn’t mind the course but the enforced live-in requirement grated on her need for total freedom hence her sudden departure from a course that others less privileged were dying to get into.

She moped around for a couple of months, mulling what to do next, then a friend suggested they both go into the tailoring business. Although not exactly skilled with the needle and thread, she was game for it. Initially it scared her a little but she thought the better insurance hedge would be to sell some ‘bundle-like” clothes so she could meet her share of the rental while taking the opportunity to learn sewing skills.

Fortunately for her, Jumble Station had just received several brand new clothes that still bore the price tagged labels and these were passed on to her in her spanking new shop just two doors away from us. Displaying brand new clothes for sale is the easy part, pricing it at an affordable level is another and here Rainah has had to be guided closely to ensure she does not under-price or over-price the items donated to her for onward sale. It’s hoped that this hand-holding will have to be eased off soon and that she will learn to be more business savvy as time goes on. For now though, instead of lounging on a comfy 3-seater sofa flicking through magazines, she’s been prodded pointedly to take up tailoring and learn to sew from Melini her fellow Sabahan business partner.

Then there’s also Liza, an unwed mother who apparently has learnt the art of doing facials but for some strange reason never seems to stick long enough at it to earn enough to feed year old Alyesha. Jumble Station had assisted her by loaning RM4,000 last year so she could buy 2nd hand facial equipment and furniture but except for an occasional foray into facials, she has hardly made enough to feed a church mouse!
Where once she was able to utilise some space in a hairstyling salon, now she is forced to work from her rented flat because the hairstyling business ‘closed shop’ recently. At RM35 a facial, one would think getting customers around the Subang Mewah neighbourhood should be easy a pie.
Not so, it has been tough as nails because now more people are cost conscious and facials are deemed a luxury not a necessity. She now has a fishing rod in hand, but Liza realises she will need to have the right bait (print some flyers, viral market her skills etc) in order to lure in the customers, the question is, is she and many other single parents, up to the task as yet? Only time will tell!