Okpara-Inland is a rural community in Isiokolo Local Government Area of Ethiope East, Delta State, Nigeria. The main occupations of the people are farming, petty trading and rubber tapping, while a small percentage of the people are civil servants. There are very few companies and industries to provide employment for the people.
As a result of this, the community lacks some of the basic social amenities necessary to improve the standard of living. Poverty is on the increase, as the old and aged are sometimes abandoned by their children who have left the community for a greener pasture in towns. Mary Aikenhead Centre for Youth and Women Development was established in 1994 by the Religious Sisters of Charity to cater for some of the needs of the people in Okpara–Inland community. The Centre is geared towards the development of youth and women by way of empowering them to be financially independent, which in turns helps to reduce the poverty rate and suffering of the people. The Centre is comprised of various sections – Meals on Wheels, Home to Home Visitation, Poultry Farming, Seminars and Workshops, Tailoring and Catering classes. The Poultry Farm offers employment opportunities for the people, while the seminar and workshop section helps to create awareness on developmental issues. The Catering class was introduced to equip mostly the young girls and women of the community with certain skills needed to earn a living.
The enrolled students attend classes for about a year. During classes they are taught basic skills in cake baking and icing, food preparation and presentation, bead making and marketing, home making and customer service, just to mention a few. At the end of these courses the participants are able to start a small scale business using the skills they have learnt from the Centre.
On December 4, 2011, fourteen qualified students graduated from the Mary Aikenhead Centre with a certificate in Catering. Their graduation ceremony was a very colorful one. It was indeed a wonderful experience for the students who had worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the day a memorable event. Present at the occasion were the dignitaries within and outside of Okpara-Inland Community. Also in attendance were the RSC Sisters in that community, the Catholic Women Organization, the families, friends and well-wishers of the students, who had come to support and congratulate them on the event. The students presented some welcome songs, cultural dances and dramas to entertain their guests. At the end of the ceremony, Sr. Freda Ehimuan RSC, the Administrator of Mary Aikenhead Centre, presented the students with their Certificates. The ceremony was a huge success, and all the participants were delighted with their Certificates. They were deeply grateful to the Religious Sisters of Charity, for giving them the opportunity of the Catering course. It was a remarkable day for everyone especially for the students as they went home feeling fulfilled to have been empowered to earn a living.
Sr Freda Ehimuan RSC with the Graduates