WASHINGTON, D.C. — To improve the lives of Pakistanis, many of whom are desperately poor, the Archdiocese of Lahore has ramped up its educational and vocational training efforts.

“We evaluated and studied that — through education and then skill training and some other professional training — that is the only way out of misery,” said Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, who has headed the archdiocese since 2013.

Beyond faith formation — already a priority within the diocese — “we have operated our summer schools, which were only high schools. In Pakistan, high school is (only) up to 10th grade,” Shaw told Catholic News Service in a July 26 phone interview from Brooklyn, New York.

Shaw was in Brooklyn for talks with Aid to the Church in Need/USA. ACN supports the pastoral work of the Catholic Church in Pakistan. He also came to the U.S. to help a priest from his diocese celebrate an ordination anniversary.

“When people have more education, like sewing or a barber salon, or maybe become like a plumber or electrician and laboratory technician or nurses and assistant nurses, that is the way people will come out (of poverty),” Shaw said.

“But where there is no education” amid the poverty, “people are slaves,” he added.

In the Archdiocese of Lahore, “we started three colleges,” the Pakistani-born archbishop said. One is coed and one is for males, while one is “exclusively for ladies; some parents want their girls to be in a separate college,” he added. Whereas formal education ended with 10th grade, the schools added 11th and 12th grades in 2014. Students can now attend through “grade 14.”

“Now their standard of education has gone up. Now they are very happy that chances are given,” Shaw said. Master’s degree programs exist in education, chemistry, physics and information technology.

“And this is very good; also, we are happy. Our youth is looking forward to become more professional in education,” he added. Adding doctoral programs is now within the realm of possibility.

Regarding vocational education, “we started a sewing center for women. Many girls, they were sitting at home, no education, no skills, and they were forced to go out as domestic workers. So we said let us do an experiment, so we did 15 girls and a sewing center for young girls,” Shaw explained.

“We bought machines, started the center” — named “Time for Mary” in Urdu — and “from September to May they completed their sewing in eight, nine, 10 months, basic sewing, stitching, a little embroidery,” he added.

One problem remained: The girls had the skills but no way to display them once their training was over. “So we should give them something, a sewing machine as a gift: ‘Now we are going to give you a machine so you are not dependent, so now you are an earning member of the family,'” Shaw told CNS.

The archdiocese plans to open four more sewing education centers in different regions of the archdiocese.

The next step: “We are also planning to start at least one (sewing) center, as an experiment, for boys. … This way will bring people out of misery. I say, giving charity will not bring people out of misery.

“We have to do some charity but … it is not giving (them) food to eat every day, but a fishing rod also,” he added, echoing the oft-quoted statement about giving people a fish and you feed them for a day, but teach them how to fish and you feed them “for a lifetime.”

Expanding educational efforts does not stop there. Shaw wants to try another experiment: a school for dropouts in Lahore’s brick kiln districts, where entire families from the youngest to eldest try to work off the debt inherited from their forebears as kiln owners impose new expenses in a never-ending cycle of poverty.

Among the kilns’ workers, “there is less value to education,” Shaw said. “And now with our efforts going from home to home, house to house, visiting children and parents, they were given a training order. And after one year of training, the children were more confident and more prepared to move to the regular school.”

Centers dedicated to strictly vocational endeavors, like becoming electricians and plumbers, also are in the offing, he noted.

In partnership with the local church, ACN has developed specific programs to address the abductions and forced conversions of Christian girls in Pakistan.

Christians in Pakistan face many challenges and the church remains “one of the unique institutions” representing the underprivileged and marginalized communities, an ACN spokesman told CNS.