Nagapattinam, India (12 December 2006) - On December 14, Project Concern International and the Avon Foundation will inaugurate the first of eight women's 'Centers for Knowledge' in villages recovering from the December 2004 tsunami. Known locally as Gyan Kendra, the Centers' opening celebration will be held in the hard-hit village of Thirumullaivasal on India's southeastern coast.
The Centers of Knowledge will offer more than 1,600 girls and women critical skills and services, including literacy and computer classes, Internet connectivity, health and legal referrals, and job placement assistance. With 20,000 people living in villages served by the Centers, the program expects to reach at least one female member in every family within three years.
"Project Concern and the Avon Foundation are both committed to creating better opportunities for women around the world," said George Guimaraes, President and CEO of Project Concern International. "We believe our partnership will make a lasting impact in women's lives as they recover from this disaster-resulting in healthier, stronger communities."
The December 14 inauguration will feature a 'lamp lighting' ceremony, considered auspicious at opening functions, as well as a dance performance and skit by local children called, 'Life After the Tsunami'. Representatives from Avon India, Project Concern, and government officials will also participate, and women from the area will have the opportunity to tour the new facilities. In addition, a Neem tree will be planted to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the disaster.
In conjunction with the Centers for Knowledge, the Avon Foundation is also funding playgrounds in eight villages, which will benefit more than 7,100 children affected by the tsunami.
"The Avon Foundation has since 1955 been committed to improving the lives of women globally, and responding to disasters such as the tsunami is one way we bring this mission to life," stated Carol Kurzig, Executive Director of the New York City-based Avon Foundation. "We are proud to partner with Project Concern to bring both the Centers of Knowledge and the playgrounds to these women, girls and children."
In order to assist women and girls as quickly as possible, Project Concern and the Avon Foundation joined forces earlier this year in India to launch this program before the Centers were even completed. While construction (funded by USAID) was underway on permanent buildings for the Centers, classroom space was rented in local schools to begin activities. More than 240 young women are currently enrolled in a six-month course on computer and internet literacy, and nearly 1,000 women are receiving small business training; awareness education about domestic violence; and access to health and other government services.
"We've already received incredibly positive feedback from women involved in the Avon Foundation-funded program," said Henry Alderfer, Country Director for Project Concern in India. "They tell us they are happier at home, earning more income at work, and looking forward to a bright and prosperous future. These are women who lost everything only a few years ago."
Project Concern and the Avon Foundation are currently exploring ways to increase the impact of the program.
About Project Concern International
Project Concern International is a leading humanitarian organization dedicated to saving lives and building healthy communities around the world. Founded in 1961, Project Concern has worked in 25 countries and today helps more than 3 million people lead healthy, productive lives. In December 2004, Project Concern responded immediately to the tsunami; long-term recovery efforts in India and Indonesia are benefiting more than 100,000 people. For more information, visit www.ProjectConcern.org.
About the Avon Foundation
The Avon Foundation was founded in 1955 in New York with the mission to improve the lives of women, and today brings this mission to life with a focus on the issues of breast cancer, domestic violence and emergency and disaster relief. Programs have been supported in some 50 countries, and through 2006 Avon and the Avon Foundation have raised and awarded more than $500 million worldwide. For more information visitwww.avonfoundation.org.